Getting an author profile picture is not a new experience for me. Over the 16 years that I have been a freelance travel writer and travel blogger, providing profile portraits for bylines, websites and book covers has been an integral part of the job. I have never once been happy with the results and the mission for the perfect profile picture continues.
I accept that part of the issue may be that I simply don’t look as good as I used to but I have learned to embrace getting older. I have never been anything other than proud to be a baby boomer and to have enjoyed all the excitement, cultural and social change that has come with my formative years. We are, after all, the ‘sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll’ generation who paved the way for sexual equality and freedom of speech.
I have never been envious of millennials…except when it comes to their ability to pose.
Since the arrival of mobile phones and social media, Jack and I have watched a whole generation of travellers taking selfies all across Europe and parts of South America. Like highly advanced bots, the moment a camera lens is aimed at them they adopt their photo face, the one they keep in the drawer labelled ‘what Instagram sees’. It’s slick, rehearsed and flawless. Having spent forty minutes one Saturday night, sitting at the dining table with a camera between us, practising poses for portrait shots, each pose degenerating in direct proportion to the number of glasses of wine consumed, I gave up and resigned myself to having a rubbish author profile picture.
You would think that being married to a professional photographer would give me an edge when it came to getting the perfect author profile pic, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, although he’s a brilliant photographer, Jack is not very good at encouraging me. Instead of using hackneyed phrases such as “the camera loves you, Darling!” and “yes, yes, and again – that’s marvellous, Darling!”, I get: “you’re doing something funny with your mouth (pronounced mooth, as Jack’s Scottish)” and “too jowel-y” and “you look miserable/a bit mad.” It’s hardly conducive to loving the lens.
The professional advice
All the advice from agents, publishing houses and writing advisory bodies about getting a good author profile picture advocate thinking about the message you want to give with your portrait. If you want to be considered professional, you need to have a picture that’s commensurate with that – think about what you’re wearing, what your background should be, your facial expression.
One sunny afternoon last November we took a whole lot of shots on the back terrace and, although I really didn’t like any of them,
I picked the least bad and resigned myself to having (yet another) poor portrait photo.
A fresh perspective
I was browsing the web and came across the website of someone I met many years ago, instantly felt a bond with, and then lost contact with, as you do. She had fairly recently published a book and her author portraits were absolutely fabulous. Admittedly, she’s a very attractive woman but, that aside, her photographer had used light to stunning effect and had totally captured her subject’s personality in the most natural way.
It inspired me to jettison the professional advice, forget the practised pose, and just be myself.
I scanned the weather forecast for the promise of a sunny morning, set the alarm clock for half an hour earlier than usual and put the coffee to brew. As the sun cleared the stone pines and began to stream through the bedroom window, I threw open both windows, poured myself a steaming cup of fragrant coffee and sat in the windowsill, letting the warmth of the sun relax my body and the intensity of its rays capture the swirling, dancing steam as it rose from my coffee.
Finally, I have an author profile picture that reflects who I am, where I live, and what makes me happy.