The Experience of Getting Professional Photos

Why do you need an author photo? And how do you get one?

The Experience of Getting Professional Photos
Julia Rios author photo by Marie O'Mahony

Note:  This episode was just for paid subscribers originally, but became public on June 24th, 2022

Hello, subscribers! Last week we heard from Marie O'Mahony about what it takes to become a professional photographer. This week in a podcast and newsletter, I’m going to show you several of the photos and talk about what my personal experience was like.

Listen to "The Experience of Getting Professional Photos" on Spreaker.

Some author photo takeaways at a glance

Logistics of why you need a photo and how to label it: If you’re a creative person in any field, chances are people will want to have a photo of you sooner or later, and it may come sooner than you think. People use photos for flyers, catalogues, book jackets, websites, and any other number of things. It’s really helpful to have one on hand in an easy to get to place. I store mine right on my computer’s desktop, and I have it saved as “Julia Rios Photo 2019” so it’s clear what the file is.

How to get one: If you have money to pay a professional, this will give you a quality of photo that you likely can’t get on your own, but if you don’t have the money, you can do what I did and take selfies. Here is a photo collage of several photos I have used as “author photos” over the years:

Image description: 6 versions of me! Top left in 2012 with long blue hair and a hot pink fascinator headband taken against a blue wall. Top middle in 2014 with long purple hair and the same pink fascinator taken against a purple background. Top Right in 2016 with short brown hair and a purple turtleneck taken in front of a bookcase. Bottom left in 2016 with short turquoise hair and a lime green sweater taken in front of the same bookcase. Bottom middle in 2017 with short blue hair and a black top with white bicycles on it taken in front of green weeping willow branches. Bottom right in 2019 with short purple hair, an orange flower fascinator, and a navy top with predominantly orange hued flowers on it taken in front of some bushes. The bottom right is copyright Marie O’Mahony Photography. All the others I took myself.

Pros and cons of DIY vs. going with a pro: If you take your own photos, it’s cheaper and you can have complete control over how to use the image. No need to credit anyone unless you want to, and you can always use it without having to ask permission. If you use a professional photographer, you’re buying the image and the right to use it in certain contexts, but you may need to credit the photographer every time, or ask persmission for some situations. On the other hand, professional photos will generally be able to achieve a depth of color and texture, and a professional look that you most likely can’t get on your own.

How often to do this: Ideally every couple of years. If you use one photo for ten years, you’ll probably look very different at the end of the ten years than you did when the photo was new. Changing your photo every couple of years lets people keep up with what you look like as you change over time. Some of my photos are fairly close to their predecessors, but you can definitely see some pretty larger changes over time in my set.

What to expect on the day of your professional photoshoot: You’re likely to wake up with a sore throat, get completely lost on one-lane roads, and then also chased by wasps… wait, no. That’s just me! What most people should expect is to have up to a couple of hours with a photographer, who will direct you on where and how to pose. Bring a couple of outfits just in case you want to have different looks or need to change after being rained on or similar. Also bring makeup if you use it, and a comb or similar in case you need to style your hair on the fly. For a lot of people, this is probably obvious, but for someone like me who rarely uses makeup and doesn’t tend to remember a comb, it’s a useful reminder. This is for posterity! You’ll probably get your proofs within a few weeks, but you probably won’t see any photos that day.

Some of the photos from my shoot

First a few of the ones Moss and I got as 5th wedding anniversary photos.

Image description: Me on the left and Moss on the right hugging and laughing in a doorway. I love this because we spend a lot of our time laughing together.

Image description: Moss on the left with his eyes closed and me with open eyes on the right, with our heads together inside Marie’s house. In this one, I think you can see me being a little camera conscious, but I think Moss looks great!

Image description: Black and white photo of Moss as a horned fairy creature emerging from the woods. This is entirely silly and I love it!

Image description: Me as a winged fairy in the woods. I like how my hand is slightly blurry here, implying that maybe, like a hummingbird, my fairy self is moving too fast to be captured in sharp focus. I don’t think Marie does this kind of thing for most people, but since she knew we were friends of Claire’s she let her whimsical impulses out to play.

Image Description: me against a stone wall. This is a fine author photo. I think my smile is a little uncertain in a camera conscious way, though, so I didn’t give it my top spot.

Image description: me against a blank beige wall. This one is perfectly good for an author photo, though maybe a little stern looking. It’s also just plain enough that I think it’s more on the work badge side of things than the fun author side.

Image description: Me in a field. I like this one quite a bit and could see using it in some circumstances.

Image description: the same pose as the photo I ultimately chose for my default author photo for right now, except in this one I am looking a little more seriously into the camera instead of off camera to wherever it is that impish ideas come from.

Image description: for fun, me twirling in a filed of wildflowers. Honestly, mostly for the floaty top!

Image description: closeup of my hair flower, made by Betsie Withey! Betsie is incredibly talented, and you can buy her textile art at her Etsy shop!

And finally, one more time, my final choice photo

Image description: my official author photo of 2019, looking up and to the right as though I have an idea!

What do you think? Which photo would you use if you were me? Have you ever had author photos or other professional portraits done for work? What was your experience like?