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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Bio 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.