Sunday, February 12, 2012

Author Headshots


Recently I saw a blog post titled "Is Your Author Photo Sending the Right Message?" The author (K.M. Weiland) contrasts two author photos, one as being the professional standard we should all aspire to, the other as a miserable failure.

The "good": "...a professional headshot of a smiling woman standing against a picturesque red barn. She was dressed casually but professionally, her neat hair and makeup highlighted beneath appropriate lighting."

The "bad": "....what looked like a picture taken on the author's web cam. This author looked like he had just gotten out of bed and had yet to find his way to the nearest Starbucks. He didn't make eye contact with the camera, which resulted in a glazed, disoriented look. He was wearing a T-shirt. The setting behind him was a messy desk. And the faint lighting cast a shadowy and gloomy pall over the picture."

Now, I know the "rules" for author photos. For cripes sakes, I teach the rules about author photos. Get a professional headshot. Nothing weird, quirky, amateurish, etc.

But....as I read the above descriptions, all I could think was....the lady's shot sounded boring as hell, and the dude's photo sounded totally intriguing to me.

Everyone's headshot looks "professional".....but the truth is, there isn't a hell of a lot of personality going on there. Perfect hair and make-up. *yawn* Perfect lighting. She's standing next to a red barn? Is she a farmer or something? That sounds like a set-up, almost manipulative. Too perfect. And totally forgettable.

Now, the "bad" example sounds great to me (I wish a photo had been included!)....the messy desk, the T-shirt, him looking grumpy. This sounds totally authentic. Because, let's face it, most authors are grumpy and messy.

A long time ago, I saw a photo of Danielle Steel in her luxurious, gorgeous home and office, and I laughed my ass off. Um, sure. How many authors do you know who look like this when they're writing, and whose homes look like this.....


I didn't look that good on my freakin' wedding day! And her house looks like a 5-star luxury hotel.

Most authors I know have a desk squeezed into the corner of some room, loaded up with toys, papers, books, and maybe some lumberjack figurines (what?). My office has lego pieces, American girl doll clothes, glitter explosions, and junk everywhere. I'm keeping it real, baby! I would feel like a fraud if I got all dressed up, hair and make-up done, and posed in some sort of serene manner for my author photo. Because that's not me. At all. I like author headshots that you can tell really capture the writer's real personality. 

I LOVE this one....


Such an awesome photo of Stephen King. He's got that mischievous, naughty little boy look that is so spot-on. 

Another great one is Gail Carriger's....


This photo captures the essence of steampunk romance author Gail....quirky, formal, humorous. It's fabulous.

Another fantastic head shot is Skyler White's photo....she is a paranormal/fantasy author, and her photo is certainly not lacking in excellent personality.....



No one's going to forget this headshot. I love her funky hair, her cool T-shirt, and the weird furry chair she's sitting on. There is a great juxtaposition of her serious expression and glasses, and the psychedelic hair and clothes.

Raymond Carver's photo is incredible....look at those eyes. Love how he is shielding his face with the hand holding a cigarette.



I also love this photo of poet and author Todd Moore...it is so dark and shadowy and gloomy. He is barely looking at the photographer, almost reluctantly. 




And now, for mine.....



Evidently, I'm breaking all the rules (I'm such a Rule Breaker! hee hee)....

1. Took it with my webcam (where I sit everyday and write my wacky stories).
2. Wearing a T-shirt.
3. No make-up and I had, honestly, just gotten out of bed. Which is why my hair is looking so big and excellent and Bon Jovi-ish.
4. Lighting is non-professional. Setting is non-professional. It's my messy office. Littered with art supplies, travel books...you can see my Kindle off to the right, and a photograph my son took.

This photo is totally me. It might not be polished and professional, but what you see is what you get. I love it.

Someday, when I make the big time, and Hugh Jackman says (in his excellent Australian accent), "Penny, you really must get yourself a professional headshot," then maybe I'll cave in and do the boring, expected, standard thing.

But my hair is still gonna be super big. Jumbo big. Just-rolled-out-of-bed big.

Waiting for that phone call from Hugh.......
Penelope

22 comments:

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I LOVE your hair! Rock on!

I love Gail's! SO cute.
And Stephen's is that perfect mix of natural and fixed up.

Amber Skyze said...

I love the natural pic and you're rockin' the hair! :)

Penelope said...

Hi Juju! Gail has a lot of style. Love her! And I think SK's mischievous look is hilarious.

Penelope said...

Thanks, Amber! Just keeping it real, baby! hee hee

Jaye said...

I love your picture!

(and um, if Hugh does call, maybe you can, um, share the wealth?)

Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com said...

You don't need makeup- your coloring is fab. And, what the eff is Steele wearing her wedding dress. I always hang around in my white lace dresses. I want to see how much black cat hair I can collect and the sweats just don't make the count as easy. The only shot of myself I like I took by setting my camera on the window right after returning home from the salon. That being said, when I see a totally unstaged author shot where the writer looks like Michael Moore or Heavy Peter Jackson on a bad day, I think, What they don't care enough about their readers to brush their hair? But you look great in your pic. The angle gives it away as a web cam, but I thought the shirt quite fashionable, I am jealous of your hair and skin. You look better here than I do after an hour of makeup work.

Penelope said...

Thanks, Jaye! I'm hoping that Hugh and I will become good buds in the near future. I could rename my blog to Penelope and Hugh's Romance Reviews....!!!!

Penelope said...

Hi Steph! I know--that photo of Danielle Steel is too much! I love guys with messy hair...here is a great shot of Einstein!

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-AFdcJGynido/TZRXCTiV4nI/AAAAAAAAAaA/x_d3rizTU44/s1600/albert-einstein.jpg

hee heee!

Also, the secret to good skin is walking every day. Since I had my heart attack, my skin has gotten much better, and I really think it's because I walk so much.

Christine DePetrillo said...

When it comes to hair, I always say, "The bigger, the better!" You look fabulous in your headshot and totally real. Whenever I try to take a Serious Author Photo, I always end up looking like a curly haired serial killer. Serious is so not me. Much better off with a smile.

Christine
www.christinedepetrillo.weebly.com

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

Love the author photo, and I have hair envy.

I agree that author photos should be interesting and capture some of the author's personality. I have a boring pro shot, taken at my local Borders before it closed. I look like me, so it's okay. But I also have some pictures that I took myself that feel more me and I love.

Penelope said...

Christine....I want to see the curly-haired serial killer! I almost picked a couple of headshots that had folks w/ "crazy eyes"....they look slightly deranged, which I think is awesome! (And so very appropriate for authors...hee hee!)

Penelope said...

Hi Sherri! That actually brings up a good point. The author headshot on the back of the book does not need to be the photo included with every article, etc. You can have a more formal headshot for your book jacket, and a more relaxed one for articles.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

As you know, I paid to have professional head shots done a year ago. We took something like 300 shots yet only a handful were acceptable, at least IMO, and even those didn't really capture me.
I think I'm gonna have one of my kids take a shot of me playing with my dog or on a horse, I'll make it black and white, and that will be my photo.
For the time being, my dog, Jake, is my photo on twitter.
I think you are beautiful.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Oh, I read that same article.

Nicola O. said...

That is really a great photo. I think it comes down to good lighting and a pose where the author looks comfortable. By comfortable, I mean, "not stiff" -- it can still be more formal.

I think a lot of shots are done outside because of lighting and to get the subject to loosen up a little. The doesn't mean you can't get a great shot indoors -- you just proved it!

(and I love your hair).

Penelope said...

Julia....I like your headshot...you look cute and happy! I love the idea of a B&W photo of you w/ a horse or Jakey. That would totally be "you"!!

Penelope said...

Nicola....thanks! I also like outdoor author photos with their dogs. I think that really gets folks to relax. :^)

heidenkind said...

I LOVE Raymond Carver's headshot. That's a thinking man's sexy right there. I also love Gail Carriger's because that captures what her books are about so perfectly.

Penelope said...

Heidenkind....I love those, too. Carver's is incredible.

Nina Pierce said...

I wish I'd see the article. But my first thought was the same as yours. The "bad" photo sounded so much more interesting. And the ones you posted definitely say a lot about the author (even Steel). I love your photo. Always have.

Penelope said...

Hi Nina! I have a link to that article right at the beginning of my post.

You should see Danielle Steel's office....I wish I could find the photos I saw....it is GORGEOUS! Cream-colored carpet and furniture....immaculate. Sigh. Not a chocolate stain anywhere in sight!

Penelope said...

Here are some more good Danielle Steel links...

http://www.daniellesteel.net/design.htm