Controlling Your Image–Literally

When you start out as an author, it’s thrilling to be interviewed and have your photo in a newspaper.  That is, until you see the photo and you think, “Oh, God!  I don’t look like that, do I?”

Well, you don’t.  Far too often, authors get pressured by photographers into taking corny poses that aren’t flattering, but that the photographers think will work.  You know the ones I mean: chin held in the palm of the author’s hand, or head leaning against an extended finger.  It’s supposed to say  This is an Author.  To most people it says stiff, artificial, dumb.  And: Who sits like that?

I had to learn the hard way to resist bossy photographers.  But first I had to know what worked.  When I’m standing for a photo, I never feel relaxed; I feel the opposite: exposed.  So author photos of me standing anywhere usually come out looking stiff and artificial.

I feel much better facing a photographer if I’m sitting in a comfortable chair.  That makes my whole body relax, and I can smile–if I want to.  I don’t always feel like it, and if I smile against my will, I look fake and uneasy.

Sometimes photographers insist on taking their subjects outdoors.  Why?  Because it supposedly shows that the author isn’t just trapped by books and work.  What’s the point?  Some of my worst professional photos have been taken outside.  Under a tree.  I guess the connection might be trees = pulp = books, but in an e-book age, that seems passé.

So,  before you agree to have a photographer come to your home, do some thinking about photos first .  And don’t be afraid to say “no” to anything you don’t like. Or to postpone a shoot if you’re not feeling well, if you’re tired, or if you haven’t been sleeping and it’ll show.  And wear something that makes you look and feel good.

If worse comes to worst, you can always decline, send the magazine or newspaper a publicity photo.  If they decide not to run it, they might run the cover of your book instead.

In the end, though, it’s better to be interviewed and photographed than not.  And most people don’t notice a bad photo, or at least they mercifully won’t tell you if it’s awful.  They’ll be pleased for you about the coverage.  A recent bad photo in my local newspaper didn’t seem to register at all with the dozens of people who told me they liked the accompanying piece a lot.

After all, they know me and know that I look better than that.  Most of the time.


6 Responses

  1. Great post, Lev. I thought I was the only one who didn’t want to photographed standing, or with the wind in my hair and bugs flying around my nose, or with both!

  2. I think photographers live in a different world than we do…..

  3. I don’t care where I am, but if I’m posing, I generally look–well, posed. If I’m talking to a real person, even on the phone, odds are better. So I’m not going to use the nicely posed shot of me sitting comfortably on a bench in my new jacket, under a dogwood tree. Instead we’re in the process of cropping a candid shot of me laughing while saying good-bye to the visiting son who took it. I’m wearing an old t-shirt, and anyone who meets me will recognize me as that person. I’d hate to have to live up to someone’s idea of a glamour shot–way too late for that!

    • It’s important for authors to be like you: aware of what works and what doesn’t and how they feel most comfortable. So I assume we won’t be seeing you in a black leather jacket and frosted blond do any time soon, right? 🙂

  4. I’ll remember this should I ever have this problem. For my basic promo shots, I use my son’s extraordinary photographic talents. Nobody’s ever wanted to come to my house to interview me. Not that anyone could find my house, not even with my address and a GPS.

    • Glad it’s helpful. Probably because I started touring so early (1990), I’ve had a loot of experience with photographers, some good, some bad. Even someone who took a great photo of me once pushed to do poses I thought were terrible.

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