Before I published this website and created a social platform, I had to accomplish the impossible: finding a decent photo of myself. After days of sifting through photos of me with fat cats, unruly nephews, and better-looking friends, I decided to call in the pros. And by pros, I mean my neighbor who has zero photography experience…but does happen to have a camera.

Ten (zillion) photos later – and after a lot of Photoshopping – I had myself a decent headshot. And I do stress the word decent. What are my standards for a decent head shot? I did quite a bit of research on the matter, and found that the pros all said much of the same (see photo on the left as a great example).

1) Your portrait should NOT, under any circumstance, include spouses, kids, friends, or pets.

2) The photo should have a quiet background (no distractions from your face/shoulders). Ask yourself what you think a real photographer would have you sit/stand in front of (note: it’s probably not the inside of your house).

3) Your head and shoulders should be the focus of the photo. There should be more of you in the photo, than of the background. Some portraits are shrunk to miniscule sizes on social sites (think: Twitter) and you need to be able to glimpse your face at any size.

4) Have someone else take your photo. Self-portraits can be obvious and reek of unprofessionalism. Ask a friend or a family member if you can’t afford a pro.

5) Decide what kind of attire is the most natural for your photo. If you are writing a children’s or YA book, dress more casually. If you are writing a business etiquette book, bust out the GQ suit.

***As a side note, revisit your Facebook photos. Are they photos you would want potential agents, publishers, and readers to see? They are people, too. And trust me, they will see you differently if you’re doing a keg stand.