Taking a picture of myself that is worthy of a book cover is nearly impossible. The only other process that comes close to requiring perfect sync of so many variables is the miracle of conception. Yet the world is full of author photos, and agent and editor both neeeded mine yesterday. On a day when hair, weight, and attitude were momentarily aligned, I called husband and invited him to lunch at the arboretum. We took 200 pictures. Upon review, not one was a keeper. In case we were being too picky, I sent a batch to my good friend for her honest advice. She said, “Do you have any shots that look like you?”
We tried again and again, always with the same results. We took turns making a case for improbable shots where half of my face was in shadow, for instance. Under pressure, I sent a selection of the best to my agent. “Do you have any shots that look warm and inviting?” she asked.
We sought the expert skills of a fashion photographer we know, and although his pictures were museum quality, he could do only so much with the subject (me). On a photo shoot, overcome with the pressure to look warm and inviting, to be a face that sells books and still look like myself, and wondering what any of this had to do with writing, I sat on a picnic table and cried. Those are the very worst pictures of all.
Then, one evening, husband had an idea. “Let’s just think of this as practise,” he said. We took our wineglasses onto the deck and, in the waning light of a summer evening, took pictures until it grew dark. This time, we got an angle that seemed to work. The only problem was the background: two wineglasses in plain view and a blue mini-van emerging from my left temporal lobe.
Time was running out. Two more sessions and absolutely no good shots later, my editor requested a picture. ASAP. I pulled out the practise shot and turned on the photo editing tools. I cropped as close as I could to take out the wineglasses, and painted green foliage over everything that didn’t belong in an author photo. Then I braced myself and hit send.
My editor wrote, “Do you have any shots where you look less startled?”
I envy photogenic authors who do what comes naturally and get a great photo in one session. I sent her my other shots and she opted for startled.