Expert Advice: Writing a Photographer Bio
While tips and tricks to portfolios and websites abound, few sources offer guidance on one important subject: the photographer’s bio.
Always found on a professional photographer’s site, the bio can make or break you. In a world where creatives have only minutes to make a decision whether to hire you, the bio can play a major role. A biography provides a glimpse into your personality and gives others a sense of what you might be like to work with. Just having great pictures isn’t enough. Your site must not only be engaging, but also portray effectively how rewarding it will be to work with you.
For these reasons, we’ve come up with a few Dos and Don’ts.
Let’s start with the Don’ts. These are easier to recognize.
Don’t be pompous or take yourself too seriously. Unless you’re Duane Michals, Sally Mann or the like, refrain from overly self-important remarks. You don’t want creatives to think you’re a prima donna who’s difficult to work with or doesn’t take direction.
- Too pompous “I never want to be someone who takes predictable, boring photographs. To combat this, I ask myself after every photo: is this good enough for a gallery, a museum, a photo book?” Does anyone aim to take a predictable picture?
Don’t get too lengthy. This is self-explanatory. Please, no novels… or even novellas. Be short and sweet. Leave them wanting more. No examples necessary.
Don’t be careless. Avoid typos, bad translations, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. If you’re not the best writer (or aren’t writing in your native language), think about hiring a writer. Always have someone else read over your work, no matter what. No good impressions come from cringe-worthy grammar or semicolon misuse. Also, steer clear of online translators to rewrite your bio in another language.
- Bad Translation “Blake Doe a man that after a long romance with the art gets to find in photography the muse of his own creativity.”
OK, enough negativity. We could come up with more bio don’ts, but let’s focus now on what's good out in the world. There are plenty of great examples out there that I’d love to share.
Do have fun. To catch a prospective client’s attention, show creativity in your bio and having fun with your writing.
- Fun Kyle Dreier shares his lack of wild adventures, dedication to cheesecake, and photography career as a few important characteristics. “When my dad was in his 20s, he spent three years in Malawi (Africa) with his Yashica Mat camera. I wish I had a story like his. Me? I grew up in the kitchen, in Texas, without wildlife. On a good day I can bake a mean cheesecake. I can eat one on any day. I enjoy the particular challenges food photography presents and working with a team of stylists, assistants and art directors to make magic together. Enough about me, what’s your story?”
Do keep it short and sweet. Concise, informative and thoughtful bios are always appreciated.
- Short/Sweet 1 Joe St. Pierre states that he likes to keep things simple yet passionate and that is exactly what shows in his biography. "Hi, I'm Joe. A photographer based in Boston, MA but living in a small town south of the city smack dab in the middle of both Boston and Providence, RI. I'm self-taught with a sincere passion for all things photographic, beautiful light, fresh food, sincere people, and beautiful spaces. I love keeping things simple in life and on set as I find it always produces the best results with the least stress. No matter the size of the project I always bring the same passion and dedication to each individual job and it's my priority to make sure everyone goes home happy! Let's connect and make awesome work together."
- Short/Sweet 2 Ryan Tuttle shines a light on her lifestyle and how it is represented in the moments she captures. She also includes a link to view her travel itinerary so they can follow Ryan’s adventures. “I’m Ryan - a commercial, editorial and music photographer from Monterey, California. My work allows me to travel often and is a direct reflection of the people, stories, and places that inspire me. When I’m not doing all things photo-related, I’m probably climbing, playing drums or guitar, or designing my future tiny house (follow along on my Instagram for all the updates on that!). Here's where I'll be next.”
Do keep our interest. If you’re more of a dreamer, an imaginative biography that keeps the reader engaged might be right up your alley.
- Interesting Isaac Lane Koval: "Patient observer of the stars. Grinning wild-child of the mountain and its rivers. Adventurous spirit with camera in hand. Captures moments of wonder and serenity. Based in Portland, OR, Isaac is an advertising photographer/director with a focus in adventure, automotive, and active lifestyle."
Do have a photo. One of the first things I do when viewing a photographer’s website is to look for a picture of them. I’m sure I’m not alone. This is one of the reasons we like to have headshots for all our Wonderful Machine member photographers. It’s nice to put a face to a name. Here are a few we like.
Bio Pic 1 Mark Weinberg is a food photographer, his photo highlights this while also showing a bit of his personality.
Bio Pic 2 (Bio Gif?) The creative commercial photography duo Jordan Hollender and Diane Collins, who go by HollenderX2, introduce themselves with a GIF showing their many personalities. This is a wonderfully wacky way to exhibit the sense of humor injected in their work.
Bio Pic 3 Ethan Welty is an action/adventure photographer, and this photo says it all.
[Ethan Welty perched precariously over a stream with a camera by Yoav Bar-Ness]
In the end, your bio should feel right for you. Don’t get tripped up by the rules, but don’t try to copy someone else’s style. Just be you—a grammatically correct and typo-free you.