Most writers don’t think about the need for great head shots. In fact, if you look at their websites and social networking accounts, you’ll typically see some pretty mediocre pictures of them that have obviously been taken by an amateur photographer if you see a photo at all. This is not a great way to make a good impression on a prospective publisher, whether it’s a magazine or book publisher.
Two years ago I had professional photos taken by Mark Bennington while at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. They were phenomenal and made all the difference in the presentation I made on my marketing materials, such as business cards, and online.
This past fall I had need for new head shots when my publisher asked me for a photo for my new book, How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books). I email and asked Mark if he was coming to the San Francisco area any time soon, but he wasn’t. I searched around for another photographer and found one whose photos I liked. I was fairly pleased with the photo he took. However, when Mark told me he’d be at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference again in February, I booked him for two different shots (and then ended up using him for a third as well). Why? Because I knew Mark could do a better job and that I would have need in the next year or two for more photos on my websites and hopefully on more book covers.
Sure enough, Mark delivered. I ended up with one shot that I am using on my websites to promote speaking engagements, one that I am using across all my online platforms, and an extra one I simply like because of the colors I”m wearing and the fact that I’m laughing. Mark liked the more serious one, though. (A good photographer provides you with many choices…)
Why does every aspiring author (or published author) need a head shot?
Why does every carpenter need tools? For better or worse this is the modern world, a world driven by media. I don’t known that it’s a need, but it does seem like the writers I have spoken with and worked with feel it makes a huge difference in how they are perceived. If you see a great, genuine, professional photo of an author, chances are you will take them more seriously than if you see them in an old washed out, under exposed snapshot by the Christmas tree from 1996.
Great light, composition and expression. Creating a mood and capturing the spirit of the subject and what they are about. If you are relaxed and having fun (this comes from the expertise of the photographer) in this framework, chances are you’ll get a great shot.
What should you wear for your head shot?
Bright colors or anything that best represents you, or more to the point, what you “sell.” Make-up should be what you look like on your best day…natural and easy.
If you don’t yet have a book written, should you still have a head shot taken and why?
Again, the more seriously you take yourself, the more seriously others will take you.
What part does a head shot play in creating an author’s platform and branding a writer author?
Today we constantly have to “present” ourselves to the public. Truth is, people will see your photo before they read even one word of your book. Your photo many times is the first thing people see, if you have one, and can help or hurt the way people take in your work. Always better to lead with your best foot forward and not look like you’re one step behind. This is a life choice.
Mark Bennington, a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles, trained and worked as an actor in New York and Los Angeles for 10 years doing everything from Ibsen’s “Enemy of the People” with Sir Ian McKellen to “VIP” with Pamela Anderson and everything in between. In 2003, by chance he stumbled onto photography and within nine months had quickly become one of the top portrait photographers in Los Angeles. He has become known across the United States as the “working actors” photographer. Additionally, he has worked under the guidance of National Geographic veterans David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb and Eugene Richards. A few of Mark’s commercial clients have included The US Navy, The Getty Center, Derringer Cycles, and K-Tek Boom Poles. He is also a featured contributor for Lucky Magazine, A&U Magazine and The Los Angeles Times.