Author photos are one of the most overlooked elements by debut authors. You’d be surprised at the impact of a professional photo! A simple snapshot will just not cut it. While we don’t require our authors at SparkPress to get a professional headshot taken, we do recommend it. But no matter who takes your author photo, here are some important things to keep in mind.

The photo should be high-quality. A high-resolution photo simply looks better; it is not grainy, and it shows that you are taking your own writing seriously. A good rule of thumb is that it should be at least 300 dpi at whatever size you expect it to be printed. The larger the size, the higher the dpi (dots per inch). Even many smartphones these days have cameras that will take this high-resolution of a photo.

The photo should show who you are. You don’t need tons of props (although some authors do use them), but the photo should establish who you are. A simple, well-lit, and well-framed photo of you can say “I am an author.” However, if you are writing for a specific genre, then you can use your author photo as a way to establish credibility. Do you write thrillers? A black-and-white photo cast in shadow where you look menacing could be appropriate. Do you write historical romance? Take some of your photos wearing a shirt that has some time-period appropriate elements.

Your face should be the focal point. Don’t wear anything distracting. Patterns and florals are too busy and draw the eye away from your face. White and pastel clothing can wash you out. Solid, brightly-colored clothes are best. Neutral backgrounds, or ones that evoke an element of your book, will keep the focus on you.

Practice makes perfect. Yes, you can practice for a photo. Practice smiling in a mirror to see what kind of smile works best for you. Take test shots in different poses with a friend or partner to see what looks the most natural and flattering. Try on clothing options to eliminate anything unflattering, and find what colors look best with your skin tone.

Choices, choices, choices. If you are hiring a photographer, you’ll want to book a long session, or several short ones. Take a lot of photos, because in most, you’ll look stiff and posed. It often takes several bad photos to find the one that looks most natural. Also, take a couple of clothing options with you. If you have a prop, try some with it and some without it. If you have the time and patience, multiple locations will give you a wider variety of options.

Be photo-ready. This goes beyond your clothing options. Makeup for photos is different than makeup in real life—and yes, this goes for men too. Ask at the makeup counter at Sephora for photo makeup. It’ll make your features pop, while making sure you still look like you.