Whether you freelance for magazines, do business writing, edit clients' work, present writing workshops or are about to publish a book, you need a good publicity photo.
If you are a writing professional, you probably need photos for some or all of the following:
Don't just ask a neighbor to take your picture while posing in the backyard. Put some thought into the image you want to portray and hire a professional to capture that image. Here are some guidelines to note when planning your photo shoot.
What do you hope to achieve with your photograph? Do you want people to read your book, trust your words, hire you as an editor, or sign up for your seminar? Create an appearance that makes an appropriate visual statement. Dress for your photo as you would for a book signing, when meeting with a client or while leading a workshop.
We all have many sides to our personalities. Which one do you want to reveal to your particular audience? If you have written a book for children, you may want your publicity photos to depict you as friendly, fun and nurturing. For the cover of a book for the business community, you'll want to appear more professional, confident and serious.
It might help to generate the proper demeanor if you stage your photo session amidst your audience of choice. Have the photographer shoot you while interacting with a group of children, or just before or after participating in a business meeting.
Avoid being cutesy or arrogant. Have you seen those photos of women resting their chins or their cheeks on their hands? This is a precious pose for children, but it's rather silly for a grown woman. Yet, some photographers still use those poses in their repertoire. Also, reject photos that make you appear arrogant or give you a look of superiority. You know the posture I'm talking about -- her arms are crossed in front of her and she's smugly looking down her nose at you. She may be the nicest woman around, but a photo like this can depict her as a real snob. Lean slightly forward and think happy thoughts while being photographed. You'll come across as more likable.
Use props with caution. While shots of you sitting at your desk or standing before an audience at a seminar are okay for some publicity purposes, I suggest that you also have plain head shots on hand. If you want to generate a sense of warmth in your photo, pose with your cat or dog. It's hard to dislike or doubt someone who expresses genuine caring for a pet. Again, I suggest choosing one good shot with your pet and one plain head shot when you need something more straightforward.
Hire a professional photographer. A professional generally has experience in helping people portray the image they want to present. Ask the photographer for advice on what to wear, how to achieve the personality you want represented and so forth.
Have someone help you choose from your proofs. Make sure this is someone who knows you and who has some knowledge of public relations.
Order several copies of your favorite shots in 4 X 5 color glossies. If possible, either scan the photo into your computer or have professional pictures taken with a digital camera. I receive ten times the number of requests for digital photos as for regular photographs. [Editor's Note: If your photo is requested for a print publiation, the required resolution is at least 300 dpi, so be sure to scan your photo at that resolution or higher.]
Refresh your photos. Consider having new photos taken every 5 or 10 years or whenever your appearance has undergone a dramatic change. Sit for new photos if you lose a lot of weight or change your hair color or style.
Just as you would in person, make a good impression the first time and every time through your publicity photos.