For the second time in as many weeks I've stumbled across a photo of a debut author (who shall remain nameless) with weird hair. I know that "I don't give a damn" and "I don't own a comb" hair is often fashionable (yes, Kate Moss, I reference your mop) but this isn't the usual clueless-writer-can't-figure-out-a-hairstyle look. This is contrived weird. Deliberate bizarre. Look-at-me strange.
Is this the latest trend in objectifying authors? I never got the memo.
I admit, weird hair is not as extreme as whatever compels someone to tattoo their entire head like a checkboard, or like, ah, I don't even know how to describe it. Maybe I'm too old to keep up with the younger crowd and what they like. I've certainly struggled with my own silly hair issues, so I'm not trying to stomp on anyone's hot pink My Little Pony head.
I guess what perplexes me is why would anyone want to burst onto the Publishing scene while looking like a fugitive from a Tim Burton film?
Maybe weird hair is the new gimmick. Gimmicky author photos have never seemed very dignified to me, though. Those soft-focus Glamour Shot bio photos, which are still quite popular among certain segments of the writing community, really should have been outlawed back in the eighties, along with big hair, single-strand golfball-size pearls and that red lipstick that makes chunky female authors look as if they've been eating their young. Dressing up like a character or in period costume also seems more like an activity for Halloween parties or one of those idiotic writer conference contest things. And if you're not particularly attractive, no amount of judicious lighting, makeup or lens filtering is going to make you look like Cindy Crawford; I speak from experience.
Now for some good examples of what I consider interesting yet still professional-looking author photos: Charlaine Harris, Larissa Ione, Marjorie M. Liu, Robert Ludlum, Stuart MacBride, Nathaniel Philbrick, Martin Cruz Smith, and Carrie Vaughn. Note the absence of weird hair.
Tastes differ, naturally, but to me the simple, natural, full-face or 3/4 profile headshots still seem like the best choice. Ladies, that includes minimal makeup and normal-looking hair styles (and please don't give me grief about employing the word normal. Bizarre is for rock stars. You are not a rock star.) Gentlemen, it's to your benefit to comb the hair, and unless you do the beard or goatee thing, for Pete's sake shave. Also, try one shot with a smile. The squinty-eyed unsmiling broody look many authors believe gives them an enigmatic air actually just makes them look constipated.
Finally, I was skimming through some acting sites for advice on how to take a decent professional headshot, and the same advice kept popping up: get a good night's sleep before you take your photos, put on clothing that doesn't have a trendy look (which quickly becomes dated) or busy patterns (they distract the eye), avoid wearing big/chunky jewelry, and use shades of makeup that are natural and/or flattering to your coloring. Talk to your photographer about the kind of look you want and any judicious retouching you might need (dark circles under the eyes were mentioned most often in regard to touchups.)
Beaupix Studio's Makeup Tips for Headshots
Preparing for a Head Shot -- Kevin McClellan Photography
Taking a Good Headshot By Amanda Vogel