It can be frustrating to pick the perfect author photo or logo for your personal brand. We’ve outlined some branding principles using our SHAPED acrostic. Of course, there are tons of ways to break the rules. Here are our basics for your breaking or following pleasure. 

      Your logos and photos should be SHAPED by your personality, your goals, and your readers’ needs.

S: Simple
H: High-resolution
A: Avoid generic images
P: Professional
E: Evidence of your personality
D: Distinctive

Explained in detail after the jump.


      Make your logo or author photo crisp and clear. We’ve mentioned designing for the thumbnail before. Your logo should be visible at an icon or thumbnail level, or it should be modifiable for a smaller size (such as stylized initials instead of a full name). A beautifully intricate large photo will look confusing or unidentifiable when shrunk to icon size.



      On the opposite end of the size spectrum, you’ll need a high-quality full-size image for your website and promotional materials.

We are reasonably sure this is a human female.

Images with higher resolution will ensure your logo is crystal clear when it takes up half the screen. Not all browsers (or users) view websites the same way, so try zooming in and out to see if your images maintain their integrity. If you’re using a photo of yourself, use the best camera you can find (even if you have to borrow from a friend). If possible, try to avoid cell phone photos. Low-quality photos will look pixelated and blurry on-screen as well as in printed promotional materials.

Avoid generic images

      If you don’t want to use a photo of yourself and you’re none too good with graphic design, it can be tempting to use a writing-related stock photo. Resist that urge!

      Many authors rely on typewriters, pens, quills, and books in lieu of customized branding. While certainly cheap and fast, this can lead to confusion when multiple networked accounts use similar images. On Twitter, this can lead to a feed with nearly identical icons and easily confused accounts

      We’re not saying you should shun all writing-related imagery. Rather, find a way to make your image stand out. If you’re set on using quills, try adding your initials or changing the color scheme to make it uniquely yours. 

Though unique, pastel typewriters drawn in MS Paint are not recommended.



      Being professional should go without saying, so we’ll add this: In today’s speed-of-light social media world, it’s better to err on the side of caution. While you probably won’t use that photo from Mardi Gras as your author image, new questions pop up. Do you wear a t-shirt? Collared shirt? Suit? Blouse? Jewelry and makeup? A casual style is totally valid if that’s who you are. If you’re unsure about your desired author persona, you might want to use business-casual as your baseline.

      Regardless of your personal preference, your author photo should be well-lit with an appropriate background. This can be as easy as pointing a lamp at a painted wall and snapping your photo from arm’s length.

Pictured: Not a great author photo

      For minor photo fixes, has free online tools for basic editing. For Windows, Google’s Picasa is a free photo editing program you can install on your computer. For Apple computers, iPhoto ’11 can be purchased from the App Store for $14.99 if the program wasn’t added when you bought the computer.


Evidence of Your Personality

      Once you’ve got down the basics (crisp, simple images; clear lighting; appropriate background; unique spins on common themes; high-resolution photos), you can start pouring yourself into your author branding. If you’re going for a professional feel, you might use a monochromatic color scheme and serif font for your logo. With an author photo, you might choose fall-colored clothing, a white background, and a polished pose.

      If your style skews more casual, you might use bright colors, big block letters, and zig-zagged edges. A casual author photo might take the form of a smiling or laughing candid shot in a comfortable atmosphere.

      Casual and professional aren’t the only styles, though. A horror writer might use a black-and-white shot of a gargoyle (customized to your brand, of course). Memoirists might choose to tint their photos with sepia or play with the lighting to recreate the feel of hazy decades of memory. There are tons of options to show off your personal style while still keeping your brand memorable and professional.



      The ultimate goal is to use your author persona and branding to create an immediate, positive association in readers’ minds. If you pop up in someone’s Twitter feed or your post shows up on Facebook, you want readers to think, “Oh! I love that author! What did they post today?” not “That’s a cute photo. Who is that?” Your brand should be memorable for all the right reasons.

How did you decide on your branding? Do you agree with the SHAPED principles? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to click the Share button if you enjoyed this post!