The Importance of Writer Photographs

Photographer Amy Taylor talks through why good profile shots are important and offers some tips on taking a great writer photo.

Image Credit: 
© 2016 Flash Totty / Used With Permission

Everyone needs a good photo of themselves. Regardless of whether you are a writer, author or poet, you need a good photo. Building a brand for yourself is hard enough but if no one knows what you look like, no one ever will.

Whether you seek a professional photographer, ask a friend to take it, or just do it yourself, it’s important. As a writer you’re known for your writing but having a great photo will give them a completely different insight into who you are.

Confidence is Key

It isn’t about how you look, it is about how you feel and behave in front of the camera. When I am being photographed, I often spend so much time thinking about my face, hands and body, that I end up looking the opposite to how I’d like. Try not to plan the pose and be as natural as you can be. If it helps, talk to the photographer, tell them what you would like the photograph to say and see what suggestions they have. We want to capture your soul in a photograph; don’t let your anxiety prevent us from doing just that.

Flash Totty / © 2016 Seb Reilly / Used With Permission

Flash Totty / © 2016 Seb Reilly / Used With Permission

As a photographer, I often find inspiration through others and I thrive off people’s energy. I would like to think that this is reflected in the work that I produce. If the photographer knows a little about you and the work that you do, it can help. Not just to build a rapport but to inspire them to create something marvellous for you. Notify us of the type of work that you love, what you do for a living and where you want this photo to go. Alternatively, if you’re not really sure what you want in the photo or how you want the photo to look, tell us and we’ll help find something that suits you.

If confidence is a really big issue for you and you just can’t hack it in front of a stranger, do it yourself or ask a friend or family member to do it.


If you decide that it would be better to take the photo yourself, venture out of the box and do something you wouldn’t normally do. This is more important than ever if you already have photos of yourself on the internet and which is often the reason that people hire someone else. It might be worthwhile having a look through your photos with a friend and asking them for feedback. You’ll need someone close to you to do this so you could ask a family member to but see what they think. Take their comments, negative or positive, and use them to create the image you want.

© 2013 Flash Totty / Used With Permission

© 2013 Flash Totty / Used With Permission

Whether you decide to use a camera or just your camera phone, make sure you do some test shots before. It is often so easy to post something too quickly but, like your writing, take a little bit more time to make it how you want it and it will be worth the wait.

In order to ensure that your photo can be edited and used for all marketing purposes, make sure there is enough of a frame around your portrait. Your arm extended in front of you is just about the minimum that you could use for a head shot so try and use a tripod to get the best angle. Or alternatively, experiment propping up your camera with something like a book or wall.

Location, Location, Location

Flash Totty / © 2011 Dolph Hamster Music / Used With Permission

Flash Totty / © 2011 Dolph Hamster Music / Used With Permission

Go outdoors. It’s free, beautiful and completely unique. Plus, you will always look better in natural light. Use it to your advantage or try using alternative artificial options, like candlelight, street lights, bus stops, etc. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and it can be great fun scouting for places to shoot.

If you are looking for portraits inside, try and mix things up a little by being shot in different angles than you’re used to. My favourite place is the window in my living room, just before midday when the light is beaming through—Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.

© 2011 Flash Totty / Used With Permission

© 2011 Flash Totty / Used With Permission

If you don’t have professional lighting, use your own. A lamp, torch or even a phone have all worked well for me in the past. It can also help to use a mirror to reflect the light; this can create a really nice tone to your face.

Get Copyright

If you decide to ask someone to take some photos for you, you’ll need to discuss copyright. It’s really important to ask for the original photo file, especially if you are paying them and this will mean that you won’t have to pay for any future licence fees.

It is a really boring thing to discuss, I know. But it is really important. If your photos look great or you are paying someone, you will be extremely disappointed if the photographer doesn’t send you all the files or decides to watermark them without discussing this with you first.

In order to sort this out without causing any issues, discuss this with them when you are making arrangements. That way, you won’t be worried during shooting and you would already have an idea of how they are likely to approach it and if the worse comes to worse and they have an issue with discussing it, they are not worth it. Find someone else.

If you do decide to go ahead with a photographer, make sure you have something in writing from them outlining permissions. It doesn’t have to be a 50 page document, just an email confirming that you have full copyright to the photos.

Brand Yourself

Your photograph is your brand, and you can use it on your website, your profiles, the back of your book, and anywhere else you want to promote yourself.

Amy Taylor is a Kent based photographer.

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