Friday, August 15, 2008

Finding a Professional Photographer

Okay, so you've decided to step up to the challenge and have a professional headshot created. Now you just need to find a photographer. That's not difficult, there are plenty around. Of course the easiest thing to do is to ask a friend who has had a professional headshot taken.

This is Kathy Kovach's author headshot. Isn't it nice?
I like it because it looks like Kathy, and the pose is open, friendly and relaxed. I also love her headshot because it is a perfect author photo, with the book shelves in the background. Notice that her eyeglasses do not have any glare on them, and the lighting is soft and flattering. Kathy is a wonderful author of Merely Players, found in the Florida Weddings compilation book and Cookie Schemes in the Love Letters compilation (Barbour Publishing).

If you don't know where to begin, I would search the Internet for local photographers and browse websites. Some things you want to look for:
  • A web page advertising that photographer's business portraiture. Usually there will be samples, prices, and an explanation of packages.
  • Select a photographer who works with digital cameras. That shouldn't be difficult in this day and age. This is important because you want to receive an electronic image on a CD or by email.
  • Make sure the photographer offers you copyright of the image. You don't want any strings attached or permission granted to use the image for a specific purpose. You want full copyright ownership to use your image at will.
  • Make sure the photo studio has skilled imaging artists to digitally enhance your photo. Don't let someone tell you this is not important. Even children's portraits are touched up to look best. And I'm not talking about someone to only do color corrections either. You want a photographer or an imaging artist who can blend your skin tones, touch up your eyes, soften shadows and necklines, etc.
  • Don't go to a studio that does heavy digital retouching and will make you look like a 1950s movie star. You know the kind I'm talking about, the ones that make you look so "beautiful" that your image doesn't resemble yourself.
  • Call the studios that you are interested in and speak with someone there. If they can't answer your questions and put you at ease, hang up and keep letting your fingers do the walking. You need to work with someone who gives you confidence in their abilities. You don't want to call a landscape photographer who will "give it a shot." You may also ask for references, if there are no testimonials on the photographer's website.
  • $$$$ The cost of a digital image should be less than what the studio sells paper portraits for. After all, there is no sending the image to a lab. The studio will provide digital retouching and put the image on a CD. The normal price for a business headshot is around $125 or less. For this price you get a portrait session and your image on a CD in color and B&W, hi and low resolution. Additional poses can run $45 per pose. (I think some photographers charge less for business headshots because it gets potential clients into their studio so the client can see the beautiful family portraits that are created there--it's a savvy business tactic.)
  • Keep in mind that business headshots are usually shorter, less expensive portrait sessions. Most are priced with one or two wardrobe changes. The more wardrobe changes you want, the more expensive the session may be. That' s because you're using more of the photographer's time. Even if you don't plan on changing wardrobe, you should expect a change of background.
  • Let your photographer know what you have in mind for your image. Some authors want to be photographed in a studio setting. Last year, when I have my author photos updated, my photographer agreed to meet me at a local park so that I could create more casual images.
  • Your photographer should give you around 6 - 8 images to select from.
See my author photo on the left? At the time it was taken, there was a family enjoying a picnic lunch -- immediately to the left of my hip. My photographer made them disappear. That's what a skilled imaging artist can do.

There are many options to having your portrait taken. Kathy's photo was taken during a local ACFW meeting, the photographer came to our meeting and provided a group discount. I met my photographer at a park, my friend Jan went to the portrait studio where I work to have her portrait created.

The samples I've shown you are three very different poses, to represent three very different authors. That's something to consider as well. You don't want a cookie-cutter image created. You want a portrait that will extend your warmth and personality.

One other thought, it's becoming popular for writers conference organizers to host a photographer on site. I know that the upcoming ACFW conference will have a photographer on hand. I believe you can schedule an appointment for a professional headshot with Heather Lombardo this year for a screaming deal of $40!

Tomorrow we'll discuss how to prepare for your portrait session and what (or not) to wear.


Jan Parrish said...

What a great, informative series. I'm so glad you're doing this!

D. Gudger said...

You guys are just so gorgeous!

I someday want a picture in which I look like I'm up to something devious.

RumorsOfGlory said...

Love each and every photo in this post. Good advice. I also suggest you don't wear a lot of jewelry, don't you. Unless it's a special piece. It's surprising but helpful to hear about pink clothing and lipstick.

Michael Gowin said...

Although this post is a couple years old, there's one point that bears clarification. A photographer will be reluctant to sign over copyright for a digital image file but will probably be happy to arrange for a license that grants the subject (in this case, an author) the freedom to use the image without restriction. This is typically the approach that I take when photographing headshots for business professionals and writers/speakers.

Megan DiMaria said...

Interesting point of view, Michael. I've worked for several high-level professional photographers, and they've always sold businesspeople copyright to their images to use at will. I guess it depend on the photographer.