Today I got my author photos taken, which is particularly easy for me because I live with a photographer. That made it much easier to keep putting off until the last minute, but other than that, the process couldn’t be simpler. And yet we did a shoot about two months ago that didn’t turn out so great; this one was a redo of that. Getting photographed is more of a learning process than one might imagine (unless one has watched America’s Next Top Model), and there are shockingly few resources online to turn to. Tellingly, but hilariously, most blog posts having to do with author photos just make fun of the most ridiculous ones. A few of my faves:
10 Ways to Take a Bad Author Photo
Against Promotional Author Photographs
Haul Out the Old Cliches, It’s Time to Shoot an Author Photo
That said, I found one good post about how to actually take a good author photo, here. Lots of practical advice, including permission to drink a glass of wine (just one!) before your shoot. Here are a few other things I’ve learned, mostly from my mistakes, and from hanging out with a photographer a lot:
1. Figure out what makes you look good, in terms of angle, expression, and body language. Figure this out by looking at photos of yourself, before you do the shoot, and ideally throughout the shoot. (In other words, presuming your photog is shooting digital, look at them with him or her every few minutes and adjust yourself accordingly.) In my case, for instance, we figured out I look best tilting my head to the right and smiling really big, a little bigger than felt like a good idea.
2. Know that things look different in real life than they do in photos. For instance, I have fine hair that has body only if I kinda muss it up a little for everyday wear. In photos, this just gives me sticky-out-crazy hair. Also, I love drapey clothes in real life, but in photos they just look bunchy and make me look chunkier and messier than I do in person.
3. In related news, you probably need more and/or different makeup on film than you do in everyday life. I get shiny under camera lights and flash. This means that when my makeup looks a bit cakey in the mirror, it looks great on film. If it doesn’t look cakey in the mirror, I will shine like a disco ball on camera.
4. Clothes: The simpler the better.
5. You can’t stress too much about avoiding the author-photo cliches cited in the above snarky blog posts — shots of people at desks and in front of book shelves are cliches because they’re basically among the few things it makes sense for authors to be doing in photos. What, should I stand on top of a trapeze just to avoid a “cliche”? Worry about removing the cliches from your writing; you don’t need to invent a whole new genre of author photo, for God’s sake. Take the best picture you can, and get back to work.