I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Deal with the Paparazzi

Last week I smiled and posed as cameras flashed. I tried to ignore the video camera trained on me. No, I didn’t get married. I signed books with my co-author. Fun! Well, kinda. You see, I’m one of those shy writer-types. The kind who untags a lot of photos on Facebook. I don’t like getting my picture taken.

Maybe you’re thinking you can hide in your dimly lit home and avoid the cameras until you get that coveted contract. Nope. You need author photos, because you never know when that quality photo might come in handy. Look through your collection—that photo from before you lost all that baby weight. That one with Uncle Harry in the background, wearing the frog costume that didn’t cover his belly. There are lots of places you can use an author photo, and those snapshots won’t do. Business cards. Websites. Articles or interviews. Blogs. Social networking sites.

So, yes. You need photos. Good ones. Never fear. This chick who hates the camera has had four photo shoots so far. You can learn from my experiences.

What I Did Wrong:

1. Lack of planning. For two last-minute shoots, I only had a certain time that I could go. Against the advice of my photography-dabbling friend, we went. The lighting was wrong, resulting in shots with my eyes closed or with me in half-shadow, half-sunlight.

2. Too rushed. I felt stupid for the first two. Okay, for all of them, but those were the worst. I was ready to go as soon as we started, so I rushed the shoot, meaning we didn’t take nearly as many pictures as we should have to find that perfect one. Believe me, I need lots of photos.

3. Didn’t use an experienced photographer. My friend has a good camera, and she takes some great pictures. However, I need someone to tell me where to stand, how to tilt my head, where to look, what to do with my hands. If you’re not a natural, make sure your photographer can help you pose. This doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. If you can find someone who's taken classes, or who has a good eye, or--like the ones I hired later on--who is just starting a business, you can get good deals.

4. Didn’t mix it up. Before one shoot, I practiced facial expressions in the mirror. I was going for a Mona Lisa-type smile. I closed my eyes to try to remember how it felt. Thought I nailed it. (Go ahead and laugh.) During the majority of the shoot, I tried to maintain this half-smile but mostly ended up looking like I’d had a stroke.

5. Clothes choices. One outfit washed me out. Another didn’t lay right in some poses. It might be a good idea to have someone snap digital photos of you modeling outfits to see which one is most camera-friendly.

What I Did Right:

1. I knew what mood I was going for and talked it out with my photographers so they could choose the setting appropriately. It’s good to know what kind of website you want when you do this, too, as it’s easier on the website designer if he has some good photos to work with.

2. I chose photographers I clicked with. I’d known them all for a while. I admit it felt weird staring at a guy I went to high school with as he snapped photos, but he and the others knew what I was looking for and what I was comfortable with. I still felt stupid, but it helped.

3. I took a friend. The shoots with my co-author, Tracy Bowen, were the most fun. Obviously, not everyone has a co-author, but even when Tracy wasn’t in the shot, instead of making me feel even more self-conscious, she made me laugh…which helped banish that Mona Lisa-with-a-stroke smile.

4. I had different types of pictures taken. Headshots. From a distance. With a book. Looking at the camera. Fun photos, serious photos. Against a plain, non-distracting background. In a burned-out forest. This gives you and anyone designing something for you choices to best fit the space and style.

5. I wore something that made me feel at ease. (Finally!) My best and most comfortable photo shoot was the one where I wore a hat. Partly because I also had Tracy with me, but partly because in the hat, I felt much less self-conscious. Almost cute. For my book signing, I learned my lesson—I wore a hat.
Your turn! Have you had a photo shoot? What are some things you’ve done right or wrong? What are some other ideas to make it a success?

Jenness Walker

Jennifer Fromke won the copy of A Door County Christmas. Jennifer, please e-mail Roxanne at persian.sunrise@sbcglobal.net so she can get the book to you!


  1. What a terrific story. Jenness you sure know how to take a very uncomfortable situation and turn it into something comical. I'll remember to laugh when I botch my photo opps!

  2. You made this so fun, Jenness, and really good advice. Let's believe that we will all need it in days to come.

  3. Worst photo shoot ever? The one where I tried to attain a certain "look". Result: To this day, I don't like those photos. Ah, well. Favorite photo? The one where I got may caboose kiddo in my arms--and that's the one we used on the backcover of my non-fiction book.

  4. Um, so I had senior pictures taken in high school. Does that count? Best/worst thing about those photos: We did one with this beautiful grand piano in a local retirement center (yeah, kinda weird, I know)...didn't realize at the time that behind the piano was a hideous clown sculpture/figurine thingy. I could've had a Julia Roberts smile going on and nobody would've noticed because of that clown. Yeah, didn't end up ordering that print...

    Great post, Jenness...funny...and I love your photo with the hat!

  5. Jenness,

    I was laughing out loud as I read your post (and some of the comments too, Melissa!). Though I am probably a long, long way from needing a "shoot," you got me thinking about that hopeful "someday."Thanks for being the trailblazer and giving great suggestions! :)

  6. Love this post, Jenness!! I had my first professional photo shoot as a writer at the ACFW conference. Amber Zimmerman of The Clik Chick took my photos. Haven't seen them yet, but she was wonderful to work with. She talked the entire time, putting me at ease. I didn't feel posed. The shoot felt so comfortable. I wish I had made better clothing choices--something a little brighter or more fun.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your photos with the hat. So pretty.

  7. LJ, chatting with you about your shoot is what made me start thinking about this. :-) Glad yours went so well! It really helps when they're comfortable with what they're doing. Some of it rubs off then. (Alas, only a little for me. lol)
    Ladies, it's never to early to think about pictures. :-) There are always websites and blogs and awards banquet screens and one sheets and whatever else.
    M-tagg, that's hysterical. Love the clown thing.

  8. Thanks for the great suggestions, Jenness. Getting my picture taken compares to going to the dentist. For a root canal.lol

  9. JP, you always make me smile. I can picture you being so shy. You should have posed in front of your pickup truck! (Oh wait, is that like a senior photo?)

  10. I've never liked the camera, but had to face my nemesis when my publisher asked for a professional headshot.
    I anticipated the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. While the photographer took pictures, his partner engaged me in conversation, put me at ease, and even made me laugh. It would have been torture without her.
    Even so, I don't plan on repeating the experience unless absolutely necessary!