5 Tips for Getting a Studio-Quality Author Photo Without Paying for It

Every step as a first-time author is new, and that includes the author photo. According to my book contract, it was my responsibility to provide an author photo to the publisher. Following are five tips I discovered for producing a snazzy author photo without putting a dent in the bank account.

My author photo.
My author photo.

1. Get professional help at low or no cost. Snapping your own author photo may be easy and permissible, but it’s unlikely to match the highly skilled efforts of a professional photographer. And it’s possible to hire a pro without paying studio prices. One option is to offer your writing services in trade for photography. Another is to lure a photographer with the promise of a photo credit on your book or a mention and link at your website. I asked a friend who is an art director to assist me with my author photo. He gladly accepted the job without pay, telling me all he wanted was a photo credit and an autographed copy of my book.

2. Wear appropriate and complementary attire. Things to consider include the image you want to project and what colors and styles look best on you. Since my book was about golf, I decided to wear a polo shirt, slacks and loafers. On the eve of the photo shoot, I searched my closet for shirt options and asked my wife to weigh in. A light-blue polo was the winning pick.

3. Have photo ideas but trust the pro. Arrive at the shoot with ideas about your author photo. Do you want a head shot only? Are there particular poses or looks you like or dislike? That said, be open to the ideas and direction of the photographer. There’s a reason why they’re pros—they make people look terrific. I met my friend at a local country club and we rode a golf cart to find attractive course settings. He snapped numerous pictures of me in a variety of poses. Later, he used his photo-editing skills to merge shots of me with different course backgrounds to create the best images.

4. Ask for feedback to choose best shots. It’s wise to consider the opinions of others before making your author photo selection(s). I chose a few people who have my best interests in mind—the photographer, my literary agent and my wife. All three told me which photos they liked best. Then I made my final picks.

5. Say “thank you” in a special way. If, like me, you’re able to get an author photo for low or no cost, be sure to express your gratitude with a thank-you note or more if your budget allows. I sent my photographer friend a gift card for a local restaurant. He treated his wife and mother-in-law to a fancy lunch that included a hot fudge brownie for dessert. It was a sweet deal for both of us.


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