Are you an author wondering whether or not it’s worth it to invest in professional photography?

kristina holmes

I recently talked to Kristina Holmes, an agent with Ebeling & Associates Literary Agency, about author photos. Kristina is a publishing expert who provides representation and publishing consulting, author platform development, and affiliate marketing. (Her answers are paraphrased.)

• • •

Would you say a professional photo is a “must-have” for writers who want to become published authors?

Yes. When I visit a writer’s web site, I really expect to see their headshot, even if they are not yet published.

Many writers already have well-developed platforms when I begin pitching them to publishers. If they don’t yet have suitable headshots, this becomes a real priority.

For starters, I almost always include photos in the proposal to add color and personality. Later in the process, when the book is in production, the publisher will typically request author photos.

These days, I really wonder about websites that don’t include a personal photo. It’s important for an author to be relatable. Photography is so helpful with this.

What role do photos play in author platform development?

There are many different reasons why authors building their author platforms would want an author photo, if not several author photos. I often help my clients select suitable images.

These photos not only go on the website, they can also be used in the author’s media kit. Many authors now feature media kits right on their web sites, which is terrific. A tip for authors: make the photos high-quality, downloadable jpegs so they can be used in media coverage.

For authors who also do public speaking, headshots are included in their speakers kit on their bio and perhaps on their speaking sheet. (A speaking sheet details the topics that the author can cover.)

What makes a great author photo?

A straightforward, authentic photo always works well. I think looking attractive is important, but to me, the most successful photos are those that reflect a genuine, approachable person.

The photo should also reflect the type of book being written and contribute to – not detract from – the author’s credibility. So, if you are a business person wear a business suit not a track suit. Looking too casual could hurt you.

What are the most glaring photo blunders in the publishing industry?

I cringe when I see outdated photos. Generally, gaudy makeup or long-gone hairstyles are the most problematic. Photos like this send out a weird vibe. Overly staged photos are problematic. Cheesy and awkward hand positions are the worst.

It’s tricky when authors come to me with an outdated appearance. If I feel it might get in the way of the book’s success, I’ll speak up. One of my authors underwent a head-to-toe makeover to prepare for publication. She was a great sport about it and enjoyed it.

Do different genres demand different styles of photos?

To a degree they do. I work primarily with practical nonfiction which tends to be pretty straightforward.

Sometimes, the publisher might want a particular type of photo to reflect the author’s platform. My clients Niki Dewart and Elizabeth Marglin are the co-authors of The Mother’s Wisdom Deck which will be released in 2012. Sterling, the publisher, requested they have photos made with their children.  I rarely find that the publisher makes such a specific request, but in their case, it makes sense why they would suggest this.  The deck is for mothers, and part of the appeal is that it was created by mothers.

Does the publisher pick up the tab for photos?

Not in my experience. These days, authors are expected to provide professional quality photos.

In some cases, when the photo will be used for the cover and demands a specific type of photo, the publisher might get involved and might contribute. However, these instances are rare.

It’s important to understand that becoming an author requires certain upfront investments. You need to establish an audience and that does cost money. If you have to spend $500 to get great photos, it should be an anticipated expense.

For some authors, the money for headshots is an issue. I do understand it, but on the other hand, publishing is a really expensive enterprise to get into.

• • •

Thanks to Kristina for her helpful information. Please attribute any bad grammar and/or typos to Dana, keeping in mind that she is a photographer and not a professional writer.

If you have further questions, I encourage you to put them in the comments section. That way, we can post Kristina’s responses for everyone to see.

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Learn from Alyson Stanfield, Author and Art Marketing Consultant

alyson stanfield, art marketing coach

Nationally Known Coach Discusses Her Fantastic Book:

I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion

Please join us in Boulder, Wednesday, August 31, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Artist Jerrie Hurd (homo sapiens unadorned), Beth Hayden of Blogging with Beth and Dana Rogers, Dana Rogers Photography, are pleased to invite you to an evening with Alyson Stanfield. Alyson will be making a rare visit to Boulder to discuss the recent update of her book and answer questions about art marketing. Because of the intimate setting, you will have a chance to interact with Alyson and other artists. The event is free and light refreshments (cookies and ice cream) will be served.

We are limited to 30 people. Please RSVP to Dana Rogers at for location and more details. (Event is taking place near downtown Boulder.)

I'd Rather Be in the Studio


About the book: I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist‚s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion is for artists of all kinds. Painters, sculptors, ceramist, jewelers, photographers, and others will benefit from the easy-to-follow self-promotion practices in this book.


About Alyson: Author and art-marketing consultant Alyson B. Stanfield, of Art Biz Coach, focuses on sharing the artwork directly with potential buyers through electronic and traditional communication outlets in a manner that is comfortable, not artificial. Artists match Internet marketing strategies with sincere personal skills to take charge of their art careers. The book includes access to worksheets for in-depth self-promotion.

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say cheese? win cheese!

food photography by dana rogers photography - brie

ever wonder why people ask you to “say cheese” when you pose for a photograph? it’s mainly because your mouth mimics a grin when you say the words. and, it’s so silly that its likely to inspire a smile.

i tried researching the history of the “say cheese” and i still don’t really know how this nutty custom started. apparently, the tradition has spread across the globe. in korea, people say kimchi. in bulgaria its kele, which means cabbage. in Denmark, the words mean “say orange.”

do you say cheese when posing for a photo? if not, what do you say?

leave a comment below sharing your favorite posing photo and revealing your favorite cheese. while you are at it, visit my facebook page,

cheers, dana


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fresh start monday: jim crowder’s business portraits

jim crowder's business portrait


jim crowder's new business portrait

I recently had the pleasure of creating Jim Crowder’s new business portraits. Didn’t they come out well?

Jim felt he needed a professional portrait for his blog, web site and updated business cards. Contact me if you are thinking it might be time to update.

cheers, dana

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a walk in the woods

lace made by branches

i saw lace in the branches. and the new buds struggling to emerge.

forest-1002the greens of the new needles were lush.

trees have eyes

the trees have patient eyes and they stare intently at one another.

reach up

the trees reach up so straight.

weeping red tears

the rock was weeping red tears.

pussy willow paws

pussy willow paws getting ready to jump down and take a walk.

up to the sun

just look up to the sun.


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jerrie hurd’s photo makeover

Meet Jerrie Hurd. She is an author and photographer extraordinaire. She nominated herself for a business portrait makeover because she didn’t feel her head shot expressed her personality. After meeting Jerrie, I totally agreed. She is creative and vivacious, not dreary and serious.

jerrie hurd - before her photo makeover

Here’s what she wrote:

I am going out soon with two new book proposals. I know the agent/editor will google my name. My blogs/website will come up with the current head shot that is both out of date and not flattering. I know that, but in the push to finish the proposals, I often neglect myself. I need help.

As a fellow photographer, I completely understand Jerrie’s dread of being in front of the camera. She was worried she wouldn’t be able to relax. That didn’t last. A few laughs later, we were on our way!

jerrie hurd by dana rogers photography

Stephen, the makeover team’s hair stylist,  lightened her look with a short and sassy haircut that returned the focus to her face.

Marian, the team’s wardrobe and make-up expert, began by lightening Jerrie’s outfit. She counseled Jerrie to avoid black – which she wore in her former portrait – altogether.  Too heavy and dull. Marian selected tones that are found in Jerrie’s complexion to highlight her fabulous skin. She also used makeup to add definition to Jerrie’s eyes and selected a less harsh shade for her lips.


For my part, I wanted to bring Jerrie to life in her photos. She has a mischevious smile that I adore and wanted to capture – it makes me want to know what she has to say. Also, I wanted to reflect comfort and confidence. (In her “before” photo, it seemed like she wanted to flee the scene!)

jerrie hurd by dana rogers photography

Lastly, we included this action shot, because Jerrie is a storyteller. I think this photo captures that precisely.

What do you think of Jerrie’s photos and her new look? Contact me if you would like a business portrait makeover.

cheers, dana

For a hair consultation, contact Stephen Schaller at Salon Salon at 303.444.5353.

To learn more about personal stylist Marian Rothschild at Look Good Now,  visit

More about Jerrie:

Jerrie Hurd is the author of three novels and numerous other articles, essays, and short stories. When the writing began to feel like work, she took up fine art nude photography because it sounded fun. Also when someone asked what kind of photography, she got to say “nudes” and watch that information sink in. Jerrie is a grandmother and doesn’t fit the stereotype, if there is one, of a figurative photographer.  See her photography at Homo Sapiens Unadorned,

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jolene mckenna’s business portrait

Remember Jolene? She recently retired from IBM and has started her own consultancy to help business owners be more profitable.  This is the headshot she used at IBM.

jolene mckenna - before her photo makeover

Jolene was concerned that the image didn’t communicate the right message for her new venture. After meeting Jolene I was in complete agreement.

While she looks confident and powerful in this photo (which she is!), for clients looking to hire her, this might translate into “difficult to approach” and “tough.” The photo is also dark and cold which seemed slightly ominous. She looks a bit “plastic” and stiff in this image.

Our goal was to create an authentic image of Jolene that would communicate her confidence, but also portray her kindness and warmth.  It was time to get rid of the “suit” look to convey and “easier” style. In short, we wanted to soften her up and make it seem like she had thrown out her welcome mat.

Jolene McKenna

The team hairdresser, Stephen Schaller, softened her hair and added some color for warmth and texture. The team stylist, Marian Rothschild, chose color (!) for Jolene’s outfit and created her subtle but lively makeup. (Learn more from Marian on her blog.) These elements make her eyes really pop and allowed her personality to shine through!

Jolene McKenna by Dana Rogers Photography

For my part, I had her pose in a more relaxed fashion. Also, I used a warm backdrop to give more emphasis to her eyes. Even though her arms are crossed in the top photo, the pose conveys interest and energy. I wanted her smile to be “alive” and “real.”

Please leave a comment letting us know how we did for Jolene. Do you like her new look? Can’t wait to hear from you.

cheers, dana

If you are interested in a photo makeover, contact me at or at 303.885.7868.

For a hair consultation, contact Stephen Schaller at Salon Salon at 303.444.5353.

To learn more about personal stylist Marian Rothschild at Look Good Now,  visit

Here is a bit more about Jolene. Jolene is an efficiency expert who helps business owners turn chaos into control to achieve clarity, confidence and consistency in their business. Jolene’s systems result in giving you more time with your clients, confidence in the choices you make and achievement of the financial goals you set for yourself.

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congratulations! class of 2011




These are shots from the Spring Commencement Recognition Ceremony for the Humanities Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The gallery may be viewed here.

What a hopeful and fun occasion to be part of. Thanks everyone!

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last year’s flowers

last year's flowers

i love this instagram. i took this on a walk at dusk which made the old, shriveled flowers glow.

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instagram in the park

i always carry at least two cameras with me. lately i am so intrigued by my iphone’s  Instagram app – it allows me to create artistic effects on the spot.


north boulder park by dana rogers photography

i love the dreaminess of the images i created in north boulder park today.

what is your favorite camera? if you have an iphone, what is your favorite camera app?

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