Monday, 7 July 2014

Smile for the Camera!

I hate having my photo taken. I know I’m not the only one. But, these days, more and more magazines and publications want to have a photo of the writer, either to accompany the article itself, or to appear on a ‘This Month’s Contributors’ slot near the front of the magazine. (If you look in the August 2014 issue of Writing Magazine you’ll see there’s even a photo of me at my writing desk, to accompany the article I’ve written … and yes - the editor specifically asked for it!)

A simple head and shoulders photo may be enough, but do check your target publications. What do other writers do? Is there an expectation of a particular style of photo? For example, the photo in the August issue of Writing Magazine is of me sitting at my workspace (see below). What’s the article about? Creating a business-like workspace. A photo of me wandering across the hills wouldn’t be right here … but that might be fine in a walking magazine.

Be aware of what you’re wearing. Does it fit the magazine? If you write about cycling, then a photo of you sat on a bike really ought to have you wearing a cycle helmet too. (Whether you go for the lycra is entirely your decision, but often there’s a reason why editors prefer head and shoulder shots.)

To take such a photo, all you need is a simple compact camera. A mobile phone may even do. What I would suggest is you investigate the self-timer options. These allow you to set up the camera, press the button, and then it give you ten seconds to get yourself into position. Of course, if you have a willing friend to help, who won’t take the mickey out of you, or laugh as you decide which pose to use, then that’s great, but often these things work out best if you work alone and not have to worry about looking stupid in front of someone.

Take the photo of me above, for example. I’m standing on top of the toposcope on top of the Long Mynd. There was nobody about (and they missed a fantastic sunset), but it made things easier for me. Because climbing on top of that toposcope wasn’t easy. In fact, there were numerous shots of me with my bum in the air because I couldn’t hurl my body on top of it before the ten second countdown finished! But it didn’t matter. Because I was on my own. After several attempts I got the shot I wanted.

So think about your ‘writer photo’. Do you need one, or would a couple be required for the different markets you write for? Have a couple to draw upon and the next time an editor asks, you can pick and choose the one that seems most suitable for that publication.

Good luck!


  1. Strangely enough I nearly commented on your WM photo on Twitter the other day, as I was going to congratulate you on the strategic placement of your own books ;)

  2. I'm glad you spotted them, Alison!

  3. I recently had to do one for an interview which was being put on The People's Friend blog. Because I am one of their writers, I felt that it should be of me with my laptop in a place where I write. After many photos, I eventually got one I was happy with. When I was then asked to supply one for an article I was in, in Writers' Forum, I though I'd use the same one but they wanted head and shoulders so out came the iphone again and several hours later I came up with something half decent. Good job you didn't ask me for one for your article, Simon, or you might still be waiting!