Friday, January 3, 2014

Invest in Professional Author Portraits

Selfie taken at my day job
for some reason I can't
 remember. Not sure of how I
got the dreamy, soft edge affect
and it definitely isn't my best
best look or pose.
OK, you're working on your website and you realize, "I need a picture for my 'About Me' page!" So, you ask your spouse, offspring, partner, friend, or neighbor to take a quick picture of you with your smart phone. It doesn't matter that it's the end of the day, your makeup and coffee buzz have long faded, and you're wearing your favorite sports team shirt. Nah, your readers want to see you just as you are in all your writer angst glory. No, No, No, No....

As the old saying goes, 'you only get one chance to make a first impression.' Why not make that first impression stellar?

In my day job, I was recently promoted from Product Manager to Director of Business Development. In my new post, I often have public speaking engagements that include keynote addresses and industry expert panel discussions. All of these events have organizing committees responsible for doing marketing and promotions. Without fail, they ask for a picture and bio. Without fail, my picture and bio stand out in the event program and other promotional collateral simply because I am one of the few who submitted a professional picture.

Here's a wake up call, people: Selfies, family portraits, wedding pictures, and poorly taken candid shots are NOT good for your image, career, or PERSONA.

My C. Morgan Kennedy
author portrait.
In truth, it was my need for an author portrait that was the initial prompt for me to schedule a photo shoot. Being the ultimate multi-tasker, I decided to plan a quick wardrobe change during the shoot to get some day job portraits done, too. With a little planning, taking pictures for two different personas was easy.

Director, Business Development
Notice that the only differences between my two professional portraits are the necklace and jacket I'm wearing. My earrings, make up, and hair are all the same.

In my day job photo, I want to express professionalism and knowledge - while letting my upbeat personality peek through. No stoic, stoney-faced expressions for me.

In my author portrait, I want to be hip and urban. The crisp photo expresses professionalism and showcases the fact that I am clearly willing to make investments in my writing career and public persona. My personality still peeks through, too. In the alternate author portrait below, the photographer prompted me to give the camera some 'attitude.' Notice how the energy shift and expression change influences the entire look and feel of the final image.

I was prompted by the
photographer to give
the camera some
Questions and Comments to Ponder:
1.) How do you want to perceived? What aspects of your PERSONA do you want to have captured in your author portrait?
2.) My photos were taken outdoors in a park. Therese's portrait was taken in a photo studio. Both work for us and reflect who we are and what we write.
3.) You don't have to pay loads of money to get a great picture. Call your local high school or art college to find a photography student - work with their teacher, you may become their class project! Students often work in exchange for your permission to use your shots in their portfolios.
4.)  Always clearly understand who owns the images, rights, and uses. (Most portrait photographers give you a disc or download of the images and destroy the original electronic images after a period of time. Some commercial photographers, artists, and photo journalist will seek to retain the rights.)
5.)  Avoid overly stylized 'glamour shots' that feature feather boas and excessively soft lens filters. This look was popular in the eighties....please, let it stay in the eighties!

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips for Authors:
 Develop a “look.” Therese and Morgan call this a PERSONA. You want to be memorable. This doesn’t mean you should wear something silly, but you need to look unique. If you wrote a cookbook, wear an apron. If you wrote a children’s book, make a T-shirt with the book’s logo. Make your own nametag. If you write mysteries set in Hawaii, wear an Aloha shirt. Don’t look like every other author out there. I’m pretty easy to spot, since I’m 6'5" tall, but I exaggerate it with a cowboy hat, boots, and a goatee.


  1. I actually like your selfie. It looks very approachable. I 100% agree about a professional shot. In the past I've used pics my husband has taken or someone else has taken of me and they did okay, but I never felt they really captured me. When I spent about $100 on a photo shoot, I had several pics I liked. The one I ended up choosing and use today I felt represented how I saw myself on the inside. Now, the whole hip/urban vs Barbara Cartland image thing, or the "unique" look that Robson advises I'm not so sure.

    I still struggle with the "persona" concept. And doing author signings and dressing up in a specific "author" way doesn't work for me. I know to avoid pajamas and there is no way I'd wear a boa, but other than that I'm not sure. I don't have an outfit or a look that is my persona and different from me.

    1. Dear Maggie, You are so awesome. And, yes, we live your struggle too. That's why we have chosen to discuss this stuff on a public forum.

    2. Hi Maggie!

      Morgan here...You are both a professional and a business woman. In short, your 'get it' with regards to presenting yourself as someone to be taken seriously as both a writer and publisher. Your career and background make you the exception in the publishing industry, not the rule....which makes you a unique member of our core audience.

      Don't struggle with having an outfit or being 'unique' already LIVE most of the advice that we offer. In your case, your persona is YOU already. You are doing just fine - in fact, you are doing GREAT!

      So, don't sweat it - keep doing what you are doing - and let's go have coffee to discuss your website. :D

      Hugs - CMK