How to Take Good Author Photos


How to Take a Great Author Photo


I found this funny image on the Tumblr blog for Powell’s City of Books — and it got me thinking: how DO you take a great author photo?

7 key elements of a captivating author photo

If you want to take good author photos, keep the following things in mind:

1) The vibe should match your genre. 

Be sure the setting, colors, clothing, and mood of your photo are appropriate for your writing style. If you’re a horror, suspense, or crime writer, Bermuda shorts and a baseball cap might not be the best choice. If you’re a lighthearted YA author, don’t shoot your photos in a graveyard. You want everything in the picture — not just your face — to help sell the writing.

2) Capture a moment. 

What is “a moment?” Well, it’s tough to define. But you know it when you see it. You’re flipping through a few hundred pictures of yourself and one of them just grabs you! Most likely, something was happening in that photo that reflects a genuine sense of humor, fright, confusion, drama, etc. This is why it’s important to take MANY photos during a shoot; 99% of the time you’re going to look stiff and posed, but every once in a while the camera catches an honest moment when you stopped thinking so much about photography and let a little realness in.

3) Concentrate on great lighting.

You can Photoshop your author photo, for sure. But it’s not going to fix a bad picture. If you’re outdoors, discuss lighting and time of day with your photographer. The sun can be your enemy.

4) Relax. 

The world won’t end if you don’t get the greatest author photo in your first try. Do whatever you can to relax (because nervousness shows); schedule multiple shoots with multiple settings, moods, and clothes; get some exercise before the shoot; make sure you’re comfortable with the photographer; have them take pictures of you at home; drink a shot of whiskey.

(Actually, if you do have a drink to “loosen up,” beware of blushing or flaring capillaries. Too much alcohol can bring out redness in your face that won’t look flattering.)

5) Remember your high school musical.

You wore makeup. You sang. You danced. You acted larger than life. OK — now bring some of that drama to your author photo. But instead of practicing lines, practice your smiles, frowns, and million-dollar stare. (And be sure to consult with your photographer about the best kind of makeup for the camera).

6) Your face is the focal point.

You don’t have to be in the dead center of the shot, but even if you’re standing off to the side of a brilliant landscape — everyone is going to be drawn to your face. Show it off! Don’t hide. People connect with eyes; so don’t hide those eyes either. (Though you don’t necessarily have to stare right at the camera).

7) Hi-resolution. 

This photo is going to be used on your book jacket, in magazines, on your website, and plenty of other places online. Make sure you get a hi-res shot. No pixelation!


OK. Keeping all this in mind? Great. Now go take some author photos.

Show us your author photos

What’s worked for you? What kind of author photos drive you nuts? We want to see examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Leave a comment and link to photo in the section below.


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Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


  1. Thanks for writing this piece. It was pretty darn useful. I’ll be taking an author pic hopefully this week and had planned exactly what I wanted, but after reading your article realized I’d missed some pivotal icing on the cake: my facial expression — which could be at least mildly comical for the genre I’m writing in.

  2. I got a request for pages recently (OMG!) and it made me realize I needed to update my author photo. My hair color has changed drastically since the last headshot, and selfies just aren’t cutting it!

  3. I wish that image had the names of those authors on it. It’d be interesting to see if what they write about somehow matches what you’d think they write about based on their author photo. Mostly I just wanna know what the guy with the cats writes about, lol.


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