Part 1: Planning for an author head shot

ACFW 2013 Genesis Contest: Upon entering you must upload a high resolution (at least 1,200 x 1,800 in dimension) photo (preferably a headshot) of yourself. Please do not upload photos of you with someone else in the photo.

A small hurdle. A momentary inconvenience. No problem. Everything else is ready to go: the 1-page synopsis, the first 15 pages, the novel. I’m ready to pull the trigger.

But posing for a professional portrait is about as enticing as swimming with sharks. And it turned out to be a journey in and of itself.

Blue Man and Me

Serious writer in Vegas with unidentified, odd blue man.

First I scavenged through our digital photos. The most flattering, although blurry pic I could find was me in Vegas standing next to a Blue Man from the Blue Man Group which, duh, doesn’t meet the requirements of the contest and doesn’t exactly convey “serious writer.”

So I googled photographers in my area. Overwhelming. Most just do weddings. Or they’re listed in online directories with no website. Or they have a website but don’t list their prices. While much more affordable, I didn’t want a photo like you’d get at JCPenney Portrait Studio or Sears Portrait Studio. Great for child and family portraits, but not this.

Finally I decided to cross the line between my writing life and my day-job life. I asked a few favors.

Puma ImagesPart of my job includes coordinating and directing photo shoots for magazine feature stories. I asked our photographer, Carlos Puma, if he’d be willing to take environmental portraits of me for my personal use. I’ve worked with him for three years and was grateful when he said yes and not to worry about a fee as long as I gave him credit when I published my photos. I made sure my boss was okay with this arrangement.

Another coworker’s daughter is a stylist. She got up early and came to my office at 8 a.m. to do my hair and makeup.

For the outdoor photo shoot, Carlos found some beautiful, shaded greenery as a backdrop. God bless Southern California in January! He captured me from several angles, saying he’d let me decided which was my best side. I changed clothes twice.

Natalie Sharpston

Natalie Sharpston

Here’s my husband’s favorite, and thus, it is now my new official author photo. It also happens to be the one my coworkers voted on as the best from the shoot.

Going to all this effort to get a professional photo taken was oddly validating. I did it because I’m serious about this writing thing. Looking into that camera lens, I occurred to me that I’m looking at my readers—the future merged with the here and now.

If you’ve had your author portrait taken, how did it go? What did you learn from the process?

Disclaimer: I promised to give my photographer, Carlos Puma of Puma Images, a shout out here as a thank you for his amazing work—for my head shot and for the 1,000s and 1,000s of professional photos he’s captured at our workplace. I couldn’t recommend him more! If you live in Southern California and need a talented photographer, please contact him. He’ll come to you and capture the best of you in pixels.

Leave a comment


  1. Beautiful picture Natalie! Is there a date that your book will be released? I’m truly happy for you.

    • Hi Betty! Oh no, not even close to publishing… the photo is required for entrance into a writing contest. Then I’ll start querying agents. Long road ahead still. 🙂

  2. Oh, you look beautiful, wonderful! I love it — I finally get to see my blogging friend!


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