How to take an artist/author profile picture

2941471232_f26dc9813b_o This picture (on the left) is one of several I got from a professional photography studio. I was looking for cool, edgy shots to make myself look more like an artist. Unfortunately, they airbrushed my skin so much that I look like a little girl. In this article I’m going to teach you how to take a perfect self-portrait at home to use for your artist bio or author’s jacket cover.

Why you need it – and what is ‘it’?

Come’on, I know you’ve seen them. Every artist or author needs that subtle, classy, professional head shot that they can use in publications and promotional material. While your website should definitely have lots of natural, candid shots of you working, laughing and smiling with your paintings, there will be opportunities where you really just need something clean, but stylish.

A lot of professionals (think TV or movie industry) use clean, bright pictures; colorful shirt, white background, creamy flesh-toned skin. For certain kinds of artists (if you paint bright and happy landscapes) this might suit you just fine – although they are harder than they look. If you want this kind of picture, take it outside on a nice day against a white wall.

But if you want to go for the typical dark, brooding, sensitive and alarmingly charming artist profile picture, follow these steps:

1) It’s all about lighting! Take your picture at night, with a stand up lamp (the kind that you can point the lightbulbs in the direction you want. Lots of light is good – but just from one side. Turn a little less than 90 degrees in either direction so the light hits the side of your face. Hold the camera up above you, near the light. Smile – or don’t, and take LOTS of pictures. (You can choose the best ones later)

2) Editing your pictures. The secret to making a cool, magazine quality photo-portrait is to decrease the saturation. You can do this in most simple photo editors – windows 7’s photo viewer has this feature included. (Fix>Adjust color>Saturation). Decreasing the saturation to somewhere between regular and black and white gives photos a dark, artsy feel. You could also play with hue or contrast but mostly if you desaturate a little, and maybe sharpen a little, it’ll look good.

3) Unsharp Mask. If you want very dramatic pictures, you can use the ‘unsharp mask’ feature (under Filter>Sharpen>) in photoshop. Unsharp mask is different from regular contrast. In this picture – the bottom right is the only one I used unsharp mask on. As you can see, it really stands out. Don’t go too far though, having a photo that is too edited or too sharply detailed is often less appealing than a simpler, softer picture (however – if your photo is for print, I’d recommend making it a little clearer and sharper, because you’ll lose some detail in the printing process.

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