By Brian Kaufman
In my novel, Dead Beyond the Fence, headshots were a pretty big deal. The ambulatory dead kept coming unless you wallop them above the shoulders. My protagonist used a tool formerly used to open crates or pry apart boards. This prompted one kind reviewer to comment, “Kaufman is the new king of the crowbar.”
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the term headshot also refers to a reasonably crucial marketing tool for authors. This headshot is your author photo—a clean, professional image that will have several important uses, including the following:
- The back cover of your book
- Social media sites
- Your agent or publisher’s website
- Bookstore appearance posters
- Your website
- Your media kit
Using the same photo across multiple platforms has advantages. The familiar face to go with your name helps searchers identify you. Reusing the same image helps define your brand. I practice what I preach, of course.
My headshot for Dead Beyond the Fence, while devilishly handsome, was a clear genre signal.
Before you head to the bathroom for a new selfie, consider a few tips to help maximize the effectiveness of your finished product.
Consider hiring a professional photographer.
I’m not talking about big-box corporate photographers—family and graduation shots don’t always convey personality. Look for portrait photographers who know how to put your best face forward. Glamor photographers, cosplay photographers, and photographers who work with actors and actresses are worth the money.
Let your photographer know something about your books and the genre you work in. Photographers are artists. Let them try to translate your work and your character into an image.
Headshots are often cropped square, picturing head and shoulders. Whatever is in that frame should fit your image without distracting, including the photo’s background, which should not be so busy that it diverts attention from your face.
You may prefer an outdoor setting. Your photographer will likely want to shoot just before sunset. The soft, angled light flatters.
Posing is uncomfortable for some. Your best bet is to sit up straight, keep your shoulders square, and look directly into the camera lens. Tuck your chin slightly. We don’t need to look straight up your nose. Relax, if you can, and listen to the photographer, who may offer some help in this regard.
Consider makeup. This applies to men as well. The camera can be unforgiving. As for clothing, if your genre doesn’t have obvious wardrobe implications (like Steampunk, for example), start with business casual. You’re a professional or an aspiring professional. Dressing like one is a good start.
After, your photographer will provide you with multiple shots. Choose one that looks like you. Social media beauty filters aside, you will be attending book signings, conferences, and other events. Your headshot should be both flattering and identifiable.
A parting note: one refreshing alternative to an actual photo headshot is a piece of original artwork. Toward that end, I offer comic artist Stan Yan’s excellent caricature of this humble blog contributor.