Thursday, September 04, 2008

Author photos?--veinglory

The author photo, hmmm. Do you have one? Because I have been thinking of using one but the more I look at other author's photos the more I think it might be a mistake. Most of them are, in my opinion, terrible. They fall into a number of major categories.

A lot of romance authors seem to go for the "Mummified by Avon" look. That is hair that is three or four shades, all of them unknown to nature. Add to this matt apricot skin, lips and blush like a drag act, teeth too perfect to believe and an outfit last used as a costume for the climatic who shot J.R. scene. In the background is what we are meant to assume is one's stately home.

Men seem to go for the "I Take Myself Too Seriously" photo. That is the one with the dramatic lighting, serious expression and stare into the middle distance. Oh and always in grey scale, because in grey scale nobody can tell that you are bald.

Some authors seem to cut costs and go with the "Who, Me?" picture. This comes in two main forms, either them holding a camera up to the bathroom mirror, or them turned towards some other person whose shoulder can still be seen in the cropped version. The overall impression is that the author not only doesn't have a stately home, they don't have a friend who would take their picture or enough of an ego to have a picture be all about lil' ol' them.

Perhaps one of the least offensive versions is the "Shiny, Happy Author" picture in which a young, over-saturated author grins maniacally in front of a white background. If the author is attractive this can work fine, but still looks more like an advertisement for minty gum than an author photo.

There are a few other versions along the lines of "I'm Kooky!!1!", "I Live in a Fantasy World", "Me So Sexy", "If I Can See a Single Wrinkle in this Picture I Will KeeeeLL You (a.k.a. The Soft Focus Mystery Author)" and "Portrait of an Artiste (beret optional)."

But frankly, I have yet to see an author photo I liked, so maybe it is just me.... Do authors really need a photo? If so, what should a good one look like?

See also:
Can you believe this picture


Fae said...

I don't know if it's really an "author photo", but I have a pair on my website I snapped myself. I actually took them to show some of my friends online my makeup that day (somebody had asked about summery makeup and asked me to post pics of my summer makeup so I did), and liked them enough to put them on my site. I know I always like to see the face behind the name and figured my readers would too. I don't *think* they fall into any of your above categories, but who knows, my opinion is biased lol. I think they're cute pics of me and I rarely like any pics of myself.

kirsten saell said...

Mine would be me in a chair with my laptop on my lap, a bandana covering my hair and a gin and tonic (or beer or glass of wine or bloody caesar) at my elbow (or in my hand).

Angela James said...

I like author photos, for the sheer fact that I meet a huge amount of authors at conferences and when they email me, it's helpful to be able to go to their website and remind myself who they were (seeing the face reminds me of the circumstances of the pitch/conversation/etc).

Surely I can't be the only editor who might do that, so help an editor out :P

barrettmanor said...

Mine is a self-portrait. I absolutely hate having my picture taken and I'm ashamed to say that the only halfway decent picture I have of myself is on my drivers license. And THAT is old because I renew by mail. ;-)

Just look at the picture. You can tell how absolutely thrilled I am to be sitting in front of the camera.

Amanda Young said...

I take horrible (really horrible) photos, but I finally gave in and put a couple up on my myspace page. I have yet to put anything directly on my website though.

Bernita said...

"or them turned towards some other person whose shoulder can still be seen in the cropped version." Hoot!
I'm turned AWAY from that shoulder.

Darlene Marshall said...

Some publishers and agents will insist they want a headshot for publicity purposes. My feeling is it should look like you on a day when you're well rested and not sporting the "I did what last night?" bags and circles under your eyes.

But be careful. If you wear your favorite color you could take a shot that causes your adult son to snicker and tell you you look like a lesbian leprechaun.

K. Z. Snow said...

I refuse to have my picture taken, because I know cameras can steal my soul.

Actually, I am camera-shy to the point of phobia, since I look uglier than the Witch of Endor in photographs. All photographs. And I don't have Photoshop software. ;-)

The only picture I've ever put up of myself is in my MySpace photo section. It was taken at a male strip club, where my face is nearly shoved into a dancer's crotch. (I didn't shove it there, by the way; he did. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I posted it in conjunction with a Cerridwen Press release that has to do with male strippers.

Anonymous said...

I have my photo on my Goodreads page [I'm sure you've seen it] that was taken for media purposes--but I also have a few 'at the computer' Myspace photos, which I've seen used around manga-info sites that have bio-entries on me. :/ Am I happy with either photo? Not really, because I tend to think I make a lousy picture, which is odd-because I think I'm attractive in person. ^_-

Personally, I like putting a 'real' face to a name. The way someone looks isn't going to stop me from reading their work.

Anonymous said...

My least favorite are these:

1) obviously 20 years out of date with really, really bad hairstyle

2) using school photography backgrounds and poses (hand resting on chin anyone? ugh.)

3) no makeup whatsoever on women, because they think in real life I wear little-to-no makeup, so in photo i want to look 'like myself.' Sad thing is, you need *some* amount of makeup in a photo or your features are horridly washed out.

4) women who go to Glamour shots for hair styling/makeup

When/If I need an author photo, I will totally spend the big bucks to get myself professionally styled, made up, and photographed. I want that photo to be better than me!

What do people think of profile shots? I photograph pretty nicely in profile...

veinglory said...

I must say I am only every photographed without make up because I don't own any and wouldn't know how to use it if I did. I am not sure why women would look washed out without it when men presumably do not? (or is it just that they are all using grey scale anyway) ;)

Annmarie Ortega said...

I have a bunch of photos of myself, but the reason for that is my best friend is a photographer. I totally trust her judgement when when we have a shoot. She also is awesome with cleaning up images and I usually end up looking wayyy better in the pic than I do in real life, lol. One time she even brought a hair and makeup person to my house. When they glued on fake eyelashes I told her I'd kill her if she blinded me : ) I have a lot that she took on my myspace page.

Jules Jones said...

Way back when, Loose Id used to ask for an author photo.

From me, they got a picture of a large plushie hippo sitting in my computer chair...

K J Gillenwater said...


Sadly, I think it is the 'norm' for people to see women with make up on. Especially in an author photo...Even if it's 'light' make up to make you look 'natural.' Men...not so much of an expectation that you will have visible lashes or an even complexion. However, I will bet that men wear make up just as much as women in author photos. I'm talking the authors who spend $$ on a professional shoot.

I just know that if someone takes a photo of me without any kind of make up on (and I don't wear much), I look pale and my eyes look teeny tiny. With just mascara and a bit of eyeshadow, I just look 'better' in a photo. I have no shame about having some professional put the make up on me when the time comes (I only have cheap stuff at my house...and not a lot). Like I said, I want to look 'better than me' in any professional photo.

You know even small amounts of make up make a difference when my guitar instructor told me once, "Wow, you have really beautiful green eyes. I never noticed them before." And guess what? I happened to be wearing a bit of eye make up that day.

veinglory said...

With my hippy upbringing I tend to see any makeup as a curious affectation, hence my first choice of photo horror--excessive grooming ;). not to mention the last one mentioned, looking too happy. (Me, a miserable slob... well, yes I am) When I reveal my current self-taken photo everyone including my mother will wonder why I didn't brush my hair properly for it.

Stacia said...

I hate the way I photograph. IRL I'm quite attractive (and I don't mean that in an egotistical way; I'm not saying I'm gorgeous or anything, far from it) but I tend to look frumpy and odd in pictures. Nobody in my family takes good pics.

On the other hand, my husband's ex-wife is quite plain in person but takes beautiful photos.

Meg said...

I haven't needed/used an author photo so far, and not sure I ever want to. I don't mind the idea and would do it if asked to by a publisher, and would want professional hair and makeup done when I did.

I would also require the photographer to sign and indemnity against any damage my face did to his camera. hehe.

The best author photo I have seen recently is that of Natasha Mostert look her up on myspace. Okay, it is a little bit posed, but it is a nice pic.

Angelia Sparrow said...

The picture on myspace has my face in shadow and my best features on display.

The website picture isn't bad. I look like someone's sweet-faced, cookie baking auntie.

I like author pictures for the most part. I just don't photograph too well myself. And if I use the one really good one? It's 20 years out of date.