Say Cheese by Rebecca Heflin

I must admit, I’m not fond of having my photos taken. I’m very self-conscious when someone points a camera at me, but professional author photos are a necessary evil.

Author headshots are important for:

  1. Newspaper or magazine articles
  2. Your website
  3. Social Media
  4. “About the Author” pages in your books
  5. Book signings and appearances marketing


My original author photo was taken five years ago, and since I’d decided to let Mother Nature take her course, my hair color was no longer the brown of my youth. I hated to give up that photo — I think it’s one of the best photos I’ve ever had — but it was time for another dreaded photo shoot.


This time around, I wanted something with a casual feel, so I had the photos taken at my home, barefoot and in jeans. These are the three photos I selected from the dozens that were taken.


If you don’t have an author headshot and you’re caving to the pressure for one, or like me, need new ones, here are some things to consider.

  1. Be yourself

The camera doesn’t lie. If you’re trying to portray someone you’re not, it will be readily apparent. If you’re more the casual, barefoot kind of person, don’t choose a setting or clothes that say buttoned-up. Your photos should reveal the real you. Select what you feel comfortable in. Although I’d recommend against your PJs and bunny slippers.

  1. Consider the setting

Do you write beachy romance? Or dark paranormals? Maybe it’s smalltown romance, or how about western romance? Choose a setting that compliments your brand. Or if you write in multiple genres, choose a versatile and interesting location for the photo shoot.

  1. Consider color

While it might be tempting to go with solid white or black, don’t do it. White can wash you out, while black can look harsh. If you know what colors work best with your skintone and hair, select several items in that palette — maybe take a few test photos. Most women, regardless of skin tone look great in rich saturated colors (think emerald greens, sapphire blues). For guys, avoid white as well. If you’re wearing a dress shirt, select a nice solid blue. Even so, wear what you’re comfortable wearing. See Tip #1.

  1. Consider necklines

Necklines like crew, boat, or scoop necks are generally flattering for women. I also like V-necks, provided they aren’t too revealing. You want people to remember your writing not your boobage. Men, an open-collar dress shirt in a nice hue works well.

Many photographers advise against turtlenecks, but I disagree (as evidenced by my latest photo). I think it depends on the person, the hair style, and the shirt color. It all goes back to what makes you comfortable, and that all-important Tip #1.

  1. Hairstyle

It bears repeating — wear your hair in a style that is comfortable for you. And don’t go out and get a brand new style the day before your photos. A cut takes about two weeks to “fall into place” and look natural. Plus, you may need a little practice on that new do before it makes its photographic debut. Color takes about the same length of time to settle in.

  1. Less is more

Ladies, keep accessories to a minimum. Stud earrings are best, but if you’re like me and have a favorite pair of earrings, wear those, as long as they’re not distracting. If you do wear a necklace, keep it simple. Remember, the photo is of you, not your accessories.

If you can’t see a thing without your glasses, by all means wear them. It’s best if they have non-glare lenses, but if they don’t, many professional photographers can remove the glare with photo editing software, but there can be an additional charge.

  1. Smile

Last, but certainly not least, give your teeth a quick whitening a few days before the photo shoot. My mother always said, a nice bright smile is your best accessory – although a lovely scarf never hurt. ☺

For ideas on poses, check out the Pinterest page on headshots, or scope out other author websites for pose ideas.

Worried about the cost? Professional photos don’t have to cost a year’s royalties. If there’s a college or university in your town, contact their fine arts program. There are lots of students who would love to add your author photos to their portfolio, and at a fraction of the cost of professional photographers. My latest photos were taken by a student from my local university who’s not even majoring in fine arts — he’s pre-med with a love of amateur photography. And he didn’t charge me a thing.


About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
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4 Responses to Say Cheese by Rebecca Heflin

  1. You lovely and relaxed and friendly. Thanks for the good tips!

  2. Excellent advice. I’ve been needing a more professional ‘head shot’ for a while, but dreading it, thus avoiding it. Your suggestions are smart and calm me down a bit. And I really like your new photos!

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