When you launched your freelance or author business, you put a lot of thought into it. You thoroughly considered what services you would offer, what domain name you would buy, and what courses you would invest money in to help launch your career.
But how much thought did you give on how to take a professional headshot as a professional author?
If the answer is “Not much,” it’s time to change that.
Let’s consider for a moment what having author headshots do for businesses. What’s the benefit?
The most basic answer is that your author headshot brands your business. While you may choose to use a logo on your website, remember that you are the only one running your business. That means you’re the sole face of it. Actually putting a face to your business (i.e. your own face) helps people recognize you across the internet–including on your website, social profiles, and bylined articles.
It takes clients just 40 milliseconds to draw a conclusion about you based on your professional headshot.
But it’s not just about recognition. What if it’s the first time a prospect has heard of you? It will take them just 40 milliseconds to draw a conclusion about you based on your photo, according to Buffer.com. Your professional headshot helps set the tone for your business and makes hiring you more personal.
So when your professional headshot is perhaps the most important element for representing your business, how do you make it represent you in the best way possible?
Below, we’ll answer this question by looking at some professional headshot tips for your freelance writing website.
Features of Professional Author Headshots
This is such a ridiculously simple rule, but it’s something I see people get wrong every day.
Your headshot shouldn’t just be recognizable. It should also be visually appealing so that when a prospect sees that headshot, they’re drawn in and want to learn more about you.
A crisp photo is one way to achieve visual appeal.
With the quality of cameras we have these days, snapping a crisp photo–even with your phone’s camera–shouldn’t be tough, although it may be best to avoid webcams since they aren’t the best quality cameras out there.
You’ll generally run into problems with crispness when you crop photos down, so take a close shot to begin with and your smile should be clear as day!
Are you thinking, “What should I wear for a professional headshot?”
Remember when I said that your professional headshot helps set the tone for your business? In that case, “appropriate clothing” is all relative to the kind of tone you’re trying to convey.
If you gear your services toward bigger, more serious businesses, then a more professional-looking outfit is better.
If your clients are more casual and relaxed, opt for a casual outfit.
The biggest problem when it comes to appropriate clothing is when writers flip through old photos and choose one that doesn’t carry the tone they want, such as one snapped from their beach vacation. That may be a fine option for travel bloggers, but for most writers, a bikini or shirtless chest will set the wrong tone for their business, so be conscious of that.
A Clean Professional Headshot Background
One of the biggest headshot mistakes I see writers make is choosing a photo with a poor background. A photo of you in the car might be great for an Instagram update, but probably not for your freelance writing business.
You don’t want to crop yourself out of a photo where a bunch of people are milling around in the background, either, nor do you want strange objects poking out the back of your head!
It’s best to have a neutral background. Examples include:
- Appealing foliage
- A studio backdrop
- A brick wall
- A plain wall
If you can find a bright background color, such as an orange wall, go for it! It can help your heashot stand out against other writers’.
One of the biggest mistakes I see writers make with their professional headshots is that they don’t consider their professional headshot poses. I can only assume this is because they pick an existing photo rather than snapping a new one solely for their writer headshot.
The biggest problems on how to pose for a professional headshot:
- When you crop yourself out of a group picture. In this case, you’re usually leaning into the person next to you, so when you’re all by yourself, it looks awkward.
- When you take a selfie. Selfie positions are awkward themselves. Honestly, there’s no reason you should have a selfie as your headshot. Prop up your camera and set it on a timer if you don’t have a friend around to snap a shot for you.
When setting up your shot, think about where your professional photo will be on the page. If your professional headshot is generally to the left of text, lean slightly into the viewer’s right side to draw their eyes to the text. (There’s actually some power behind the subliminal message of facing your text.)
Other Elements to Consider
Some of these elements go without saying, but a good writer headshot should also include:
- Even lighting.
- A friendly smile (those that show teeth are the best!).
- Unobstructed eyes. Don’t Wear sunglasses.
- Head and shoulders or head and waist. Don’t crop too close or too far away.
Several of these suggestions come from research reported by Buffer.com, so check out their article on the psychology of a great profile picture if you get a chance.
How Do You Snap a Great Photo?
Uploading a great photo that follows these rules isn’t as hard as some people make it out to be.
The best thing you can do is set up a mini photo session with these ideas in mind. Don’t go searching for an existing photo that might work well for your business. Visit a professional photographer, or have a friend take a few photos that serve the sole purpose of being your author headshot.
Just remember that photos you might use for your personal Facebook profile may not fit in the same context of your business.
As you can see, taking a great headshot doesn’t have to be super difficult or uber involved. Now it’s time to take a look at some headshots that follow the “rules” outlined above.
Examples of Professional Author Headshots
I’m pretty biased, but I love my headshot. The lighting is great, I have on a genuine, friendly smile, and my shoulders are angled toward the words on the page.
My photographer charged me $150 for the sitting fee plus two photos of my choice–with digital rights. If I wanted more than two photos, it was an extra $50 apiece. There’s not a day I regret making that investment.
Francesca’s headshot says, “I’m a professional.” The lighting, her smile, and her positioning all combine to give her that professional appeal. Not only that, but she comes across as friendly and approachable, too.
Francesca tells me she paid around $600 for two looks plus $150 for hair and makeup. “It was a worthy investment, in my opinion,” she says.
Ashley told me her headshot was done semi-professionally. “A friend of mine, who is really good but has a day job, took the pics as barter.”
Ashley’s photo is great thanks to even lighting and great positioning. I also love where her photo has been cropped down to. It makes her face easily recognizable when small, such as in blog comments, but you don’t get anything chopped off where it’s distracting.
Examples of DIY Headshots
Laura has this headshot thing down. The background isn’t distracting, the lighting is even, and her smile and positioning are inviting and professional.
While Laura tells me she plans on possibly changing her headshot soon since she’s had this one for the past five years, I like that when I see her picture online, I instantly recognize her because she’s been consistent for years.
John told me he took this photo himself. Can you believe it? “I used a high-quality DSLR with high zoom and a low F stop to blur the background,” John explains. “And I used the teal shirt because I felt the color is memorable. I still have that shirt in case I ever want to take different shots.”
Not only is the photo high-quality with an inviting smile, but John put a lot of thought into his composition and branding.
I have to admit, Kali’s photo fooled me. When I contacted her about her headshot, I was sure it was professionally done.
Nope. She had a friend snap this photo, and it turned out spectacular.
Quick tip: If you want to get even lighting across your face like in Kali’s photo, have a friend hold up an umbrella to shade your face.
Headshots that Go Against the Rules
I outlined all these “rules” for you above, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go against the rules and make an atypical headshot work for you. Here are just some example of writers who “go against the rules.”
Kelly’s headshot may crop out some of her face, and her eyes may be looking off the page, but her panda hat does wonders for her business branding.
Not only is this great branding, but it gives her business a “fun” tone. Some writers may choose to go this route to attract their ideal client.
Heather Van der Hoop
Heather’s photo accomplishes the same thing Kelly’s does while breaking the rules. Sure, I may not recognize Heather on the street, but I’ll recognize her anywhere online because her photo is so unique.
In that way, Heather has her branding down, and it comes attached with a less serious, more playful tone that works perfectly well for her and her ideal client.
Ariel’s photo follows the “rules” above in many ways with a great background and an awesome smile, but as you can see, Ariel isn’t showing her true face.
Despite that, we can put a face to Ariel’s business–even if it’s a cartoon. It makes her easily recognizable and memorable because she takes a unique approach, and again, it gives her more of that “fun” tone many clients are looking for.
The Bottom Line
So do you have to follow all the “rules” I mentioned? Absolutely not.
The best freelance writer photos do two things:
- They brand your business.
- They set the tone you want to convey.
That being said, your idea of a great freelance writer headshot may not be the same as mine.
Does your headshot live up to your own expectations, or is it time to snap a new one? Let us know in the comment section.