What makes a good head shot?

Before I launched my Facebook page for Socialexis, I sent the link to my sister and my best friend, asking them to look it over. Both came back with the same criticism: I needed a more professional photo.

I knew they were right. Not only did I need one to promote my new business, I also needed a professional head shot for this blog and hopefully, at some point, to promote my book.

Andrea of Servidone Studios sets up a backdrop.

But I hate getting my head shot taken. I never like how they come out! People often tell me I’m photogenic, but apparently that doesn’t apply to posed photos, because I find something wrong with every one: my smile looks fake, my arms look fat, my hair looks greasy. I thought about using my photo from my days as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, but it was several years old and, let’s face it, I never loved it anyhow.

So I called a photographer friend, Andrea of Servidone Studios, who was nice enough to truck her equipment, including a large white backdrop, to my house. While she took what seemed like hundreds of shots, she gave me some tips on how to take a good head shot.

Andrea’s tips:

Wear a brightly colored shirt. White doesn’t do well with a flash, and it can wash you out if you’ve got light skin. Black causes problems too; it is slimming, but doesn’t show up well on camera. You’ll see below that I followed Andrea’s advice and wore a bright blue shirt. Red or green or any other bright color works, too.

Avoid patterns. A solid shirt is best, rather than one with a busy pattern. “It’s about you,” Andrea said. Don’t let your shirt steal the show.

Ladies, pick a v-neck or cardigan. Unless you work in finance, collared shorts can look stuffy. Wear a shirt that shows some neck. But only a little bit of neck! Modest is good, too.

Don’t sit facing the camera. Instead, sit with your body to one side. Leave your feet planted and turn your upper body and head to face the camera.

Tilt your chin down. And look up at the camera. This feels kind of awkward, but it works well for the photo. And that’s what we really care about, right?

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My book tour: via blog?

Traveling across the country to promote my book will be expensive, time-consuming and tiring. But thanks to the Internet, I’ve got another option for self-promotion: virtual marketing.

This month and next, I’m participating in a free online class where I’ll learn how to promote my book via a blog tour.

Once again, I’m a little ahead of myself. Yes, I remember that I still have to write the book. Yes, I realize I need to convince an agent to represent me. And yes, I am fully aware that in order to launch a book blog tour, my book has to actually be published.

But my attention span for writing is pathetically short, and this gives me another excuse to take a break to do something productive. It’s a skill I’ll need to promote my book in the future, so why not learn it now?

What is a book blog tour? It’s a schedule of virtual stops at blogs that are willing to host me, ones that cater to readers who might be interested in my book. A stop at a travel blog, for example, might include a Q&A with me about traveling alone. At a book-review site, the blogger might give her opinion about my book and then let readers ask me questions. A blog for writers could host me for a chat about the process of pulling together a plot.

The idea is to get as much exposure as possibly via blogs, as well as having a successful blog myself. This is just one aspect of online promotion, which also includes social networking tools like Twitter and a personal Web site like the one I recently launched.

Of course, I’ll share what I learn with you here at Aspiring Author.