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. 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 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 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.......