Part 2: Planning for an author head shot

From A head shot is a modern portrait for today’s branding needs, where the focus of the photograph is the personality inside the person captured. A headshot is a specific type of portrait. A head shot is an image that portrays a person as he is, however simple or stylized the image might be. In contrast to the head shot, an environmental portrait would portray a person with elements of his life such as his work, interests, etc.

How do you plan for your own head shot?

  1. Find a photographer and schedule the shoot. The best way to find one is through a referral. If you live in Southern California, contact Carlos Puma!
  2. Schedule an appointment to get your hair and makeup done professionally before your photo shoot. I found pictures online of how I wanted my hair done and showed it to the stylist.
  3. Choose an outfit. Or two. Select solid colors. Avoid white or busy patterns.
  4. Find other author portraits you like and show your photographer.

Do your homework to find out exactly what you want. Communicate with your stylist and photographer, especially using images. Finally, relax and let go. Those are your future readers you’re smiling at.

In preparation for my professional photo shoot, I searched for other author’s photos. I found a goldmine at WordServe Water Cooler. Following are a few types of head shots:

Environmental portrait at her desk. This doesn’t work well unless you have a lovely, well-lit workspace.

Jan Drexler from the WordServe Water Cooler website

Jan Drexler, WordServe Water Cooler website

Environmental portrait in nature, maybe in her backyard. These are my favorite kinds of portraits.

Amy K. Sorrells, WordServe Water Cooler website

Looking away from the camera  The candid, I’m-pretending-you’re-not-taking-a-picture-of-me picture. These are really nice when done right.

Julie Cantrell,  WordServe Water Cooler website

Looking at the camera Totally posed, but a good photographer will get you to relax and be yourself.

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, WordServe Water Cooler website

Looking up at the camera This is a flattering angle which emphasizes the jawline and minimizes the neck.

Karen Jordan from WordServe Water Cooler website.

Karen Jordan, WordServe Water Cooler website

Patty Kirk, WordServe Water Cooler website

The studio portrait A simple backdrop. Careful lighting. Very corporate. Like yearbook photos for grownups. My least favorite type of portrait. Boeshaar is also wearing a patterned jacket which distracts the viewer from her face.


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar, WordServe Water Cooler website

Head shot pet peeve I hate it when the subject has her hand in the shot. Because of the way a head shot is cropped, you can’t see the hand attached (via arm) to the owner, so it looks like a disembodied appendage invading the frame.

Jan Dunlap, WordServe Water Cooler website

Portraits with props I’m on the fence about these kinds of shots. The subject looks like they’re holding a safety blanket or life preserver (no offense to the Ms. Fields below!).

Leslie Leyland Fields, WordServe Water Cooler website.

Portraits with props This portrait  of Dr. Rita Hancock wearing the coat and stethoscope is perfect because she writes about medical stuff. Not loving the crossed arms, though. It’s not the most friendly body language.

Dr. Rita Hancock,  WordServe Water Cooler website

What’s your favorite type of head shot?

Leave a comment


  1. Those were fun to look at. I prefer the outdoor pics, or even pics of someone on her deck with the dog, cat, or platypus. 🙂


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