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Author Headshots: An interview with a professional photographer, Madi Twede

Having your first professional headshots taken are one of the moments that bridge the gap between being a hobby writer and a professional. You need something sharp and yet expressive to put on your author platforms, website, and of course the back of your book. While it can be exciting, I also know that it can be intimidating as well. That is why I reached out to Madi Twede, a Utah photographer (and my personal photographer), to help you feel more comfortable and prepared for your next shoot. She has years of experience, so without further ado, let's get focused! ​​

Rachel Huffmire: Madi, I'm so grateful you joined me for this interview. I absolutely love my author headshots and can not recommend you enough to my colleagues. Can you give us an introduction to you and your photography?

Madi Twede: I am a natural light photographer specializing in Weddings! I'm located in Salt Lake County, UT. I bought my first camera second-hand from a local Facebook yard sale page for $200. I originally purchased it to document my little family and our adventures. I bought it from an established photographer who told me "always shoot in manual and practice a lot!". So I did! I shot almost every day. I took pictures of my husband, my birthday presents, the gingerbread houses we made for Christmas—anything I could think of! My husband started me out with a "nifty fifty" lens and my excitement for photography has only grown from there! I started shooting weddings in the Summer of 2016 and have captured weddings, family gatherings, and proposals since then, along with various portrait and commercial sessions.

RH: As authors, having our face printed in the back of a book can be exciting/scary. We all want to look our best. What should we look for when we shop around for photographers? How can we know we're picking a good one?

MT: My biggest piece of advice when it comes to choosing a photographer is to ask for examples of their work. A good photographer should have a sample gallery—or a large portfolio on their website—ready to give to any potential client that asks. A good photographer is not cheap, but it is so worth it! You can know you're picking a good photographer if they have sample portfolios, contracts, and come with great recommendations.

RH: Something I often hear authors ask is "My dad has a nice enough camera. Can I just let my family member take my headshots in the backyard?" What would you tell an author who might be thinking of going this route?

MT: As nice and easy as that sounds, I promise it is worth the money to invest in a professional photographer for headshots! You are worth investing in. Help other people see that by investing in yourself first! Professional photographers have expensive training, equipment, and a trained eye to know what will help you look your best. ​

RH: How should I decide what to wear to my photo-shoot?

MT: Remember your audience. With any headshot, it is important to remember who you want to see the headshot and what message you want it to convey. For an author headshot, it is important to remember the audience you are writing for. You should try to match this audience through your headshot. As a general rule, I suggest avoiding patterns that draw attention from your face. Avoid neon colors. Where

RH: Some authors have photographs that are very formal, while others are more casual or even comedic. How do I know which direction to go with my own?

MT: Again, remember your audience! As a natural light photographer, I do a lot of my work outdoors. But! This not what is best for everyone. Outdoor headshots usually appear more casual, relaxed, and natural. Indoor headshots in a studio is often more posed and formal. ​

RH: If I get nervous in front of a camera, what tips do you have for me? I don't want to look stiff or unnatural in my pictures.

MT: First of all, breathe! Express your concerns to your photographer so they can know what to look for during the shoot. I always suggest requesting a consultation for anyone investing in photography services. It is so important to get along with your photographer, and meet them before your shoot. It builds a connection and often times you will feel more relaxed once you've met the photographer in a friendly environment. Trust your photographer and don't be afraid to let them know that you are nervous. Let them help you.

RH: How often should I get my headshots taken?

MT: Updated pictures are always so so important. You want to be recognizable to your audience, your fans, and publishers. I suggest getting new headshots taken at a minimum of once every 3-5 years, or whenever your look has changed drastically (haircut, dyed hair, weight loss/gain, etc). It is also useful to have different headshots to use for different audiences.

RH: Once I receive my images, is it alright to edit them?

MT: Your photographer will have already given you the most technically correct images, your job is to find the picture that you think showcases your best self. Chose a picture that has your full face, shows your personality, and is cut off at the shoulders or lower. ​

RH: In order to have my picture printed in the back of my book and listed on commercial websites, do I need to sign any kind of paperwork with my photographer beforehand?

MT: Every photographer has different policies regarding publishing pictures they take. It is important to remember to discuss your goals with the images before the shoot, and get any agreements from the photographer in writing. You do not need the copyright from the photographer. Many photographers are extremely hesitant to release the copyright without heavy compensation; therefore, I suggest requesting a licensing release. Be sure you read through the release and the contract to make sure your bases are covered and both you and the photographer have an equal understanding with what the images will be used for. ​The copyright, that I mentioned above, includes the ability to edit images. According to the U.S. Copyright office, any manipulation (including editing) that is not done by permission is considered copyright infringement. In general, a photographer retains the copyright on all images that they take, unless they are hired as a contractor by a commercial company. If you need a specific crop for your headshot, let your photographer know! If you need them in black and white or color, specifically, let them know before the shoot. Most photographers will happily work with you and are eager to make sure you are pleased with your pictures. That being said, photographers usually have something in their contract that covers the creative freedom that comes with editing pictures. This means that you as a client trust them to produce the images as they see fit. That is why it is so important to find a trustworthy photographer with a large portfolio and a style you love.*these answers are based on U.S. Copyright and licensing laws and may not be applicable to other countries.

RH: Thank you so much for your time and insight, Madi! And to all of you authors, I hope this information brings you a little peace as you take that big step from hobby writer to professional writer. If you want to look up her photography, or follow her on social media you can find Madi on Facebook and Instagram, or on her website.

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