Why Authors Need a Great Headshot with Tips on How to Get One
By Scott Lorenz
While the written word is powerful in landing a media placement, as a publicist I know
that a great photo can cinch a media opportunity just as well and sometimes even faster. I've worked
with some of the best photographers in the USA. I've been in dozens of studios all over the country
and have been privy to their "back stage" techniques. These photographers have shot Miss America
contestants, Hockey and baseball's greatest players as well as CEOs authors, doctors, lawyers and
entrepreneurs. I got the skinny directly from them on their tips for getting the best head shot possible.
While the written word is powerful in landing a media placement, as a publicist I know that a great
photo can cinch a media opportunity just as well and sometimes even faster. How? It's simple. The
photo immediately tells a TV producer if the author is going to look good on a TV interview. If you
don't think they care, think again. It also declares race, sex and sometimes creed. It all matters,
and don't assume it's a negative thing as it helps news producers provide a balanced newscast
so that all voices can be heard. It's the same with print or broadcast media.
To be sure you convey the correct message in your headshot and to put your best face forward you'll
want to hear some tips on How to Take a Great Headshot.
I've worked with some of the best photographers in the USA. I've been in dozens of studios all
over the country and have been privy to the "back stage" techniques. These photographers have
shot Miss America contestants, Hockey and baseball's greatest players as well as CEOs authors, doctors,
lawyers and entrepreneurs. I got the skinny directly from them on their tips for getting the best head
First let's talk about the use of the head shot and its purpose as that dictates the style. Here's
a quick list of variations.
- Business/Corporate Headshots
- Commercial Headshots (Acting & modeling)
- General Headshots
- Glamour Headshots (not the ones from the mall)
- Kids Headshots (Acting & modeling)
- Modeling Headshots
- Pageant Headshots
- Theatrical Headshots
Renowned photographer Sam T'ang of Sam T'ang Production Studios, who regularly shoots Miss America
and Miss USA contestants, says planning ahead is critical and offers these tips:
- Get a good night's sleep and rest the day before your shoot. (You don't want wrinkles
or bagging eyes for your shoot).
- A good headshot should focus just on your face. Clothing should be complementary & should
have contrast, IE, someone with lighter color hair should have darker tops or suits, someone with
darker hair should have lighter colored tops or suits.
- Clothing/wardrobe should not be busy or have patterns. Always bring several different outfits
if possible. It is always better to have too much than only one outfit to work with.
- Backgrounds should be clean, un-cluttered and should not have a patterns (unless its an environmental
- Accessories (Women). Jewelry should be subtle and not overpowering (again, the main focus is
on the face).
- MAKEUP/HAIR (Women & Men). If it is possible to have a makeup artist/hair stylist, hire
one! Makeup is not only important, but makeup looks COMPLETELY different on camera than in real
life and the camera PICKS UP EVERYTHING. Everyday makeup under professional photography lighting
and strobes will look like you have no makeup at all. A professional makeup artist is well worth
- Lighting. A professional photographer should understand lighting conditions whether its natural
light or strobes (flash). Good lighting makes a huge difference in your photos. Be aware that shooting
under fluorescent lights will cast a green tint to your photos.
- Photographers. There are many talented photographers out there, but only a few who actually
specialize and can take a GREAT HEADSHOT. A good photographer should make you feel comfortable and
be able to communicate and direct you, thus making your shots look natural and relaxed instead of
stiff or too posed and awkward.
- Retouching. With computers and Photoshop these days, retouching is an absolute given. One caveat,
just don't have your photographer OVER RETOUCH your photo making you look plastic and not real
(unless that is the look you want).
Jack Kenny whose photography book "CUBA" is filled with photos of the people of Cuba says consider
shooting outdoors in available light. "Natural light outside can be beautiful. I like to shoot in
doorways or windows or under overpasses, keeping the subject just out of the direct light."
"For headshots," says Kenny, "I like to work both in the studio and in natural light. Sometime I use a combination of the
two where the natural light isn't sufficient to "fill" the subject. For males I prefer to use a
single light source (in varying sizes depending on the drama desired). The light is placed at 30 - 90
degree angle from the subject and sometimes I use an edge light on the opposite side or a reflector
to fill in the shadows. For women I tend to use a softer light - usually two front lights - one weaker
then the other, and I keep the light sources closer to the camera."
According to Steve Kovich who shot for the Detroit Red Wings, Tigers, Lions and is currently the Tampa
Bay Rays official team photographer, "You want to create "depth and mood." Lighting a subject
from high above and off to the side is what I like to do. This lighting style is commonly referred to
as "Rembrandt" lighting as this is the way the light came into his studio."
"On the creative end, it's the ability to 'evoke' or more likely to 'capture' emotion. Whether it be happy,
sad, or otherwise," says Kovich.
"In the end," says Jack Kenny, "almost any light can be used depending on the effects desired, but a true headshot should
emphasize the subject and not the photographer."
About Sam T'ang
Based in Detroit and Miami, Sam T'ang is a national and international
published photographer specializing in Beauty, Glamour, Fashion and Swimwear. Sam's work has appeared
in advertisements, calendars, magazines and posters: MAXIM, STUFF, PLAYBOY, FHM, COSMOPOLITAN, GLAMOUR,
TEEN, YOUNG MISS, PERFECT 10, OCEAN DRIVE, HAWAIIAN TROPIC, VENUS SWIMWEAR, FITNESS USA, AUTORAMA, and
Sam has photographed headshots for the Miss America, Miss USA. Miss Teen USA, Miss Venus Swimwear, Miss
Hawaiian Tropic pageant contestants as well as hundreds of models, actors and celebrities.
http://www.samtang.com Miami: 305-502-1354 Detroit:248-773-0004.
About Jack Kenny
Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kenny specializes in headshots and has photographed
dozens of CEOs, doctors, lawyers, authors and entrepreneurs. Kenny is also author/publisher of Cuba
(120 hard cover pages, $65, Corazon Press, Ann Arbor, MI, ISBN 0-9768349-0-1), a unique photographic
collection of Cuba and its people. In the book, Kenny takes readers on a photographic journey through
modern day Cuba. www.jkennyphoto.com (734) 395-1265
About Steven Kovich
Based in St. Petersburg, Florida, Steven Kovich has photographed celebrities
such as Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon and Hulk Hogan as well as hundreds of sports figures including Derek
Jeter and Red Wing hockey great Steve Yzerman. He's also the Tampa Bay Rays official team photographer.
His list of corporate clients include Hyatt, Ameritech, AT&T, CBS, Coke, Chrysler, Domino's
Pizza, Detroit Symphony, ESPN, Ford, Dupont, General Motors, Getty Images, Proctor & Gamble, Pulte
Homes, American Red Cross and the US Postal Service. Kovich's web site has few words as he lets
his photos speak for themselves. www.kovich.com 727-452-2349.
About the Author
Book publicist Scott
Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations
and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity
they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all
types of books, whether it's their first book or their 15th book. He's handled publicity for books by
CEOs, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers. His clients have been
featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC Nightly News, The New York Times, Nightline,
TIME, PBS, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Family Circle, Woman's World, & Howard
Stern to name a few. Learn more about Westwind Communications'
book marketing approach at
http://www.book-marketing-expert.com or contact
Lorenz at scottlorenz at westwindcos.com or by phone
at 734-667-2090. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist.