I’m not someone who avoids cameras. Hey, I’ll even take the occasional selfie for Instagram.
But my last author headshot was over three years old, and… I don’t want to be, you know, the author who walks into an event and has everyone whispering “She looks a lot younger on her Facebook page,” and “Wow, that must be a heck of an old photo on her website!”
Keeping up to date with who I am now is important.
Still, I avoided dealing with the need to update my headshot. Why?
It’s not about getting older. In fact, I deliberately didn’t Photoshop the bits of silver glitter out of my hair.
So, when I heard “Let’s take your new headshot,” why was my gut reaction basically I can’t and I’m bad at this?
My author headshot is part of my visual identity. It’s the first thing you see when we “meet” online. So… I want to look like someone you’d want to know, right? I want to look like someone who writes what you want to read.
Potential Obstacle #1: Does my general appearance fit my visual identity as an author?
Mostly, yes. This isn’t much of an obstacle for me, given a little bit of prep time.
I don’t see my author persona wearing glasses, so I need to have my contact lenses in. I don’t wear makeup every day (I mean, to sit at my desk writing, really?), but it does make me feel more glamorous and professional if I take a minute to put on some eyeliner and mascara and tinted lip gloss before picture-time. I appreciate a chance to fix my hair out of its usual messy bun.
Lots of writers (and people in general) struggle with self-love, and I know how lucky I am not to have deep issues with my appearance — we all have ugh days, but most of the time I’m fine with myself as I am (and I recognize the truckload of privilege that’s built on). I’m also not an intensely private person, but that’s a factor for some authors.
And it’s convenient for me that my pen name and outward appearance match. I imagine the question of author profiles would be complicated for anyone who deliberately chose a gender-neutral pen name or writes as a persona that doesn’t match what shows up in a photo.
So — for me — this isn’t a reason to hesitate over getting an author headshot taken.
Potential Obstacle #2: Do I know what kind of expression I want to convey?
Smiling, or serious? Intent and passionate? Dreamily romantic? Having fun or being silly? All sexy and smouldering? Do I look at the camera, or off into the distance?
So many questions, so many choices. This aspect of getting a headshot taken overwhelms me a bit, to be honest.
Plus, what I think my face is doing doesn’t always translate to what I see in the photos. The corners of my mouth curve downward when I start a smile, leading to weird frowny faces half the time. My full smile looks goofy and shows far too much in the way of teeth and gums. I have an awful tendency to raise my chin, which looks either snotty or defiant or odd, depending on my expression.
This time, I ended up with direct eye contact and a hint of a smile. Good? I think so. I can see myself in the picture saying, “I’m going to get into some heavy stuff occasionally, but it’s really all about love and attraction.”
Making the right faces is a bit of an obstacle for me, but not an insurmountable one. Chin down, medium smile, try to look confident…
Potential Obstable #3: Can I admit to myself — and the photographer — what I want from the photo shoot?
A-ha. There it is. Admitting to anyone that I want to look polished and glamorous, maybe even a little bit sexy? Why is that hard?
My author headshot is not a humblebrag. I shouldn’t need to pretend (to myself, to the photographer, to readers) that I fell out of bed like this. But for some reason, I find it hard to step up to that and take ownership of what I want.
And it’s more than dabbing some concealer on the odd blemish and taking a minute to brush my hair. I want to sparkle in my picture. I want to channel Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. And that feels super vain and arrogant and… if anyone guesses how I’m feeling they’ll think I’m ridiculous, and… maybe I shouldn’t brush sheer glitter on my eyelids and use lip liner so my cherry cola lip gloss really pops…
There it is. That’s my problem. The critical voice saying behave yourself and be modest inside my head is my big obstacle.
So, what worked?
These magic words from my photographer: “You’re creating a persona. Go put on whatever you’d like.”
And… whatever turned out to be a ridiculous low-cut rock and roll t-shirt I found in a garage sale bin and an extreme push-up bra left over from a wedding outfit. You can’t even see it in the picture, but dressing up made me feel like a star.
T.J. Lockwood gets the credit for my author headshot — she patiently took about forty pictures to get one good one. She says: “If you have access to a really good camera, don’t waste it.” She’s a fantastic writer (and all-round creative person with an eye for photography and design), and her first novel, Violent Skies, is now available. If you’re into science fiction, you should definitely give her a like on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.