Why Every Author Needs a Professional Photo – Guest Post by Brent Foster

In our continuing effort to give you the survival tools you need to be a successful writer, we wanted to look at why every author needs a professional photo (also called a “head shot”). Today we’re pleased to be able to welcome guest poster Brent Foster, a photojournalist who says, “I believe in storytelling, and photography is my tool.”

Brent is a master at just that. He’s traveled from Palestine to the Congo, and has met (and photographed) actors, authors, and even the Dalai Lama. His work has appeared in The National Post, The Los Angeles Times, Canadian Geographic, and TIME, to name only a few.

Take it away Brent . . .


Most people believe a picture is worth a thousand words . . . unless you’re a writer.

authors need professional photos

(c) Brent Foster - Actor Alan Rickman poses for a photo at the Park Hyatt.

I’ve worked with hundreds of writers. As a newspaper photojournalist for the last ten or so years, I averaged working with 2-10 different writers in a given week, from Pulitzer prize winners to newbies. Let me tell you–writers are the worst at understanding the importance of imagery, and good imagery at that.

Let me break this to you as gently as possible–a picture will always be the first thing a reader/viewer will look at. That’s right, it won’t be your finely-crafted mumble jumble. It will be the image.

I’ll give you a second to soak that in.

Why do you need to show your face? Well, why not? We write differently these days for blogs, networking, etc. We write visually, and often in first person. That’s because we, as writers, journalists, photographers, storytellers, and communicators, reach people in a different way than ever before. We reach them by being us.

People read what you write because they like or dislike what you say, but, in the end, they are interested in you. Your personality, your thoughts, opinions. And after feeling like they know you this intimately, they likely want to know what you look like.

So, who would be ideal to take on this task?

Enter, professional photographer.

authors need professional head shot

(c) Brent Foster - Danny Angelidis, owner of Crystal Ice, poses for a portrait in the freezer

Images that reflect you as a writer, and more importantly, you as a human being, are key to success in our crazy online world. Your promotional photo shouldn’t be a mug shot necessarily, but it’s also not a dating site photo taken by your best friend.

Look at people like the Rock ‘n Roll Bride. She’s made her career using her personality to her advantage . . . who doesn’t like pink hair?

Seriously though, your images should reflect who you are and what you want to say to the world. If you’re a dog blogger, well, hmm, what would be the ideal shot here? Lets just say, it’s not a shot of you and your cat.

Focus on your strengths, and pick a photographer who is suited to you. If you like what you see on the photographer’s website when looking at a full shoot, chances are you will like what you’ll get in the end. Find a photographer you love, who matches you, and who is willing to consult and brainstorm in advance of your shoot.

So stop hiding behind your pen, and get out there!

-Brent Foster

Why authors need professional photo


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10 comments on “Why Every Author Needs a Professional Photo – Guest Post by Brent Foster

  1. I laughed about the dog blogger and picture options not including “you and your cat.” Great tips. Even if you can’t afford a professional photographer, these are great tips to keep in mind. Also, “professional” doesn’t have to be expensive. So, it’s worth checking out costs to help boost your writing career.

    • Very true that “professional” doesn’t have to mean “expensive.” Sometimes you can find great photographers who are just starting out in their careers who’d love a chance to build their portfolio. It’s a win-win that way 🙂


  2. This is the second time I’ve heard about the importance of a head shot this week. I had to re-do my twitter and still working on my blog. It’s good to get confirmations like this on things your being told to do to better your carrier.


    • You’re welcome 🙂 Recently I had to change my Twitter picture as well because I’m working on establishing consistency across all platforms. That way, whether people visit my website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, or Google+ profile, they’ll know they’ve found my by my picture, regardless of how many others might have the same name.


    • You’re welcome. And remember, “professional” doesn’t have to mean “boring.” Your new picture can still have the character that you love in the one you have now 🙂


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