How to Write a Photographer's Bio
It's common for photographers to have a certain ambivalence for writing. After all, photographers are visual people. However, having a professional bio is paramount for a website. When your work is accepted in calls for entries, galleries, or any other formal photography presentations, you will need a bio. Additionally, your clients want to know about you, why they should hire you, and what experience you bring to the table.
What is a Bio? (Biography)
Generally, a bio gives your audience an idea of who you are, your education, experience, and your inspiration and/or motivation for being a photographer. A bio should describe your specialties and an overall aesthetic of your work while including a list of current and previous clients. However, a bio should not be an artist statement that goes into depth about the meaning of your work and the technical details involved in your creative process.
What Voice Should I Use in a Bio?
Most formal bios are written in the third person – as if someone else is writing about you. For example, "Jane Doe is a Baltimore-based photographer specializing in lifestyle and editorial photography."
Writing in the third person provides objectivity without coming across as if you are bragging about your accolades. When writing in the third person, use your name in the first sentence followed by "he," "she," or "they" pronouns in the subsequent sentences.
It is okay to write a bio in the first person on your website, but you would want to alter it to a more formal voice when submitting it for publication, awards, or press releases. Clients may feel at ease with the informality of a bio in the first person; they may connect with you on a personal level.
For example, "I began photography my senior year of college when my father, also a photographer, gave me a Nikon FM2 for graduation. I couldn't put it down and spent days on end developing and printing in a homemade darkroom in the family basement."
Short Versus Long Bio
There will be instances in your career when you will need a short and an extended, more in-depth bio. Write the long bio first, then pull out the essential parts to create the short bio – one to three paragraphs for the short one and three or more paragraphs for the long version.
- Keep your language clear and concise, using simple language.
- Use humor if the humor can translate in writing and without explanation and if you have a sense of humor.
- Read it out loud. Hearing is different than reading, you may find problem areas in your writing when reading out loud.
- Have a trusted friend, family member, or significant other read it for context and grammar.
- Use Grammarly.com for editing (not Word Spell Check) for grammatical errors.
- Update your bio with new clients, specialties and influences periodically.
- Always include an updated bio pic on your website About page. It can create an immediate bond with clients and showcase your creativity.
First-Person Bio Examples:
Nicole Morrison (APA San Francisco member)
I prefer to talk about myself in the first person, if you don't mind. I am a food, product and lifestyle photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I create colorful, graphic images and GIFs that help brands tell their story. I like to create an aspirational version of reality that feels like a sunny day.
I attended SF State University where I found a love for telling stories through pictures in the Photojournalism department. I love graphic design, interior design, and all things food. It is important that I pet as many dogs as possible.
I am inspired by people and brands that work towards creating a more sustainable and just planet. I'm passionate about improving our food systems, paying people fairly, sourcing materials ethically, creating clean products for our plates and bodies, and reducing plastic and other harmful waste.
Please get in touch and we'll start a conversation about what you're looking for and how I can help you.
Tracy + David (APA LA members)
Photography isn't our job. It isn't our career. It's our calling.
We're not photographers because of who we are. We're who we are because of photography.
It shapes our thoughts and our feelings. It's our means of expression.
It's visual poetry, sometimes big and sweeping, sometimes detailed and in the moment.
Our cameras aren't tools. They are more like instruments meant to be played and bring concepts, thoughts, hopes and dreams to life.
We're always seeking to capture moments. The bend of an athlete's body, the dust of a runner on a trail or the triumph of a hiker reaching a mountain top.
We're a husband-and-wife team. Two passionate individuals yet working in concert together creating images, video, and content far beyond what either of us could have done on our own.
It's hard to describe what it's like being inspired everyday working with the person right next to you. But we hope it inspires other people as well.
We are both former athletes and photojournalists. Those backgrounds prepared us to work harder than we thought possible, to push ourselves to exhaustion, and then go just a little farther. The shots we get are that important to us. Because they aren't just "pictures". They represent pieces of us.
If you see enough of our work, you'll understand who we are. And when the images and video are filled with passion, why we do what we do.
We want to go places, see everything, do everything, shoot everything. And then we want to share that with everybody we can, just before we go out and shoot some more.
Third-Person Bio Examples:
Fernando Decillis (APA Atlanta member)
Fernando Decillis is an Atlanta-based photographer specializing in advertising and documentary projects.
Fernando was born in Montevideo, Uruguay to a teenage seamstress and an airport ramp agent. He spent his childhood roaming his town, Shangri La, asking local fishermen for advice and riding through Uruguay's flat country roads as one of four passengers on his dad's moped.
To escape Uruguay's military dictatorship, the Decillis family set out for the United States. At ten years old, speaking no English, Fernando attended public school in what is known today as the Dekalb International Corridor of Atlanta, or Buford Highway. His love of fútbol was his path to making friends with other immigrant children from all over the globe.
Fernando translates this skillset fluidly to photograph people from all walks of life, from world leaders to celebrities to local farmers. His award-winning photography teases a humanistic beauty out of everyday situations.
Fernando has worked on campaigns for Coca-Cola, Reebok, Wild Turkey Bourbon, and many more. His work has been featured in publications such as AdWeek, Smithsonian Magazine, CNN and Bloomberg Businessweek. In 2015 Fernando was honored by the International Photography Awards as the Advertising Photographer of the Year and won a Communication Arts Award of Excellence. He was nominated for International Photographer of the Year for the 2015 Lucie Awards. He is fluent in English and Spanish.
Elisabeth Caren (APA LA member)
Elisabeth Caren is an editorial, advertising, and fine art photographer based in Los Angeles, her hometown. Elisabeth incorporates her lifelong passion for the dramatic arts into her visual art practice, making cinematic narratives and theatrical portraits in addition to her advertising commissions. Her clients include Citibank, FOX, Google, NBC Universal, and Viacom, to name a few.
Elisabeth started her career as a unit stills photographer on set for film and television as well as entertainment reportage for the Associated Press. She is a current member of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600 as well as being a board member of American Photographic Artists (APA) LA, for which she created and produced the APA LA Women In Photography panel events.
Elisabeth earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and Film Studies magna cum laude from Boston University College of Fine Arts. Prior to photography, Elisabeth's first career was in the entertainment industry working in film development for acclaimed filmmakers Barry Sonnenfeld, David Friendly and Kathryn Bigelow. Elisabeth's ten years of experience in the entertainment industry and particularly in public relations and marketing, has given her tremendous insight into her clients' photographic needs.