How can I take a great author picture for my website or book cover using my phone?
We’ll start off by stating the obvious; where possible, have a professional photographer take your official author pics. But you obviously don’t want to hear that, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You want some DIY advice. Here it is:
1. Get your lighting right
This is the most important rule about photography. Photography, after all, is all about lighting. No light, no photos. Where possible use natural light, mid-morning or late afternoon light on a clear day works best. If you’re indoors, get as close to a window or open door as possible.
2. Declutter your background
If this is your official author photo, it’s about you, not about your cat, or the books on your shelf. We want a plain background; a clear wall or a piece of cloth with no patterns are good examples.
3. Stabilize the phone
Don’t hold the phone yourself. Camera shake is the reason why many would-be great photos end up just-ok or totally blurry. Unless you’re going for certain effects, the less movement, the better the chances of a great photo. If you can get a simple tripod or phone stand, it makes a world of difference. You can also improvise a stand, by propping your phone up with some books or jars. If you have someone else taking the photo for you, it’s so much better to have them set the timer on the 2-second camera so that they press the button and then the photo gets taken shortly afterwards. This gives them time to stabilize their hands, as pressing the button is the reason for a lot of camera instability during photos.
4. Take lots of photos; as in lots and lots of them
Professional photographers take hundreds of photos and will use one or two from the shoot, maybe a few more. The general idea is that you are looking for as close to the perfect moment as possible. This is when the lighting, the pose and the composition all come together to create that winning photo. It rarely happens with the first attempt. Sometimes, even taking photos on a number of different days makes a difference because sometimes your face is just not vibing with the camera; maybe lack of sleep? maybe too much wine the night before?
5. Use portrait mode, if you have it
If you have this setting on your phone, use it. Portrait mode helps give the impression of a processionally taken photograph by blurring out the background and focussing just on your face. Another way to achieve this blurred background effect is to be as far from any walls or objects that are behind you as possible. Don’t stand smack bang against a tree or wall. Make space. The more the better.
6. Use a high resolution
Make sure your phone camera is set to the highest resolution possible. And then when you are sending your photo to the cover designer or web developer, send them the original resolution.