Some people love to have their photo taken. They like the way they look. They know their best angles and poses. They are simply and naturally photogenic.
Others of us, however, are less happy posing for the camera. We don’t like our smile, or we feel that we could be slimmer, or we’re just generally shy. Whatever the reason, saying ‘cheese’ can be torture.
As an author, having your photograph taken generally can’t be avoided. There’s the shot for the back cover of your books, your website, and your social media channels, to name but a few. While those naturally photogenic folks may enjoy the experience, authors who are less confident about the way they look can find it a cringeworthy nightmare.
There’s a ton of information out there on the more technical factors of creating author photos (you’ll find links to four of those at the end of this blog post), but what I want to talk to you about today is building your confidence to pose for those photos and share them with the big, wide world.
Here are my five tips to build author photo confidence.
See yourself through other people’s eyes
Let’s face it. Most people are their own worst critics when it comes to photographs. No matter how many times my husband says I look beautiful in a shot or my friends compliment my author photo, I look at those images and see all the flaws first. I know I’m not alone in feeling like that.
Here’s the thing. You’re not creating your author photo for you. It’s for your readers. So instead of looking at the photo through your own critical eyes, try to see that photo as if you were one of your readers. If you find that an impossible task, ask an honest and supportive friend or family member for their opinion.
Aim for connection instead of perfection
As I said above, the audience for your author photos isn’t you, it’s your readers. Your author photo builds a bridge between you and them. It confirms that an actual human being, with a real life, is writing the books that they love. That’s why it doesn’t matter if your author photo isn’t perfect in your eyes; what matters is that it connects to your readers.
Why not perfect? Well, first off, perfect is never attainable because who decides what perfect is? Second, you may create the most perfect shot but it’s only a moment in time. The way you look, the books you write, and the impression you want to give is likely to change over time. Finally, perfect isn’t relatable. It simply puts you on a pedestal. You don’t want to give your readers a crick in their neck, do you?
Concentrate on you
One factor that can stop you from creating a workable author photo, deciding which shot to post, or even having your photo taken in the first place, is the details of what to include in your shot. Should you have an interesting prop or a bookcase background? Should you pose in a landscape that reflects your latest novel or show the desk where you write?
While all of these considerations can be relevant, what’s most important is that the photo shows you. It should lead the viewer’s eye to your wonderful face. So keep your backdrop simple, forget the props, and put yourself centre-stage.
You don’t have to smile
I spent my childhood being told to smile for photos and as a parent, I often heard myself saying, “Nice big smile for Grandma. She’ll love this photo. Say cheese”. It’s just something that we’re taught to do. But smiles can be hard to get right in a photo, whether we’re feeling happy or not.
If you want to smile in your author photo, go for it, but why not try a few different expressions? There’s the bright, toothy smile, the elusive lips-closed smile, the serious but involved face, or the mysterious staring-off-into-the-distance expression. Play around with it. Have fun.
Remember that you’re more than your photo
Or in other words, give yourself a reality check. You’ve done the hard bit already. You have one, a couple, or even a shelf-load of books out there. You are an author. That is a massive achievement. You deserve all the pats you can manage on your writerly back.
This author photo is just one small thing. It’s a moment in time, a celebration, a sign of recognition, or just a step outside your comfort zone. What’s more, readers will only look at it for a couple of seconds before they move onto the words.
Here are the links I promised you: