How to DIY a Professional Author Photo
by Rosa Arcade
So, you’re an author. Cool. You are a master of the written language (with help from various editors). Readers hang on your every word when they read your work, cuz, really – have you tried stopping mid-story? People get seriously ticked and send you nasty emails. But, I digress. Point is, you’re a rock star in the eyes of your audience.
As amazing as that is, if you’re reading this, you have a teeny tiny problem: You need a professional-looking author photo that will grace every book you write for years to come. If you’re bold, you probably want two: One for your books, author site, and social media; and another for blog tours, press releases, and profile photos on sites such as GoodReads, Amazon, and Smashwords. But, how do you get one without dropping serious cash on a professional photographer?
The good news is that you can actually DIY an author photo you can really be proud of. Here are some simple suggestions to help …
Prep: Use a camera that takes high resolution photos. Show the person who is taking the photos how to use the camera properly. If they are unfamiliar with it and let them experiment for a bit before you start the photo shoot.
We want to avoid any “selfies” with your arm snaking out of frame, so if you’re doing your own photos, use a camera with a timer. You may also want to get yourself a tripod from the dollar store.
Find Your “Best Side”: Take various shots before your “real shoot” to find out if you like the look of your left or right side better. Once you found the side you like, also find the best angle to flatter your features. For example, I have “hooded” or “half-mast” eyelids, so my best photos are taken with the camera slightly above me, looking down. Because I have to look up at the camera, it naturally forces my eyes to open fully without making me look like a majorette on crack.
Lighting: You want to make sure your photo can be effectively used across all media, which means it needs to be well lit. The best option is to use natural lighting, preferably outdoors. If that isn’t an option, find a spot indoors with lots of big windows to let in sunlight.
Avoid directly sunlight, so you don’t end up over-exposing your skin or creating “hot spots”. You want the lighting to be as even as possible, so avoid trees and other overhanging objects that may cast weird shadows across your face.
Keep the sun in front of you, but off to one side. This will prevent any squinting, sun halos, or creepy “shadow face” pictures.
Setting: Use a simple and non-descript background. If your camera has a manual focus or you have some skill with Photoshop, blur your background gently so you remain the center of attention.
Appearance: Just like going for a family photo or job-interview, you want to look your best. Brush your hair and keep it out of your face. Be sure you’re well-groomed; pluck, trim, and shape as necessary. Also, check your teeth for remaining lunch particles.
Make-up is essential, even if you don’t normally wear it. Remember, we’re looking for a professional-looking photo. Keep it natural and if you’re not sure how to properly apply it, search out tutorials online. If you’re a man with an uneven skin tone, you might want to consider using a bit of foundation to give yourself an even appearance.
Wear a flattering neckline, so you don’t end up with a “boobalicious” snapshot. Select a solid colour to help prevent weird warbles across your chest in the photos. Avoid bold yellows, bright greens, or metallic colors which will glare across your throat and chin.
Tone: If you write in multiple genres or need photos for various purposes, try to keep the feel of your photos in sync with its intended use. Keep things bright and cheery for photos to be used in social media and press. Use darker colours and slight shadowing (without obscuring your face) to create more moody pictures for gothic, horror, or mystery genres.
Be Prolific: Take lots of photos in various poses, outfits, and locations so you have plenty of options to choose from. This will also give you options for your branding, author page, social media profiles, interview photos, Christmas cards to the grandparents … etc.
Post-production: Photo touch-up programs are your friend. If you can’t afford a program like Photoshop, there free programs like, GIMP which will help you remove blemishes, adjust contrast, soften the background, or any other changes you’d like to make.
Safety Note: Make sure there is nothing in the photo that will give potential trouble-makers any personal information about you or your loved ones. This includes certificates, mailboxes/house numbers, pictures of your family (especially your children!), and photos with the names of clubs, community identifiers (ie. town water towers), dance schools, youth teams, etc.
Lastly; Have fun! A sparkle in your eye and smirk on the corner of your mouth will attract people to your photo and your work better than a good write up ever will. A picture really is worth a 1,000 words.
Rosa is an author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her books include the high fantasy novel, Half-Elf: Touch of Insanity, a self-help book called, Notes to My Younger Self, The Job Hunter’s Guide which is a great resource tool, and its free companion book, Samples and References: A Companion Book to The Job Hunter’s Guide. She has also co-authored 4 publications and her poetry has appeared in several anthologies.
Rosa has studied acting, music, spirituality, as well as writing for non-fiction, fantasy, and film. Over a dozen of her scripts have been produced to date, including short educational and promotional videos.
Rosa is the creator of the animated series, Zomb-Eh? She is also the artist and writer for Eeyayho’s Adventure, a family-friendly video game created by her daughter. She currently lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and children.