Snapshots: On rare occasions, snapshots have their place, but they really do belong more in the family album and not representing you as a professional writer. The problem with snapshots is that we love them because they capture a moment in time that’s special to us, but the rest of the viewers (editors, other professionals, potential book buyers) don’t get that. While a snapshot may make you feel all warm and fuzzy about that moment when you stood on the windswept cliff, all they see is your hair blowing every which way and you bundled up in so many layers that you look like a polar bear.
Amateur photos: These are better than snapshots, and when done well, can be just as effective as a professional photo. Try to use good lighting (outdoor/natural light works well), a natural look and pleasant background. Here are some things to be careful of: the busy writer hard at work at her desk, where the writer literally is lost amongst the clutter (I KNOW she’s in there somewhere!). Or, the writer/illustrator standing in the garden, but doesn’t realize that the background foliage makes it look like she has antlers or Martian antennae sticking out of her head. Remind your photographer to check the background as well as you, the subject. I recently had my husband take a picture of my in front of a blackberry bush, to promote my upcoming book, BLACKBERRY BANQUET (Sylvan Dell 2008). I made sure that the background was not dominating me. I wanted to be the standout, not the berry bush.
In addition to being aware of backgrounds that consume you, know that clothes and jewelry can do the same thing. The key—keep it simple! Simple clothing ad accessories won’t swallowed you alive. Whether you’re going for a casual look, a dressy look, or some sort of attire that ties into you book, make sure that it doesn’t overpower you.
One last comment: Don't get me wrong about fun pictures that you can use to engage your audience and give them a sense of who you are (that's where snapshots come in). Your readers, especially kids, LOVE to see a bit of your personal side.
Ahh, yes! A very fond memory for me, but would I REALLY want to use this as an author photo?