DIY Author Photo

Today I’m sharing how I created a new author photo for my website. I hope it’ll help those of you who want to update your own photo. Thanks to the readers who asked me how I went about it. You inspired this blog post.

I figure there are four levels of author images on a social media account:

  1. None. There’s little connection with readers here.
  2. A comic-style drawing or a close-up of your head from any old pic. That was what I used for my website’s previous photo. It was okaaay.
  3. A DIY photo that’s intentionally related to your author brand. (My current stage.)
  4. A professional photo.

These are the steps I took:

1. I scoped out other authors’ websites to see what kinds of backgrounds, poses, and lighting angles I liked.

2. I considered my emerging author brand. My blog header image is black and white. My Favicon is black and white. Black is kinda cliché for a horror writer, I know, but I really do like black, so my knit top and my background are black. I also turned my color photo to a black-and-white image.

Speaking of photo backgrounds, mine is the budget-friendly backside of a poster taped to a closet door. Hey, whatever works.:-)

3. My lifestyle is rather pared down, and that includes my wardrobe. A layered, ruffled dress with a flashy floral pattern wouldn’t be me. I needed to stick with who I am. That’s why I’m wearing a simple, solid-colored turtleneck.

4. I took a big breath and told myself it’s perfectly fine if I’m not a fashion model. Neither are most authors. Or else we’d be models and not writers.

Use a napkin for crying out loud!

5. I made friends with an image editor. (I used GIMP.) I’m okay with the mole on my chin, but in my photos it looked like a piece of food I didn’t wipe off after eating! I also used an image editor to zap out a dozen cat hairs that were clinging to my black top.

6. Sunlight will make harsh shadows. A professional portrait photographer could take advantage of strong shadows, but I was using Dear Husband and his cell phone. I stayed indoors where the lighting was softer. I was near a window on a cloudy day.

7. My website’s sidebar is on the right, so I made sure my author photo had lighting coming from the right (as you look at the screen) to draw the viewer’s eye toward the center of my website. It’s like seeing what the light is illuminating vs looking at the light itself. But on Amazon and for most comment sections on blogs, the little Gravatar is on the left, so I flipped my photo (of a slightly different pose) for my Gravatar image.

Of course, smaller screens don’t even have a sidebar. My author photo would be down at the bottom if you’re reading this on a cellphone.

8. I wear glasses. Glasses are cool. But I didn’t know how to handle the glare. Solution: ditch the glasses.:-)

Further info:

Author branding ideas including author photo tips: Author Branding: Win Your Readers’ Loyalty & Promote Your Books, by Rayne Hall.

Book Launchers made a short YouTube video on why you need an author headshot: 5 Tips for Getting Great Author Headshots – YouTube

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66 thoughts on “DIY Author Photo

  1. Knowing how much technical thought goes into making even the gorgeous models look good, I took the easy and expensive way of a professional for my blog photo. Yours looks so good, I assumed you had done the same. Good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you have an extremely professional looking author photo. Like you, I had hubby do the shots, but we used a digital camera with a tripod. It took about 4 dozen for me to find something I was happy with, LOL, then I did minor touch ups for lighting, etc. in Photoshop. This was a cool post, Priscilla!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cool post Priscilla. I have to admit I’m on stage 2 of your graphic (I grabbed the most photogenic pic in my collection from umpteen years ago and said, meh, it’ll do). I’m still not brave enough to do stage 3 😬

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice photo – and good tips. My photo was taken by a friend after I won a writing competition and they asked for a photo. She took over fifty – only this and one other survived once I’d had a look at them. A trick I learnt in photography class is to put some tinfoil onto a piece of card (or use silver craft card) and hold it just out of sight so it reflects light onto the face. Gold card works well for colour images as it adds a glow to the skin, though – as a horror writer – you might be going for the paler look 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.:-)

      Your photo looks great. It makes you look like a friendly intellectual (perfect for a writer). I knew about the tinfoil trick but never thought about gold foil. That’s a super tip! I’m glad you commented!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha – ask me about shooting images of the stars at night and I can’t help – but reflecting light – I’m your woman. Inside of biscuit tin lids – works just as well. Diffused light – net curtain or mosquito net. Why pay for it when you can make it 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the picture looks wonderful. And something you touched on but didn’t expand upon — having a series from the same shoot so you can unify your look without having the exact same picture everywhere. Great touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry for being MIA! I missed visiting so much!
    OMG I LOOOOVE this post! Love the honesty (the mole… made me smile) and it’s so helpful for all of us writers/authors. Thanks for sharing all this!
    I love your brand. yes, black is a popular color for many brands (especially horror) BUT there is a reason for that I think. It’s the perfect neutral background for other elements of your brand to shine. Like yourself. Your pic is perfect. That’s exactly how I picture you (no flowers or laces! lol). I also like how minimalist, elegant and therefore modern your site looks!
    I do have one comment about lighting… Bright light (which includes sunlight) makes portraits look better precisely, as you said, because it minimizes the shadows BUT it has to come from everywhere. You can’t have only one source. Love your rational about having it come from the right!
    Great job Pri!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a fabulous comment, you should go MIA more often if it’s going to make you leave long, wonderful comments.:-)

      Yes, I am a bit of a minimalist. Even as a kid I didn’t like cluttered surroundings or wasted space/things. I’m glad you think my blog has a streamlined look. That’s what I was going for.

      I’m glad you commented, Daniela!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s a great pic, Priscilla! I think it’s really YOU! I was so sad as you closed your last blog. But now I found your new website and I am very glad about it. I am not a writer but addicted to books. So for me it is very interesting to see this other side of reading – to write a book. I wish you all the best for your novels! Greetings from far away – I live in Europa, in Austria.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jutta! You know me from my old lifestyle blog that I do prefer scaled down, minimalist looks, so yes, the simple turtleneck and black-and-white photo are definitely me! Thanks for visiting all the way from Austria!

      Like

  8. I wondered if you had gotten a new photo! But that you did it yourself? Talented! It looks great and super professional. You put such great thought into things. I’m very glad you shared this. Very helpful! I’m now rethinking my “look.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Getting a good photo is hard. I have played around with some photo software but usually ending up calling the teenager in for help and just let her do the work 🙂 You did a great job with your photo and I love the way it ties into your brand.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That’s a fabulous pictures. As someone who hates having any kind of photo taken, maybe I need to take a more professional approach. You’ve given me something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Julia.:-)

      What I don’t understand is there are people who WANT to get their picture taken for a living (cover models). Good for them, but it’s not my cup of tea.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  11. Well, can’t give an opinion on your photo – I’m blind – but I do use a recent photo for my author profile…. well, that a family member took and chose as good. Just in case it’s not that good (everyone has different opinions after all), I use different photos for different pages. And just for giggles, the first time I posted a photo of mine – on amazon, no less, I had it upside down. Thankfully, or, hopefully, I had no followers then.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad I made you laugh. Back on my day there was no rotate clockwise, so I had no idea! I’m glad that I asked a friend what she thought of my photo on amazon back when I created the author page.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Your photo looks fantastic, Priscilla! I take horrible pics, so a friend took mine, and she struggled to find a usable one, lol. I’ve been needing to update mine, so if I decide to take the plunge, this is my reference. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Horror is my favorite genre because I love being able to be scared and being in control of that scare . . . I can always just close the book, and the vampire (ghost, mega-shark, ax murderer) goes away.

      There are SO many fabulous authors out there, but ones I’ve read recently and really enjoyed are Elizabeth Hand (Wylding Hall), Michael Barsa (The Garden of Blue Roses), Sarah Waters (The Little Stranger), Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), and Andy Davidson (In the Valley of the Sun).

      Thanks for popping in.:-)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Priscilla, I love your style. I’m on “stage two” for now with the illuminated letter “B” and Brangien’s name laid over a photo of the sea. Meara is a pseudonym, but one day I hope to reveal my real name with a photograph!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the advice. I’m still at the selfie I took after climbing to the top of a hill stage. Armed with this new information I may experiment for a more professional looking photo.

    Liked by 1 person

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