Why Professional Headshots

cindy huff 2016If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve noticed I’ve changed my profile picture. I also posted two photos for my friends to help me choose which will go on the back of my novel. Headshots are essential if you take your writing seriously. It identifies you to future readers. So, it needs to be excellent quality. Whether you are traditionally or self-published, you need a professional headshot. Even if you haven’t gotten one item in print yet. Why would I need a photo if no one knows I write? To ask is to answer.

Business cards

You need it for your business cards so publishers, editors, agents and fellow writers can more easily connect. We all remember faces before we remember names. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, you will need business cards for conferences. But don’t wait until the last minute to get them. That might mean no photo which is not a good idea.cindy 2016

Publication pics

You need headshots for publications who want the photos of their authors with the article. Even e-zines request headshots. Selfies are tacky and scream amateur. It is better to send no photo than a selfie.  The photo embeds in people’s brains. They may be attracted to your book because your photo looks familiar. Torry Martin has funny photos. Comedians can get away with a bit of silliness. If comedy is your brand of writing, by all means, have a silly photo. Even that needs a professional hand to make it shine.


Your professional pose will appear on all your social media. Make sure it’s your best. Skip the “model” poses. You know what I mean. My six-year-old granddaughter strikes those poses the minute grandpa gets out his camera.

I once receive a business card from an up and coming writer with an odd photo. She was leaning sideways and her hair drooping in that direction. Her head at an awkward angle. Someone else noticed the photo while I was flipping through the business cards I’d received at the conference. They asked if the person was mentally challenged. So sad. Her latest photo is top-notch and speaks confident writer.

Update your photo

Over the course of my writing career, I have had five photos. The first one appeared in a column I wrote for the newspaper. I couldn’t find a copy to post here. That was back in the 90s before we had digital cameras.  It was face forward from the neck upward. Not very flattering if I recall. But face forward for a thumbnail picture is probably the best pose. The paper’s photographer took the picture and the paper chose the pose. Probably why I didn’t care for it.


First photo taken by Hubby


Years later I needed a photo for an article. Here is the one my hubby took. He takes great landscapes and tries to make sure the lighting is good when he photographs family members. This was taken with a simple digital camera. Not bad and I could crop it as a headshot pretty easily. It appeared on my Facebook page when I first got an account. Not professional but at least I’m dressed up an smiling.



Second semi-pro photo

The second picture was taken by a young lady just getting into photography. Like the first—no touch ups and easy to crop. This replaced my FB picture and was the first pose on my blog. (If anyone knows how to delete old profile pictures permanently so they don’t reappear when I post my blog or Goodreads reviews on social media, message me.)

Small head shot of Cindy Huff

Cropped professional shot


My third headshot was done by a pro. He canceled his day of appointments and forgot to tell me. So, when I called and said I was waiting at his studio, he came and took them anyway. The happy ending is he gave all the proofs to me for free for the inconvenience he caused. There was no touch up here either.

My most recent headshots are below. These are my two favorites from my professional photo shoot. These have been touched up.


I have all the rights. This is important. I can make a zillion copies, place them on anything I want. They are mine and not the photographers. These photos will be used for whatever advertising my marketing people will deem prudent.  Retail store photographer or those studios who focus on graduations, family photos come with watermarks. Legally I can’t make copies. Have you ever tried printing copies of your kid’s senior picture and found it less than satisfactory? Walmart and the like won’t reprint photos that are watermarked. Legal issues again.


These photographers want you to come back to them for copies. Copy sales are part of the meat and potatoes of their business. And there is nothing wrong with that. But for my purposes, the cost of purchasing additional pictures or working with their copyright license doesn’t work for me.

All Rights

I paid for my photo shoot, two photos, and touch-up from a very reputable photographer. He was so fun to work with. He tried a variety of poses and took several snaps to be sure he got the best picture possible. (Side note: Be sure to check references before taking the time and paying for the photo shoot.  And get quotes from more than one photographer.) He made sure the pixelation was suitable for any enlarging or reducing.  I can crop it to any size I want. I want to keep clear of violating any copyright issues, even by accident.

My photos span about 12 years, and I imagine I will be doing a few more updates before my career is over.

Headshot part of brand

DiAnn Mills mentioned in a conference class on social media that our headshot is part of our brand. She’s always wearing a turtleneck in her poses. I am not sure what my brand is. Notice in each photo I am wearing a different color. But, all of them are flattering. Flattering is always good. Some authors create a persona for their headshot. If they write westerns—a cowboy hat.  And as I mentioned silly poses for comedians. Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes Highland fiction so her back cover pose reflects that. Until I can wrap my head around the nuances of branding, I’ll probably stick with a professional pose with (hopefully) a confident smile.


DiAnn Mills shrunk (1)

DiAnn Mills



Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor


Do you have any tips about headshots or a fun story about your photo? Share it in the comments. I am confident there are things I have yet to learn about it.



Learning How Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor Creates Her Historicals

My special guest today is Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor. Her Highland Series captivated me as I found myself experiencing the story with her characters. Below is her biography right from her website.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, won the 2011 Holt Medallion award for Best First Book. Jennifer’s work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publicist. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.

I am so pleased to be able to interview Jennifer and find out how she created such wonderful characters.

Jennifer after reading Highland Blessings and Highland Sanctuary, I was so intrigued by the details in your stories. Explain your research process to my readers.

I don’t really have a process; I just love to read about Scotland’s history and try to imagine my ancestors and what they might have been like.

Where did you find historically accurate information about 15th century Scotland?

Three of my favorite resources include: Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia, Carolina Scots, and The Scotch Irish: A Social History. For Highland Sanctuary, I spent a great deal of time browsing Caithness.org. They have some great information and images of Scottish Castles that used to exist, as well as aerial views of where castles used to exist. They also have some great images and descriptions of the terrain, the weather in all seasons, the kind of plants, flowers, trees, and peat moss in the area. I did lots of Google searches on religion in Scotland during the medieval period and into the Renaissance period, especially on witch hunts and executions.

While I have plenty of knowledge on Epilepsy since my daughter has grand mal seizures, I did plenty of reading on the history of Epilepsy, including a study art that had captured Epilepsy during ancient times. I discovered they called it the Falling Sickness or Falling Disease. Of course, many people believed that people with seizures were demon possessed.

Why the Scottish Highlands? And why the 1400s?

This is a great question. Originally, I planned for Highland Blessings to be set in the late 1300’s, but when I began looking up words that were actually in existence, none of the words I wanted to use were available. By switching the story to 100 years later in the late 1400’s, a whole new vocabulary became available to me. Even in 1477, I was very limited. For example, in Highland Sanctuary I wanted to refer to the village as the Village of Misfits, but the word misfit did not exist in 1477. The word outcast did exist so I had to substitute it.

As for why the Scottish Highlands? All I can say is that Scotland has always fascinated me. Growing up, whenever I read an historical romance novel, the ones set in Scotland appealed to me like no other. I love the Scottish brogue, the clan systems, the castles, and how they continued to fight for their freedom against all odds. Even when England thought they had conquered Scotland, they could never break the spirit of the people, not even after the Jacobite War.

The Scottish clan system reminds me of my family, and yes, we have plenty of Scots blood running through our veins, including the fair skin, red hair, blue and green eyes—and the temper. Unlike some of my family, I have the brown hair and brown eyes, which we believe came from my Cherokee gg-grandmother. My family names were MacGregor, Frazier, and Galloway. My husband’s family names were Grant, Henderson, and Campbell. I suppose that means my daughter has more Scottish blood than either of us. The MacGregors and Campbells have a long history of being at odds, and I use this basis in my upcoming 3-book series, The MacGregor Quest.

Most of my reading regarding this time period showed a people forbidden to read scripture and what the religious leaders told them were steeped in error. Did you take literary license in painting your characters as ones who knew the scriptures?

Well, in Highland Blessings the MacKenzies had a vicar who had been exposed to the Latin Bible since it was the only one available to most people at the time. The MacPhearsons were not as blessed, so Bryce MacPhearson was at a disadvantage. Akira MacKenzie was able to use her spiritual knowledge and faith to influence him. In Highland Sanctuary, Serena Boyd’s mother was from a wealthy family with aristocratic blood that would have had access to a Latin Bible. She had a lot of knowledge that she imparted to her daughter. Most people relied on the churches to teach them biblical scripture and concepts.

How did you come up with the names of your characters? Is there a significant meaning in each one?

I use the Character Naming Source book for lots of my character names. I make sure they are culturally appropriate to the country they are from, such as Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Celtic and/or Gaelic. Some of the names I use do have special meaning. I don’t get around to updating it as often as I would like, but I have a Carolina Scots-Irish Blog. (http://carolinascots-irish.blogspot.com)

Highland Blessings

Akira – Anchor (Scottish) She is anchored in her faith.

Bryce – Swift (Celtic) He is definitely swift when he fights. He’s a warrior.

Sim – Heard (Scottish) He is deaf and mute, but sees and knows more than they realize.

Elliot – Old Welshman (Scottish)

Evan – Right-Handed (Scottish)

Highland Sanctuary

Serena – Serene (Spanish) She is named for her Spanish grandmother. Since I based her seizures on my daughter’s seizures, I wanted her name to resemble my daughter, Celina, but not be the same. Serena’s character is very serene considering how she must live due to her circumstances.

Gavin – White Hawk (Scottish) A wise leader.

Leith – Wide River (Scottish) He is young, impulsive and everywhere. Likes to travel.

Gunna – White (Scottish)

Evelina – Light and gives life (Celtic) She definitely gives life.

I appreciate the realistic scenarios you portray. Christians in different clans hating one another, people with disabilities being ostracized and arranged marriages. How did you decide what trials your characters would go through?

Some people believe that once they finally give up their ways and come to Christ that everything in their lives will automatically fall into place and be perfect. After all, Jesus wipes away our sin and forgives us, but there is so much more to it. It’s the beginning of a new life. Living for Christ is a journey and we will be put through trials and tribulations that test us just like Jesus went through. My characters must be people with faults and real issues in order for readers to connect with them. People don’t want to read about perfect little Christians, because none of us are perfect.

What is the take-away value you want your readers to grasp when they have finished their adventure in the Highlands?

I want people to know that it’s okay to be different and imperfect. God will love us and accept us as we are. This doesn’t mean that God won’t try to change us, because He will. When the time is right, He will help us view ourselves and others more positively, to deliver us from bad habits, and He will give us the desire to live better. Sometimes these changes are instant, and sometimes they are in stages throughout our lives. We are all different, and our relationship with Him will be our own.

Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to give us insights into your research and writing practices.    

Before you go tell me what new adventures do your readers have to look forward to?

I have a new book that just released in January 2013, Path of Freedom set in 1858. When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple. With only her mother’s quilt as a secret guide, the foursome follows the stitches through unknown treachery. As they begin their perilous journey, they hope and pray that their path is one of promise where love sustains them, courage builds faith, and forgiveness leads to freedom.

Also, in September 2013, the first book of The MacGregor Quest will release. It is tentatively entitled, The Forbidden Conquest set in 1760. It’s the story of a highlander seeking revenge, but when the bargaining price becomes too great of a moral sacrifice, he must find a way to reverse his deeds and save the woman he loves.

Thank you again for your time, Jennifer. I look forward to reading both of these.



Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Jennifer Hudson Taylor's newest book.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor’s newest book.