PetaPixel

Dos and Don’ts: Writing a Photographer Bio

While there are ample resources available on portfolios, websites, leave behinds and promotional materials, there’s one important subject that I’ve found little helpful information on: the photographer’s bio.

Almost always found on a professional photographer’s site, the bio can make or break you. In a world where creatives often only have a couple of minutes to view your site, the bio can play a significant role. A biography is a glimpse into your personality and gives the reader a sense of what you might be like to work with. Creatives will often seek out the bio to help them make quick judgements. Therefore, just having great pictures isn’t enough. Many people will quickly abandon a website to jump to the next, so you have to make sure your entire site is not only engaging, but successfully portrays your personality. With bios being one way to express who YOU are, I’m always surprised at just how many dreadful ones I find. So, after reading one too many boring, exaggerated, absurd, grammatically incorrect and simply over the top biographies, I decided to come up with a few Dos and Don’ts.

Ok, let’s start with the Don’ts. These are easier to lay out, and there are certainly plenty of them (These are simply opinions. Please take all advice and examples with a grain of salt and a pinch of humor):

Don’ts

Don’t be pompous: (names have been changed to protect the innocent/pompous) “Jim Doe has left an indelible mark on the modern photography world as we know it.” Unless you’re an Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams or the like, I would try to refrain from overly self-important remarks. You don’t want to give creatives the impression that you’re some sort of prima donna who’s difficult to work with or doesn’t take direction. Also, try to avoid over the top, superfluous words, phrases, and sentences.

“I find myself becoming more and more jaded with the photographic landscape of today. 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? If so, I’m happy. I’m always looking to create timeless images; classic photographs.” Is there anyone out there whose goal is to take a predictable picture?

Don’t take yourself too seriously: Overly serious bios sometimes fall into the pompous category as well (such as my previous example). Often times, photographers aren’t saving lives. Unless you’re a Joao Silva or Eddie Adams, austere and somber isn’t super appropriate and can give off a stuffy vibe. Your goal is to attract and be hired by creatives, who aren’t typically the super serious type. Remember, this isn’t a PhD dissertation.

“Jim Doe is a leader in the planning and creation of visual media that connect people with their lives and connect their lives with the world.”

(Exceptions to the rule: wartime photojournalists)

Don’t get too lengthy: This is self-explanatory. Please, no novels… or even novellas. Be short and sweet. Leave them wanting more. I’ll spare you the long example.

Don’t be illiterate: Please try to avoid typos, bad translations, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. If you know you’re not the best writer (or aren’t writing in your native language), think about hiring a writer. Everyone should have someone look over their work, no matter what. You’re not going to impress anyone with your cringeworthy grammar or semicolon misuse. Also, please don’t use an online translator to translate your bio from one language to another.

Leonard Doe a man that after a long romance with the art gets to find in photography the muse of his own creativity His lovely grandma and an analogic camera announces a discovery, the emergence of a birth, and there his eyes understood the power that residedon them to inmortalize momentsof diary intimate stories and free In his presents days is to improveand expand his knowledges, his actual works and those will comeare expectedanxiously for this photographs the perfect return that track to enter more in the white and black world where his more comfortable muse shines… WELCOME TO THE TIME NO TIME

OK, that’s enough negativity for now. I’m sure we could all come up with more bio don’ts, but I’d rather focus on the good. There are plenty of great examples out there that I’d love to share.

Dos

Do have fun: You only have so much time to catch the eye of a creative. Showing some creatively in your bio and having fun with your writing is a great way to get attention. Below are some of my favorite “fun” examples:

  • Adam Voorhes: Not only is Adam’s bio amusing, but you can also play pong on his site! Here’s his bio:

    HI I’M ADAM I was born somewhere, and then grew up. Along the way I went to a prestigious college where I learned about important things. Like student loans. Then I lived in different cities and worked for different famous and important people. Then I ended up where I am now. And this is where I do stuff. I’ve won a bunch of important and/or impressive awards for some of that stuff. I hope to continue doing stuff for sometime now

  • Roberto Westbrook: Robert’s bio stretches over several pages and includes a fun image to go along with each blurb. Usually, I would discourage such a long text, but Robert’s quirky and charming writing style keeps you engaged and leave you wanting more. Check it out on his site. It’s worth a read!
  • Bruton Stroube Studios: On top of having well written photographer bios, each BSS staff member also has their own bio. And each includes a goofy poem. Adding a little fun poem goes along with their fun loving brand. Assistant Jake Pott’s poem: A lightweight, at least at first glance, He just fills out his ski pants. With work so high rated, To success he is fated. In the darkroom when given a chance.
  • Suggestion: Mad Lib style bio. I saw this done once where each member of the studio filled one out. So fun!

Do keep it short and sweet: Concise, informative and thoughtful bios are always appreciated. Just make sure to not err on the side of boring.

  • Ryan Ketterman

    Ryan Ketterman is an editorial and commercial photographer, specializing in people and corporate photography with a style consisting of colorful and energetic imagery. Running a client-friendly, service-oriented business he believes that great creativity often is the result of team effort and values working closely with his clients. Based in Jacksonville Beach, Florida Ryan and his team are ready to create outstanding visuals for you.

  • Bradley Spitzer

    I am a simple man who loves making photographs and spending time with my wife and son. I am fortunate to be able to spend a good amount of time on personal projects, traveling and collaborating with a team of rad people. I make my bed in Nashville, Tennessee and am a sucker for assignments where I have the opportunity to travel.

  • Grace Chon
    Grace is an animal photographer. Her bio is short and sweet while also giving you a glimpse at her personality and love for animals

    The camera is the least important element in photography.” -Julius Shulman

    Grace combines her background as an award-winning advertising agency art director with her photography, creating modern, lifestyle portraits of people and animals. Her clients include ad agencies, magazines, publishing companies, celebrities, non-profit organizations and TV shows.

    When she’s not writing about herself in the third person, Grace likes to go hiking with her dogs, meditate, and grow organic heirloom tomatoes. She makes a mean guacamole (want to challenge her to a guac-off?) and really hates Comic Sans.

    In her spare time, Grace photographs homeless dogs looking for their forever homes and donates her photography services every year to multiple dog rescue groups in Los Angeles. She lives in LA with her husband and their two beloved rescue dogs, Maeby Fünke and Zoey.

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.

  • Forest Woodward

    Raised by Woodwards and tamed by wolves, I live under the influence of a man who walked into the wild. Haunted by the allure of point breaks and powder days, steep creeks and tall peaks; i am a hunter gatherer of natural light and candid moments. with an appetite whet with a taste of the unknown and the smell of home, i wander a path paved by open minds and trusting eyes, guided by willing feet… …and a desire to bring you with me.From my early days drinking fixer in the dark room, learning zone system and processing 4×5 negatives, to recent trips photographing fashion in tokyo, surf volunteerism in peru, a moped odyssey through spain, rock climbing in patagonia, or a music festival in california, my pursuit of new experiences pushes me to continually evolve my vision, while reminding me of the importance of carrying my camera with humor, compassion and curiosity.

  • Nick Burchell

    My name is Nick Burchell. I’m an Englishman, but I live in America. By way of Canada, technically. Photography is my calling, my profession, and the thing that will undoubtedly drive me insane someday. I don’t photograph subjects. I photograph the way they make me feel. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a strange concept. But it’s honest – and it’s the best way to describe my approach to the craft. I wrestle with every image I shoot. I assume perfection is possible and I want to wring it out of every picture. If that’s all you ever know about me, it’s enough to say you know me very, very well.

Do have a photo: One of the first things I do when viewing a photographer’s website is to look for their portrait. I’m sure I’m not alone. This is one of the reasons we like to have head shots for all Wonderful Machine member photographers. It’s always nice to put a face to a name. Also, it helps if the photo actually looks like you. Ignoring the fact that there are many dos and don’ts in themselves for bio photos, I’ll just share a few I like.

  • Alvaro Leiva is a travel photographer, his photo highlights this well while also showing a bit of his personality.

  • Stephanie Diani is a celebrity photographer, something you get right away from her photo. It also shows that she’s fun loving and laid back.

  • Nick Hall has a Q&A style bio that I really like, but I also enjoy the images on his about page. They give you a good sense of Nick’s personality and his photo style.

  • Ethan Welty is an action/adventure photographer and his photo displays this quite nicely.

    © Yoav Bar-Ness

In the end, you need your bio to feel right for you. Don’t get too caught up with the rules and certainly don’t try to copy someone else’s style. Just be you, a grammatically correct and typo-free you.


About the author: Maria Luci is the Publicity Director at Wonderful Machine, a marketing engine for commercial photographers worldwide. This post was originally published here.


Image credit: pen and paper by LucasTheExperience


 
  • Anders

    Good article, well written. None of those grammatical errors or speling mistaces you wrote of. I liked how Grace, with tongue firmly lodged in her cheek, made obvious fun of writing a bio in the third-person. In my opinion this is the only way to get away with something so silly. Why-oh-why do photographers feel the need to write their bio this way? It’s about them, it’s their website, their content, but then they distance themselves by pretending someone else is writing about them. Not only is it a baseless ego trip, but it reads poorly. Unless you’re Grace, where it reads very well, and is actually amusing.

  • https://www.facebook.com/VladimirByazrov Vladimir Byazrov

    Anders said it right. I’d add that Clients should stay away from photographers who tell stories about themselves in third person, They are just totally coo-coo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.wolanski David Wolanski

    Here is the model “About Me” page for Photographers I wrote a few years back as a joke on a photography forum I’m on:

    Hi. Welcome to my about me section.
    Where do I start? I’ve had a camera since I was (fill in ridiculous age
    here). It was a (Cheap, obscure camera no one ever heard of, or Kodak
    110) that my dear (long dead relative:relationsship and name) gave me
    for my (ridiculously young, see 2 sentences ago) birthday. Photography
    has been a passion for me ever since! Since then I’ve been a (series of
    crazy jobs) but, in my heart I was always a photographer! 5 years ago, I
    graduated from (ivy league college or local state university) and got a
    wonderful job as a (high powered job) that was unsatisying at best
    until, through no fault of my own (or corporate malfeasance) I ended up
    losing that job. It was just natural for me to escape from that tragedy
    by taking up my camera once again. One thing led to another and many of
    my friends said “(cute knick name) what the heck are you doing doing
    that (high powered job) when you should be letting the world share your
    incredible vision?” My awesome spouse (fill in their name) and
    wonderful children (name them) have supported me ever since on this
    photographic adventure we call life. I look forward to capturing those
    special moments of your life and making the art that is within you come
    into view! See my galleries here: yada yada yada

  • ZD

    Is writing in the third person that looked down upon? I do admit that whenever I have done it, it feels kind of weird, but does it really mean that the person has an ego? Now I just graduated college so I’m just parroting what my professors told me, but I do agree with them to an extent. It doesn’t sound as full of oneself as opposed to writing in first person.

  • ZD

    I didn’t mean to post it so soon. Anyway, if one writes in first person, then every other word has “I this.. ” and “I that…”. It’s more evident that you are talking about yourself.

    This is a really good article by the way.

  • Charles Grainer

    My Bio:

    Family kidnapped by ninjas. Need photography gigs to pay for karate lessons.

  • Tim

    Personally, i found your first “good” example – Adam Voorhes’ bio putting me right off from the opening line:

    “HI I’M ADAM I was born somewhere, and then grew up”.

    Reading this is just a waste of time, it gives me the impression that he dosen’t really want to write a bio and is just sticking 2 fingers up at the whole thing. And he can, because he’s getting published and no doubt dosen’t really need a bio to attract his clients. But for someone reading this article it’s not exactly a positive example, especially the bit about having loads of different jobs which makes me think he got sacked. Most of his work is editorial/ still life and not people but if i read this bio on a wedding photographer’s site i’d be wondering if he’d get on alright with the guests and how many months it’d take for hit to pull his finger out and deliver my wedding photos…

  • http://twitter.com/simonbiffen Simon Biffen

    Quite right. In fact get someone else to write it for you then it won’t be half as hard! Professional copyrighters who understand your approach should be able to write something pretty neat. I went that route and then tweaked it. Admittedly I found the whole process of ‘About Me’ a bit tough but see past this and as long as you follow the lines as written in this useful post it will certainly help clients regard you in a professional way, but still get a taste of your personality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linkaao Linka Anne O

    Thanks, just encouraged me to take a look at my bio & update it a bit. Are you doing critiques now :)

  • http://twitter.com/PhotoMktngCoach Carolyn Potts

    Crafting a bio reflecting the personality of the photographer is one of the most challenging aspects of creating an effective online marketing Photopresence. I’ve ‘ghost written’ most of my clients Bios or About pages as most photographers find writing about themselves excruciatingly difficult. Most are pure image makers. Only a few are wordsmiths as well.

    You’ve captured some great Bio voice examples but not all photographers are so extroverted and witty and engaging. When a client meets a photographer in person on the first assignment “what you read, should be what you get.”
    In fact, while I usually discourage writing 3rd person bios, I’ve one introverted, obsessively-detailed, still-life, product shooter where the 3rd person voice actually makes the most sense; a warm and connected personality is NOT part of his personal brand. His personality is a cool and a bit distant but his images rock when it comes to detail! Clients should know that up front. Some clients feel it’s important to have a social connection with a product photographer and to like them; i.e., they’ll want to hang out at the shoot, have a beer together.That’s fine if that’s your brand. Others clients just want the job shot perfectly, at the best price, on a tight deadline and could care less about having a personal connection.
    I want my clients’ clients to get a sense of the photographer and the passion they have for creating their imagery. After we’re working together a few months I really get to “see and hear” who they are and want their online bio to reflect that “truth” about them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730557440 Ellis Vener

    “Unless you’re an Annie Lebowitz, Ansel Adams or the like…”

    Who is Annie Lebowitz? I’ve never heard of heard of her.
    Does she often get confused with the very famous Annie Leibovitz?

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Thanks Ellis :)

  • http://blog.dafyddowen.com/ Daf

    I disagree with the statement : “the bio can make or break you”
    IMHO – the photography makes you, the bio is just likely to maintain that or break you if you come across as an annoying idiot.

    I also am not keen on Adam’s comical one. One or two lines – maybe, but it tries for too long. What are you trying to be – a photographer or a comedian ? I’m looking for the first.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidOliveras1 David Oliveras

    Great post. Very well written. You actually helped to breath some life back into writing a bio.

  • Khaidir

    Khaidir Zakaria is an Alfisti, Takaful Agent (Shariah-compliant Financial), IT Consultant
    and family man. Running a client-friendly, service-oriented business he
    believes that great creativity often is the result of team effort and
    values working closely with his clients. Based in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

  • personality person

    You spelled judgment incorrectly!!

  • Snapdragon

    I agree to a point but actually tend to find the quirky bios a bit annoying. People seem to try to out-weird each other when all I really want to read is a concise but interesting glimpse into their world. Forest Woodward’s tamed by wolves one totally turned me off-so cheesy. I also hate that ‘Photography is my calling’ thing too, it’s so repetitive, I think it’s a taken that artists/performers/photographers do what they do because they feel drawn to it.

  • Mardra Sikora

    Thank you for this – working on a bio for a friend, this was quite helpful.

  • http://www.alborrelli.com/ Al Borrelli

    The funny thing about one of your “Don’t” quotes, the “I find myself” one, is that lots of photographers have lifted it into their bio page. I wonder how many are also image thieves… hmmmm, profile diving engaged!