Authors: Is There a Photographer in Your Midst?

by | Jan 21, 2015

By Judith Briles

Authors need photos … the more, the better. Your picture can say a thousand words including what you do, who you are, what you love to play it, who’s your crowd. The visual is powerful.

Are you using pictures in:

  • your book covers
  • your website
  • and your promo material?


  • bio shots
  • website
  • promo materials
  • social media
  • all that showcase your genre and personality.

You’ve invested in your book, your editing, your cover design, your interior. Now, invest in yourself.

Truth be told, most of us think of photos in the afterthought … as is, “What can I use that I already have?” versus “What can I create to connect with my audience?”

In this journey, start with a drill down. Ask:

What types of author pics do I need?
Ideally, we all need professional headshots. I confess … I side-stepped this for years—I didn’t have the time (or maybe didn’t want to make the time). With the mobile devices we all have and the built-in cameras, getting headshots and candid shots was simple. But are they really the “best” to highlight you and what you do? Maybe … but most likely, not.

You are worth it and so is your book. Bypass the selfies. Do not look like a DIY self-published book. Your readers and buyers will know.

Use different locations.
Both outside and inside … it changes the look and feel. If you have a business book, you can use a studio shot or a neutral outdoors. Nonfiction can have a backdrop that ties into your theme. Military books could use a tarmac, bomber jackets. Cookbooks put you in the kitchen environment. Fiction books open multiple possibilities. Be creative.

How much should you pay and how to negotiate?
Prices will vary from a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on who you work with and what packages they have. Be sure to get commercial copyright use and digital files in your portrait package. And, read whatever contract you sign.

I took my own advice.
OK, I finally did it … meaning that I settled in and did a photo shoot with premier photographer Ashlee Bratton of Ashography, who just happens to be an author as well—Life Before the Lottery (which is doing quite well since its debut in the late fall).

In October of last year, I had Ashlee as my guest expert on AuthorU – Your Guide to Book Publishing, my weekly radio show that is available via podcasting post each show. I loved the content and info that flowed. In the back of my mind, I knew … yes I knew, that I had to step up and get a professional photo shoot done. She had been after me for a few years to do one.

JudithB 1JudithB 3

Two months later, I got a call that she would be in my area for another client’s shoot and she wanted to come by … as in do my shoot on a Sunday! Oh my … now I really had to do it. And was I glad.

JudithB 2I loved the casualness—that’s me. And the variety… not to mention the outcome.

Do yourself, your book, your fans and followers a favor. Get an another photo shoot scheduled … but before you do, make sure you listen to the show I did with Ashlee to give you all the tips you need to make it the BEST!

Judith BrilesJudith Briles is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. She is an advocate for authors and writers and is known as The Book Shepherd. Delivering practical authoring and publishing information and guidance, she has authored 31 books, won multiple book awards and co-founded Mile High Press. Judith is the Chief Visionary Officer of

You can learn more about Judith here.

Photo: Amazon link contains my affiliate code.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. alami

    Nice article!

  2. Judith Briles

    Hi all. I’m at sea doing The Publishing at Sea cruise this week with 22 awesome authors. I resisted having the pros do my pics for a long time. I confess that I have had pros do them in the past –they were “me” but they weren’t really who/what I do am. They were just a photo. I Always think that what I had was good enough. Well, in some cases, it was. It’s like the good, better, best. Yet too often author pics are so-so. I spent $250. Got the full CD and can use them variety in a variety of spots. My pics put be at work with a little play. That’s me.

  3. Pamela

    Great advice. I’ve procrastinated on getting a professional photo, but this post convinced me. Thanks.

  4. Michael N. Marcus

    Professional portraits can cost hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, there are good, low-cost alternatives which few authors think of — the photo studios inside retail stores such as JCPenney and Target (not Sears or Walmart anymore).

    While most of their business involves babies and family Christmas cards, those studios will take pictures of solitary adults, often at ridiculously low prices (typically $7.99-$65).

    The photographer will be thrilled to have a subject who doesn’t vomit or require funny faces to elicit a smile.

  5. Mickie Kennedy


    Pictures are indeed great for social media, press releases, book jackets, and all kinds of marketing materials.

    What I’ve seen happen too often, though, is an author using an amateur photographer that they feel “has talent”, usually a relative or friend. While this person takes cheap, OK pictures, they wind up getting used in a context where OK isn’t going to cut it. Save those for soft social media shares, but leave them out of promotional materials.

    To the point: sometimes it just pays to pay for a pro.

    Mickie Kennedy

  6. Diane Tibert

    A professional photography would definitely be the way to go. You photos look fabulous.

    My last three photo shoots to gain an author photo were probably not what everyone would do, but I’m a penny pincher. Here are two posts I wrote about two of them (and reflecting on the first) for anyone who can not afford a professional photographer at the moment but desperately needs a photo.


    And here:

  7. Jason Matthews

    So true, Judith. Definitely something lacking in my portfolio.


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