Monday, June 4, 2012

How to Fake a Professional Headshot

In my last post, I covered The Importance of a Professional Headshot. Now to make a confession: the photo in my sidebar was not taken by a professional photographer. After a discussion with my husband, I had agreed that I needed a professional photo and so I began researching studios and pricing.

The average studio/photographer in Australia offered a reasonable price for a set of photos. Some even offered specials. However, when I mentioned to them I needed the copyright of the photos their eyes lit up, much like a baker’s eyes light up when you order a wedding cake. The prices skyrocketed.

You want how much? Would you like my kidney with that?

To avoid having to eat nothing but spaghetti for the next six months, I convinced my hubby to help me fake a professional headshot. And here’s how we did it:

The camera: You don’t need a fancy camera to achieve a professional look. You do need a digital camera and a happy trigger finger. Take a gazillion shots—even if 99% of them look freaky, one of them, by the odds alone, is bound to turn out halfway decent.

The photographer: A professional photographer with a fancy camera will be able to achieve a lot more, but for the purposes of this exercise, a trusted friend or family member will be sufficient. As long as they are patient and know how to point the business end of a camera, they’ll do fine. They don’t even have to worry about taking a straight photo or a centred one because most photo editing programs will fix that problem.

The look: Make yourself look perdy. I don’t normally wear makeup so all I did for the shoot was slap on a bit of lipstick. I even brushed my hair—gasp! Tip: don’t wear huge earrings, don’t wear patterned clothing. You want your face to be the focus of the picture, not your accessories.

The background: pick a plain background, something neutral, nothing too busy. Outdoor shots are fine and generally add a relaxed feel to your portrait, but there are hazards to outdoor photography. Sunlight can cause dark shadows across the face, and squinting into the sun is never a good look. If you are going to take an outdoor shot, then take it in the shade—not a speckled shade, otherwise you end up with strange highlights.

Indoor photography has its own pitfalls. Without a studio, lighting is difficult to get right. Avoid flash photography. A flash is a stark light that will do you no favours. Neither is a light from directly above or below. I don’t recommend indoor photography unless you understand lighting and have a fancier camera that can take longer exposures.

This final shot was taken outside in the shade. It was late afternoon and I stood in front of a glossy white card.



Without naming names, what mistakes have you seen authors make with their headshots?

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61 comments:

  1. You'd think being married to a graphic designer and photographer, I'd pay more attention to authors headshots. But when you asked this question, I couldn't remember any of them, even though I know I look at them several times a week!

    BTW, I like yours. It's warm and intelligent. ^_^

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  2. You did a great job of faking it! Love the shot. :)

    These are great tips - and they obviously work well. For the most part, the author headshots I can remember at the moment are well done!

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  3. I think your head shot is awesome!
    Some are blurry and not on purpose. I'd think that isn't good.

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  4. All great advice. I would've never guessed you didn't have your headshot taken professionally!

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  5. Awesome! Love the tips and seeing your example. Thanks!

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  6. 'Take a gazillion shots—even if 99% of them look freaky, one of them, by the odds alone, is bound to turn out halfway decent.'

    Very good pointer, Lynnie! This almost has me chuckling if it weren't so downright practical. :)

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  7. Beautiful shot, and it does look professional! Great tips--thanks for sharing!

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  8. Hee hee, I'm pleased to hear hubby took that shot. Who would have thought it was so tricky? With the copyright,obviously this is the way to go.
    One of my peeves is the author shot that is the glamour high school shot from years ago, then you go to meet the author at a book signing, and gasp, she's oldish, overweight and not at all glamourous. Not that there's anything wrong with looking that way, but keep it recent, I say. Last time I met a favourite author she addressed the crowd at the posh restaurant in what looked like a housedress and her oldest ballet flats - American, not Australian, we'd know we had to try harder!

    Denise

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    1. Yes, absolutely. Keeping it recent is important.

      I'll admit I'm a jeans kind of girl and would wear them everywhere if I could ;)

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  9. Great info, thanks.I keep putting off a professional headshot. I hate my pic taken, and never get a good one. The price puts me off too.

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  10. Thanks for all the information, Lynda. These were great tips about taking photos.

    (Your photo looks professional!)

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  11. Hello from France
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    Chris
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    If you wish to know the blog of your friends, send me their urls
    I see that you know many people in your country, you can try to get them in the directory?

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  12. Well that was a weird comment above mine! Ahem! Nevermind!

    Well I love love love your pic - you have gorgeous cheekbones! Yay! Take care
    x

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  13. You can even set the timer on the camera and do it all by yourself. Might just need a tripod.

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  14. Great tips! I always check out the back cover pictures. I'd say the only think I can think is to make sure the picture is you. It's okay if the picture-you is more dolled up, but if it's from twenty years ago and no one at book signings will recognize you then it's time for an update.

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  15. I thought it WAS a pro shot. :)

    I'm lucky - I have a friend who does photography. :)

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    1. You lucky thing! I wish I knew someone who did photography.

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  16. "I don’t normally wear makeup so all I did for the shoot was slap on a bit of lipstick. I even brushed my hair..." Now that's what I'm talking about!!

    Love your tips and the reminders. I've also heard that an overcast day is best for outdoor shoots.

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  17. this is why it is good having some friend who does photography :)
    I've really seen a lot of horrid author pics! The pic that Charlaine Harris uses for her TRUE BLOOD series is hilarious. That horrid woman has a perm on her head in the pic :)

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    1. A friend of mine stopped reading Charlaine's books after she saw the author's photo, lol.

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    2. I wouldn't be surprised if she stopped reading books period :)

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    3. hahaha. It would take more than that to stop her from reading altogether.

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  18. I think the major problem I've noticed is lens glare. So many writers wear glasses, and a really blatant lens glare will just kill an otherwise-nice photo.

    This post reminded me of a similar one by Angela Scott. Her examples of "don't do this" pictures really stuck in my mind...http://www.novelpublicity.com/2012/04/does-your-author-photo-scare-the-reader-away-here-are-5-tips-you-need-to-get-it-right/

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    1. funny you should mention that, Callie. I popped the lens out of my glasses for the shoot. Not only do glasses reflect light in a horrible way, but they also distort the face, especially if your perscription is as strong as mine. I could've taken the photo without glasses, but that's just not me.

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    2. Did you really! I had to go back and look at the larger version. I still can't tell! How clever! As a fellow glasses-wearer I'm going to keep that tip in my back pocket :)

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  19. You must know what you're talking about because your photo looks great. You sure do look perdy!

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  20. LOL! These are great tips, Lynda! You CAN fake it these days, thanks to all the software available. Still... I'm partial to photographers having worked w/them. Their creativity is unbeatable. Love those guys.

    If you're just starting out, though, this is a great option. You look mahvelous~ ;p

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  21. i am glad you posted this--my son is an actor in his spare time---his wife, who was a photographer major at one time--took a lovely head shot--does save a lot of cash--great tips!!

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  22. If outdoor shots are okay, what was wrong with the photo in your previous post?

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    1. Nothing was wrong with it, but my publisher requested a photo with a plain background.

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  23. Excellent tips! And your final version turned out SO nice. :) Mistakes I've seen--a sultry, almost sexy look. Low-cut tops for women, slinky or come-hither poses. It's supposed to be professional, not a glamour shot!

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  24. Fantastic tips, especially the one about taking a ton of photos because one has to be good, right?

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  25. I love your headshot, too. One of the mistakes I've seen is where the writer looks straight into the camera - creating a look that can only be described as a mugshot! If you notice, in your pose your head is tilted ever so slightly, as are your shoulders. It really looks professional, Lynda.

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    1. yes, exactly! Another way to achieve the mugshot look is to stand against a wall so your shadow from a flash falls on the wall.

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  26. Ha! I always get a little chuckle out of the author photos that are overly serious. You know, the chin resting on the hand pose, as though they sit and think serious thoughts all day. :)

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    1. it might be all right for someone who writes philosophical arguments... ;)

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  27. I recently had to provide my publisher with a head shot, which was distressing. I hate having my picture taken. I rarely take a decent shot. But my 17yo son is a wiz with a camera so I gave him my DSLR & we went to a park & he took like 100 shots. Of that, only 4 were what I considered decent. My son manipulated the one I liked best & it turned out looking very professional. I'm okay with it. Still hate having my picture taken though.

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    1. I'm thinking 4 good shots out of 100 is excellent odds!

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  28. The photo attached to this comment is a self-photo but not the one I refer to in my comments here.
    Because there are so many other comments before mine, some of them quite long, I feel safe making this confession.
    In the process of self-publishing my first novel on the internet, I realized an author photo was needed. Without giving it much thought, I grabbed my little digital camera, stood against a white wall, and snapped a few shots.
    I took the one I liked best, cropped it on my Print Shop program, and emailed it to the printing company. "They" said it might not work but it was all I had so I told them to use it.
    After some of the comments I've received about the picture (positive) I use it for everything except my blog which has a color-coordinated self-photo (see upper left)
    BTW, the comments about the photo are similar to the ones I receive when I ask for the senior discount at the grocery story!
    https://si0.twimg.com/profile_images/1264662524/1_1_1_1b_head_pics_1.jpg
    http://gail-baugniet.blogspot.com/2012/06/fast-five-author-interview-with-ja.html

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    1. It looks like you are definitely photogenic. It's just a shame that photo isn't quite in focus.

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  29. You're not wearing makeup? No professional photographer? It's going to take a village to make me look that good. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. You forgot about the gazillion photos that were taken before I got that one. A trillion million. I think the final shot was just a fluke, but that's all it takes ;)

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  30. Wow, that does look professional. I haven't done a headshot yet. Great tips. Will have to take the husband unit out and try it at some point.

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  31. I will eventually be doing this for myself soon. The quality of cameras and photoshop has changed the game for sure.

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  32. Great post. My hubby took mine, although we'll have to do a little better eventually. This one was taken in a rush because I needed it for my blog. :)

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  33. Great tips. I've always heard to use some make up, whether or not you normally do. Great shot! "You look marvelous, darling!"

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    1. I would agree, but I don't own any except lipstick, lol.

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  34. Love it. Great info here, Lynda. I'm scared for the day I have to get an author photo! :D

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  35. For a picture taken by a non-professional photographer, you look great!
    Informative post!

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  36. Yes, you need a camera class to achieve a professional look. I use the least expensive SLR camera market. I do find many limitations ... but I have no money.Deshacer cambios

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  37. Such a helpful post! Thank you. And I'm still giggling over "You want how much? Would you like my kidney with that?" Wow, is that ever true. After I got a few jaw dropping quotes, I hired my niece to take some head shots. Your lovely photo is proof that a professional is not necessary.

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    1. Cynthia, it looks like you've achieved a professional look for your photo too without having to spend a fortune.

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  38. Those are great tips. I would've never guessed that your picture was a "fake" professional head shot. Good job with it!

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  39. Hi Lynda! Thanks for sharing this information. I would have never guessed it was a "fake" professional head shot. I think it looks great!

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    1. I see bad head shots all too often. I have on that I use along with a monkey at the typewriter. Sometimes its difficult to tell which is real and which is fake.

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  40. These are great tips. Your picture looks very professional.

    It's true, take tons of pics and at least one will look decent.

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  41. Great post, and your picture looks very well done.

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  42. Your photo looks great! And this is excellent advice. I love the part about taking a gazillion photos. I need to remember that in the future!

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  43. As a photographer, I must say that these are some good and useful tips.
    And it has come right in time for me as I am supposed to click myself for a site :-( ...... something which I hate to do (clicking myself)

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