The Art to Getting an Author Picture for Your Bio


If you’re going by a pen name for your book and maybe don’t want your own face to be used for pictures, you can use resources like Deposit Photos or Shutterstock for a generic headshot, but studies have shown people are more likely to resonate with a genuine photograph of someone.

Taking your author bio picture shouldn’t have to send you into a fright. In fact, if you are nervous, it will show in your picture. AJ Coots works with clients who supposedly don’t photograph well to help them relax and convey their very best selves in what she calls Storytelling Photography.

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One thing to keep in mind is the difference between a documentary photographer and a headshot photographer. A documentary photographer would be someone taking a picture of what happened, like a newspaper photographer or wedding photographer. A headshot photographer is someone who designs the photograph to convey a feeling, like a picture of a hamburger on a billboard that makes your mouth water just from looking at it.

Old image I self did
My first bio picture (taken by myself)

A good photographer knows it’s not the equipment that makes a photograph good, but a bunch of different elements that lends itself to the person being captured looking their best and comfortable.

For my books or professional Pictures
For my books or professional pictures – taken by AJ Coots

Qualities that make up a good author picture are:

  • It should look realistic
  • It should look like you’re having fun
  • It shouldn’t look like you’re posing
  • It should still look professional
  • It should be representative of your style and genre of writing
  • You should make it memorable

One thing to note about making it representative of your genre is not to go overboard or typecast yourself. If you're a writer about the great outdoors, you might want to consider a wilderness shot next to your tent. But you shouldn’t have to use an excessive number of props or background images to convey what kind of author you are.

My Forbes Article Picture by AJ Coots
My Forbes Article Picture by AJ Coots

AJ gives two tips in this episode about getting the most natural look to your photograph, and the first is getting a genuine smile. The way she does this with her clients is to ask them to think of someone they love. When they think of someone else, they’re not focused on themselves and tend to give a more genuine smile.

The other tip she has for people posing for photographs is to remember to breathe. When you have shallow breaths, your body naturally tenses up, but when you are breathing deeply, you’re more relaxed.

What we do is we hold our breath and we say, ‘I'm in control! Nothing bad can happen to me.’ Actually, you're less in control when you're holding your breath, but we have that delusion, so I always recommend that you start out by breathing. — AJ Coots

I use in my email signature by AJ Coots
Picture I use in my email signature by AJ Coots

Once you know these tips and can practice them, your pictures will come out more natural and relaxed, yet still professional. Many authors fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves, but going to experts in that field will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

AJ Coots headshot author pic for bioBio of the Guest in the Case Study:

AJ Coots is a photographer who specializes in people who self-identify as being “not photogenic.” Her specialty lies in getting her subjects to relax and take a more relaxed and genuine photo, highlighting their strengths and brings out the best in her clients.

She studied at Kevin Clark Studios in Vancouver, BC, and established AJC Photography to create Storytelling Headshots for national speakers, thought leaders, and influencers.

Resources Referred to in this Episode:

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4 thoughts on “The Art to Getting an Author Picture for Your Bio

  1. jshear

    This was a great show, Dave. I found the comments about the nature of a portrait and character so valuable I asked publishing maven Jane Friedman if I could do a blog about portrait photographers. She loved the idea. I procrastinated, but now I’m working on it. Good show. Thank you.

    1. Dave Chesson

      Awesome Jeff and that sounds great! Let me know when that comes out.

  2. Maria Svampita

    very good tips! But what would u recommend in case of not wanting to show one`s own face? Thanks!

    1. Dave Chesson

      You can find a stock image of a model on sites like DepositPhoto or ShutterStock, but I’d highly recommend choosing one that doesnt’ look like a stockphoto, if you know what I mean. We can all spot the ‘fake’ pictures. 🙂

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