Fantastic Author Photos -How to?

After my first official author shoot, I must say its not easy. According to me, you need three qualities to photograph well.

1. Good Looks 2. Good Looks and 3. Good Looks.

I don’t have any of those qualities, so I was quite nervous when I spoke to my photographer Tejaswini Manerikar. She wasn’t worried, though. That made me even more anxious.

We planned and executed the whole thing in three days and I must say, it takes quite a few brain cells to come up with a good finished product.

The reason I’m writing this is because, I want other authors to learn from my mistakes. I wish I had few of these tips before I went ahead and did my shoot. I did follow some advice from Creative Penn’s website where Joanna Penn had some great information on this.

Here are a few additional tips, that I hope will help.


The first thing is to google author images you like. What suits you better? Do you want it indoors or outdoors? I didn’t want an indoor shoot, the natural light is not good at my house despite beautiful french windows. The tall trees in my backyard smother any  natural light coming in. I was pretty sure I didn’t want library or bookshelf photos either. Ask yourself, do you want fun, serious, playful photos, against a wall or on the stairs, with a book, closeups or full verticals? Convey this to your photographer. It seems silly when you first discuss it, but your photographer will take you very seriously, like mine did. I remember feeling so embarrassed saying I want it with that away look etc, but she didn’t laugh.

2. Do the legwork and be open to ideas

Narrow down a list of ten photos or poses you like and swap them with your photographer (also send your own photo-so they know what you look like). I did this with Tejaswini on Friday night and we both had similar pictures. But it means you need to go through the tons of pictures out there and save them. Don’t expect the photographer to get a dream of what you want. Do the legwork yourself, it helps her/him so much if you know what you want. Also be open to ideas. My photographer had done shoots before, so she knew what poses would work for me, what props to carry along. Don’t reject her ideas. One of my photos writing which is on my About page, which I love, I’d never have thought of it, but she did and it turned out great.

3. Iron out details

We do this for our books, why not for real life? Details, Details, Details. What places are you going to go to? What time will the light be best. For me it was the slightly after dawn light that worked best for my complexion. So that’s the time we picked. Also costume; is there place to change, especially if outdoors? I carried a scarf, my jacket and a separate blouse, just in case. I ended up using two of those three things to change it up. Also do you have a color scheme? All my books so far have been in shades of black and red, so that’s what I wanted. Discuss this with your photographer. My photographer actually found a red wall to photograph against. Talk about being creative!

4. Carry everything 

Apart from your water bottle and deodorant, I would say carry all your makeup, a hairbrush and your tiny mirror. You know when they say less is more, for a photo shoot its exactly the opposite. I wore a ton of makeup, so much so, commuters were wondering where the hell I was going so early in the morning decked up. But believe me, for an outdoor shoot, the foundation gets lighter (I used MAC) and the lipstick gets eaten up. Your hair gets frizzy and the eyeliner starts to smudge.

So retouch and reapply! Tejaswini, was kind enough to say, “I think you need to brush your hair,” when the wind made it look like I was some banshee or “retouch this or that.”

5. It’s okay to feel awkward. 

Despite it being early in the morning with no crowds, it was kinda hard for me, to smile and pretend, when people walked past, mocked or snickered. In fact I have new respect for those who do this for a living. Getting photographed is tough. We started out very awkward, she coaxed a little, and kept reassuring me, “its fine, to the left or right,” but I didn’t know what to do with my hands or legs, so practice that before hand, in the mirror. The only thing I had practiced was smiling and thank God I did, otherwise I would have that loony, polyteethemic look.

6. Take breaks

I can’t stress this enough. Its important to take breaks, we had a two hour shoot, changing locations several times. She even bought me sugar cane juice (wink), but its important to take breaks. Smiling and posing saps away your energy. When I was tired or bored even, Tejaswini suggested a break and after that the photos appeared much better. She also used it as an opportunity, to show me what we’d done and which photographs I’d like. Remember you may think, that your photographer is taking way too many snaps. Don’t worry its never enough, the more, the better. You want perfect photos. To get that just, oh so perfect one, hundred bleh ones have to be taken.

7. Photograph sets

I searched for a lot of photographers everywhere I went, the Rockaways, Mt Vernon and Brooklyn, and a lot of them will charge you a ton for one or two pictures, which is quite crazy. You want a set of pictures to upload on multiple sites for the rest of the year. I have short stories and medical articles, each of them would require different photos, from the ones I would put on a book jacket or book sellers site. The one below is on my book jackets. So try to get a set.


8. Photoshop

I allowed editing of the background, but didn’t allow Photoshop. Because lets be honest, I live in the real world where my patients, friends and fans see me everyday. My ice pick acne scars aren’t going to disappear. When people see me in real life and they will, as long as I’m walking on God’s green earth, they will notice that I don’t look like the photo shopped pictures. I don’t want to deceive anyone, besides, photo shopping makes me look like I’m another species- straight out of one of my short stories. I wanted honest pictures that people buying my work could relate to, I’m not headlining Vogue. But Photoshop is up to you, just know where to draw the line.

9. Sit down and go through the pictures

Your photographer will give you a chance to select what you like, but she will screen out the bad ones. So tell her which ones you prefer. I told Tejaswini, that I looked like a headmistress in some of mine, so I asked for a few softer images, where I’m all teeth.

10. Pricing

Always remember that you don’t have spend a bomb for an author shoot. Meet and speak with freelance photographers, they’re usually not as expensive, and they have time to talk to you. Moreover since they’re building a name for themselves, they are more creative and generous.

I hope this helps someone, anyone out there. If it does let me know, it will make my day.

Do you have any suggestions for fabulous author photos? I would love to hear them.


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