Deb Erika Smiles for the Camera

Once upon a time, it was so easy. You put on your favorite Bionic Woman T-shirt, you stood in line, you picked out your plastic comb (you maybe even used it—or not), you sat in front of a baby-blue background, you smiled, and two months later, you got a sheet of little wallet sized photos that you cut out to send to family and friends.

Oh, those were the days.

When a writer starts looking down the road to publication, there are lots of things she or he looks forward to. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “Finally getting my author photo taken!” is not high on that list.

So when it came my time to produce an author photo, I thought back on another sort of headshot experience I’d had in my, ahem, younger years. In one of my past lives, I was an actress. (Though, as my husband is fond of saying: “Was?”) I had done my share of visiting in the land known as “the actress headshot” so I thought it might help to revisit those old shots and look at them critically as a way to come up with ideas for my author photo.

Turns out, it wasn’t. (But my kids definitely enjoyed seeing them!)

Now there’s no question the author shot serves a different purpose than the actor’s headshot. I began to understand that as soon as I burned lovingly filed away those old headshots and started to do research online. There are many great tips on the web—especially on photographer’s websites where they will give you advice on how to dress for your photo shoot, make-up, etc. I even came upon this piece from Flavorwire on the clichés of Author Photos. (For those keeping score, I was going for #3, ended up with #5 but sort of wish I’d at least tried #2. Oh, well. Live and learn.*)

Just as the experts had said, I kept my wardrobe simple which wasn’t hard because my wardrobe is, well, painfully simple and I kept my make-up light (Again, not a challenge. I consider Lip Balm make-up.)

My first "professional" headshot. Cast me now, Saved By The Bell!

Now the only question was where to take the picture. Since my husband and I had to wait until the kids were asleep, we had to do it indoors. First, we tried to bathroom. (Is it me, or is this starting to sound bawdy enough to be a Friday post, Deb Linda?) Er, let’s just say, we didn’t have Deb Joanne’s success. Then we tried the foyer. (I’d post the disastrous results here, but I’m fairly certain you all would turn to stone and we need your readership.) Finally, we opted for something “casual” in the living room. I’m using the word “casual” here the way they do when they refer to “natural-looking” make-up. As in, it takes a lot of work to make something look like it took no work at all.

Trust me, this took work. Almost three hours of it.

And what’s so alarming and glorious about the end result is that out of the 200 hundred shots we took, this was the only one that was decent.

The only one.

Erika Marks












*And yes, my chin did in fact end up in my hand. It just wanted to go there, I swear! (Though I wish it had crawled a little further to the right to cover up that big ole age spot. Ack!)

So tell us: Where would you take your author photo? (You know, besides the bathroom.)

30 Replies to “Deb Erika Smiles for the Camera”

  1. LOL! I’m cracking up at the headshot article you linked to — so painfully true. I guess my cigar pic counts as the smoker. *grin*

    You were an adorable child, and for what it’s worth, I LOVE your chin-in-hand shot. You’re gorgeous, and you look like someone I’d totally want to share a drink and a story with. 🙂

    1. What did I do to deserve you, my dear?! You are so, so kind.

      And you’re so right! You totally did number 4, you wild woman, you! I love it!

      And I know you can appreciate the joy and pain that is the actor’s headshot. Talk about the many poses of the headshot. I think you’d find far more than 5. I’m sure you have tales to tell there too!

  2. Erika Wow!!! your head shot of when you were young (oh sorry did not mean to imply you are old)is just so so cute.

    The actress one in the middle is telling everyone yes here I am and I am ready to act, (look out hollywood here I come). Where is the bathroom picture!!!!!! (what is it with authors and bathrooms).

    The final picture is wonderful your smile is wonderful, your eyes are sparkling and you look so relaxed. As for your hand it landed where it wanted and makes your photo so natural.

    I know with that picture on the sleeve of your books is a real winner, how could the public not want to read your books. Have a great day and happy writing.

    1. Good morning Marcia! Thank you so much for saying such sweet things.

      I used to think bathroom lighting was flattering until I tried getting a shot in there–Gah. That Joanne took that one herself (did I read that right, Joanne?) is all the more impressive! We eventually tried an outdoor shot but couldn’t find a good locale. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the other Debs reveal about this process.

      Made anything yummy lately?

      1. Wait, what am I saying? Linda, you ALSO had a beautiful bathroom (okay, SHOWER) shot. You and Joanne might need to do a special dual-post on how to take a perfect author shot in the loo. Just saying 😉

  3. Headshots terrify me, to the point that needing to get one is the ONLY reason I ever think that not being published would be okay…LOL. I’ve always loved yours Erika because it’s a perfect blend of casual, professional, and writerly… nice!

    1. Julia, thank you, my dear. I am not kidding when I say the ones I ended up with were ALL so bleak except for this one. I was just relieved to find one I could stand to look at. As you echoed, it is NOT something we look forward to. Actors know their face is their calling card, but writers?

  4. I’m with Linda – your shot works so well because the chin-on-hand makes you look comfortable and your face is so open and warm that I KNOW we’d be BFFs, and we could go out and have a wonderful time with our mutual friend, Linda the cigar smoker.

    That article is hilarious; don’t those poses kind of look ridiculous when they’re all lined up like that? But it’s so hard to come up with a good shot when you are SO outside your comfort zone. You need a good prop, like your hand or a cigar.

    1. Oh, we’d have BIG fun. And we will–it’s only a matter of time. (So keep that cigar lit, Linda!)

      Isn’t that a great article? And we’ve all been there. I think the casual “oh-you-just-stepped-into-my-office-oh-i-didn’t-see-you-there-come-on-in!” one is my fav–because we all know how hard that is, to come off as candid when it all feels anything BUT. And it almost works–until you line them up like that, right? 😉

      1. Don’t worry, I will! And TG, the true cigar connoisseur (wow, I can’t believe I spelled that right on the first try!) in the family, will make sure we have non-stinky stogie to share. *grin*

  5. The article link is hilarious! I can think of a lot of other cliches: author with pet, author with all her bestselling novels behind her on shelves, author in standard glam-photo studio shot, author in I’m-a-bad-ass pose with hand on hip and looking down at camera…oh it’s endless!

    Have to admit, I’m sure I’ll fit a cliche too. I picture my author photo being snapped outdoors in Ireland since my novels are set in Ireland (thus far). I bet I’ll be one of those torso-twisted comfy types, except that I’ll be leaning against a rock with a green vista stretching out behind me…Man, I’m liking this picture of myself! 🙂

    I’ve always liked your author photo. As someone mentioned above–you seem very accessible and warm.

    1. Hi Lisa! Thank you for that–I really appreciate it. I do hope I come across that way!

      Your picture sounds fantastic (Ireland is never a bad setting!). Ah, yes, the bad-ass pose–another popular one. I never understood author photos that have attitude–that almost seem to DARE the reader to pick up the book, let alone read it. Or those where the author looks somewhat grumpy or bored. How can you be grumpy?! You published a book, for goodness sake, I want to say! 😉

      1. I know! Come on, people, you don’t want to scare readers off, do you? And also, do you really want to look that different from how you look in real life (I’m thinking readings and public appearances)? Unless, of course, some authors are grumpy, bored, or attitudinal in person too. Hah!

    1. Ah ha! I knew I’d have one of my fellow Debs GREEN with envy over that jacket! How sassy was I, right? Best of all, it wasn’t even mine. It came from WARDROBE. I mean, doesn’t it just SCREAM Brenda Walsh?

  6. Awesome! What cutie you were!

    The people who developed my website actually included a free photo shoot. But last year, I decided to cut my hair off (almost all of it) so in December when my business partner and I were both in town, we scheduled another photo shoot. All I can say is “Thank goodness for photoshop!”

  7. That was so funny, and you are gorgeous in every shot. I love that you “were” an actress. That must have something to do with how strong your characters are. You are able to embody them.

    For my self-published book, I went online and looked at author photos, and they were all standing by trees with their arms crossed, so I did the same. For my traditional pub debut I hit the streets of Annapolis with my pal, photographer Catherine Pelura. I didn’t want a picture of myself with my hand on my face, and guess what, the best picture was of me with my hand on my face. 🙂 I’m going for “smoking insomniac” in the next author photo. 😉

    Great post.

    1. Oh, you. Talk about gorgeous–you and my husband should start some kind of Don’t-hate-me-because-I-don’t-take-a-bad-picture Club, seriously. Your shots are always flawless (even your candids on FB and Twitter–how do you do that? I am so envious!!)

      The hand just wants to go there, right? It really is some kind of biological response, I swear! It feels comfortable and I think that’s why we keep doing it. I LOVE your street picture (that sounds so bad-ass, doesn’t it?;) ) and I love that you and your friend went out together.

      “Smoking insomniac!” I want to see that one, lady 😉

      1. Oh, silly Erika, I simply hit “delete” or “untag” on pix that do not meet my approval. 🙂 But thank you.

        I might have to whip up a little blog post of my own on funny author photos. You might just see the “smoking insomniac” after all. 😉

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