someone taking author photos

An Ultimate Guide For Taking Captivating Author Photos

There are many things that contribute to a successful book, but author photos are one of the most important ones. If an author’s photo is good, it can do two things for the readers: first, it can make them feel as though they know the author better; and second, it can make them feel like they need to learn more about what the author has to say.

Authors are in the business of selling books, right? For the sake of a book’s overall look and feel, an author photo should be a high-quality, eye-catching image that makes the book stand out. An author picture will likely appear in promotional materials and the author’s bio, so it should be a nice complement to the author’s writing.

So whether you enjoy the limelight or prefer to stay in the background, you’ll most likely need to provide your publishing team with an author photo at some point in your career. 

In this article, I’m going to discuss the whys, the hows, and the do’s and don’ts of taking author photos. Read on if you want to build the perfect author photo for your book.

Do I Need an Author Photograph?

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Maybe you aren’t aware of it, but an author photo can hold a lot of power. The book title and cover may attract attention, but the author picture can decide if someone will trust you enough to buy your book or put it back on the shelf.

An author photo can communicate so much to readers. An image that captures your essence will help readers connect with you, your message, and your story.

What Makes a Great Author Photograph?

author photos

To be frank, there isn’t one “right way” to do an author photo. But there is one thing that should always be on top of the mind when it comes to author photos: signal. What signal does an author want to send with his author photo? And to whom does he want to send the signal?

To make sure that an author photo becomes an asset that can be used repeatedly, these two questions should be answered first.

What message do I want to signal with my photo?

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You can say just as much with your appearance as with your words. In fact, people are visual creatures, and they will judge your book (to some extent) by what you look like. Is that fair? Perhaps not. But it’s a fact, whether you like it or not.

Snap judgments according to how someone looks have science behind them (try searching for the “signaling theory”), and it works. Since this is the case, might as well use it to benefit you, right?

Your author photo has the power to give your potential readers an impression of your personality, attitude, and professionalism.

Are you a funny, bright, and cheerful author? Choose a photo that conveys positivity. Are you a serious and studious author? Choose a photo that photo signals a serious attitude.

They can tell whether the author is serious or not, a positive or negative person, professional or pretentious just by a photo. An excellent photo helps to build a relationship of trust between the author and the target reader.

To whom do I want to signal it?

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It’s also important to understand the audience you are trying to connect with and know their language. It’s likely that your ideal readers are from a specific group, and you must consider this when you take your author photo.

An author’s photo should be in sync with the target readers. It should be something that represents your brand. It should be something that identifies you in that field.

Why is it important to do this?

Your author photo should send a message to your target readers that you belong to the same tribe. This will build trust with your target readers. Your readers will know that they can count on you to be consistent and trustworthy.

What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t do this?

You might be seen as someone who is unreliable. This can make it harder to gain respect from your potential readers.

For example, an author targeting tech readers shouldn’t be wearing a business suit on his author photo. Why? Because tech people are laid-back, casual-wearing people.

An author wearing a suit on his author photo while discussing all tech in his book won’t be able to connect with his intended audience because they won’t be able to identify him as part of their tribe. He could even be seen as pretentious and not credible.

A good author photo should not only convey a specific message, but it should also be tailored to its intended audience. The type of image you put out there can say a lot about the way you want to communicate with your audience and give them picture signals if they would want to read your work or not.

How To Write A Book: An Ultimate Guide For Newbies

Tips on How to Take a Captivating Author Photo

author photographs

Match Your Genre

While author photos vary greatly from one author to another, the style of the photo should also be a representation of your work’s genre. This means that a business author could have a formal pose like a ceo’s author photo, while a crime fiction writer may have a serious expression.

A children’s book author could be pictured in a professional but casual clothes, while a sports author may be posing while in action in their photo. Some famous writers like simple photos wearing a button down shirt while others prefer perfectly tailored outfit.

A romance novelist may try to smile or have a whimsical look, or it could be a dark, brooding look or dark and fashionable clothes that can capture the action of a thriller or mystery writer.

Research recognized authors in the same genre for samples of their author photos. Are they posed behind their desk, typing, smiling? Are they reading a newspaper with a cup of coffee? Do they have a plain background or a picturesque one? Write down notes on the things you can take inspiration from.

The pose, right clothing, props, background, and lighting set-up can make or break the effect you’re trying to achieve. Make sure that the photo can be identified within the genre you write.

Choose an Expert Photographer


Even if you’re a proud self-publishing author, you should not let anyone think that your book is sub-par just because your author photo looks like it’s been taken by an amateur. 

If you’re not a very good photographer, you probably shouldn’t consider doing your own photos because you’re likely to make a mess of them. And even if you are a very good photographer, there’s no substitute for the expertise of a professional.

Professional photographers have a wide range of skills, experience, and training. They have a very sophisticated understanding and can offer tips and advice on how a photo can look more natural.

They will be able to give some ideas for new ways of posing, appropriate accessories to use, props, and background. They will also be more honest with you (if you DIY your author photos, you might fool yourself into thinking you got great shots when you lack the perspective of a skilled photographer).

Now, how do you choose a good photographer?

The best way to know is through their portfolio. Visit their website. Photographers have different styles, so you need to look at their work first and see who has a style that represents what you are looking for. Try to find out too if you like his approach to taking photos.

Of course, it’s important to remember that hiring a professional photographer isn’t cheap. But if you want the best author photos possible, it’s worth paying that price.

Don’t just choose a photographer because they have the best deals. Think about the quality of the service they offer. 

Prepare & Practice

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A lot of people feel nervous when being photoed. This is normal, but you can practice your poses and get comfortable in front of a mirror beforehand. If you don’t know how to pose, it’s best to learn as much as possible before the actual photoshoot.

Try different angles, lighting, and distance. If you are having a difficult time trying out a pose or are not feeling confident, take some practice photos of yourself and ask a friend or family member to critique them for you. 

You can practice your poses in front of other people, too. That way, when you are posing in front of the photographer, you won’t be so self-conscious anymore. The more confident and comfortable you are when you are in front of the camera, the better your pictures will look.

Clearly Communicate Goals

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There is nothing wrong with asking your photographer what type of look you’re trying to achieve in a photoshoot. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just say, “I want to look great in this picture.” This is not enough.

Point to the images in his portfolio to help you explain your ideas. If you need to, bring in images of other authors that help illustrate the concept you are talking about. Being as clear and explicit as possible with visual examples will help ensure that the result you’re after comes to fruition.

Pose Appropriately

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A picture paints a thousand words, yes? Cliche, but true. What can poses be done for an author photo? Again, it depends on the genre of the book and what the author wants to signal. Here are some ideas:

  • Bend your elbows and bring your hands together behind your back. This is a powerful pose that shows confidence.
  • Cross your legs in a half-lotus position. This pose symbolizes the goddess, which is perfect for spiritual authors.
  • Lean back against the wall and cross one of your legs over the other in front of you. This is a pose that signifies an empowered woman.
  • Stand with your arms crossed and chin down. This is a classic pose that conveys strength.
  • Keep your back straight and your head high. Turn your palms up to the sky. This is a pose that symbolizes hope.
  • Sit on a very design forward chair with your hands on your lap. This is a pose that symbolizes a calm and peaceful person. 

Have Fun, But Be Professional

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First and foremost, remember that a business professional author photo is a marketing tool. When self-publishing, you’ll need to set your sights on building a brand for yourself.

To do this, you should have a picture where your photo displays a certain amount of professionalism that makes you a credible member of the industry.

Whatever the level of your publishing experience, it’s critical to establish your professional reputation by taking photos that make you look like a qualified author. Not only will you help people understand you, but you’ll also encourage them to take a chance on you.

Use Good Lighting

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Lighting can have a drastic effect on a photo. Some photographers like to use natural light. This is when the sun is shining on the subject. The best time of the day to take a picture is in the morning when the light is most balanced or in the afternoon, before the sunsets.

Other photographers prefer to use artificial light. This is when they use flash or studio lights. They also use reflectors to bounce the light off the wall or ceiling to create bright, even lighting.

You should know what kind of lighting you are going to be using when you take pictures. Discuss this beforehand with your photographers so arrangements can be made on the schedule and location of the photoshoot.

Choose The Right Background

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The ideal background is neutral, clean, and uncluttered, with just a few objects in the foreground.

However, a natural background may look great on you if you write books about travel or outdoor activities. You might prefer a more urban setting if you wrote about a busy lifestyle. For a book that’s about the laptop lifestyle? Sure, get a noteworthy author photo of you taken while you’re working on the beach!

Don’t forget though, that your author photo is supposed to be about you. Your background should complement the book but not distract you. You want to emphasize your image as a book author, so do not allow the background to steal your light.

Capture a Moment


A moment might be a genuine smile, a frightened expression, or a shy look.

You’ve probably seen photos of a subject where she’s casually talking or laughing. Every once in a while, you may get a nice candid moment when you stop thinking about posing and just do some real photography with real emotions and feelings. Try to take your author photo outside, in a well-lit environment. This will help to capture more of your natural expression.

Other photographers prefer to capture their author photos in action, such as reading, writing, or walking. Try to act out an event from your life or even make something up.

Yes, you will only use one author photo for one book, but you will need a lot for your website, social media posts, magazine/newspaper features, etc. It would be great to have as many good shots as possible during your classic author photo session.

Give Yourself Options

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Have photos with different backgrounds, colors, or lighting setups. Experiment with different poses of your hand or your body angle, your expressions, and your looks. Try changing your outfit or your sitting position. Take full-body shots and headshots.

Take as many pictures as possible, and don’t pick your favorite one straight away. Look at all of them and consider your options.

Test Your Photo

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How do you know whether or not your author photos communicate the right signals? One author photo rule is to test it. There is a website called PhotoFeeler. Upload the photo, and you’ll get a rating and feedback that tells you what people think of it. After testing several shots, you’d be able to choose the most ideal one for your author photo that is clearly sending the picture signals you want.

Author Photo Mistakes You Should Avoid

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Poor Photo Quality

A photo with poor quality can be spotted from a mile away. When it comes to getting photos, a lot of people don’t take the time to get professional help to obtain a professional photo. They take a photo with their phone and think it’s good enough. This can be detrimental to the quality of the photo and would reflect on the quality of your book.

Distracting Attire, Distracting Background, Distracting Props

author photographs

When taking an author photo, it’s best to choose a backdrop that won’t distract from your image. You are the star; you should be the focus. 

Authors are usually expected to dress casually and comfortably. This does not mean that you have to look like your work. Unless your book is about sleeping and bedroom fashion, please don’t be in pajamas.

A picture of you in your home, where a lot of furniture, plants, and decors are in the shot, is generally considered distracting.

People can also be distracting, so a picture of you on vacation with dozens of tourists around wouldn’t work well for an author photo. The background should be clean and free of people or objects that could cause a distraction.

Ancient Photo

Don’t use author photos that are more than five years old. This is the general rule of thumb.

Any older, and it may be difficult to tell who you are. If someone were to hold up your author photo next to your face, they should be able to see it’s you.

Have you gotten a new hairstyle? Gained or lost weight? Grown-out facial hair? If so, it’s time to get a new author photo.


If you were a car, then an author photo would be the license plate on your bumper. You wouldn’t go far driving without a license plate, would you?

So unless you’re writing with a pen name, you need that photo taken and make sure that it is a great, professional-looking one. It doesn’t matter how great your writing is if your photo is bad.

A good photo is like a window into your heart and soul, giving readers a clear view of who you are and how they can relate to you. 

Additional Resources

How to Make Money as an Author – Ever wondered how the likes of John Grisham, Stephen King, and J. K. Rowling make money? Ever thought about what their journey might have been like from humble beginner to world-renowned author?

How to Host a Book Signing – A book signing event is a great way to market your book and sell copies. It also allows you to build some buzz and gain media attention. However, it’s not as simple as it seems. Read this article to learn how to set up an author book signing.

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book: The first question first-time authors ask is: how long does it take to write a book? Some can take years or even longer. Leaders Press can help you write a best-selling book in a year or less. Want to know how? Schedule a consultation for free!

Book Title Generator: How To Craft The Perfect Title – Generating a book title can make or break its success. The title is the first thing potential readers see when they encounter it on a shelf and is a crucial factor to get people interested in reading it.

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