The Quest for an Author Photo

[Note: Photo-heavy post] I didn’t realize it before, but I’m actually rather particular with how things look. This summer showed me that my tastes have become rather specific.

It started primarily with the quest for the book cover. Contemporary covers are often mix-ups of stock photography with some interesting elements tying them together. Though some covers looked really cool to me, they weren’t what I wanted for Red Jade.

Another quest this summer was helping Kevin with his game, Kono, which will probably be available in the iOS App store before the end of September. Kevin had his visions for the theme, color scheme, and so forth. He has a great eye for elegance and he showed me different variations for a second opinion. And I was surprised at how many opinions I had along the way.

081With all this, there was a third personal quest — the hunt for an author photo. I wanted something that represented me but was also professional and classy. When it comes down to it, I can be a bit of a goofball spouting puns left and right, skipping down aisles in the supermarket, or jumping on tables in school (yes, as I teach).

I knew I did not want some of the classic author poses: Looking off into the distance. Hand pensively stroking chin. Head tilted dramatically at an angle. Holding a book. Profile shot to the side. Two-dimensional backdrop of three-dimensional objects. Hair askew. Standing in front of a wall of books. A fancy beret I don’t usually wear. Sitting at a desk with an apple. Hands folded in front of me, on a table or in my lap. At a typewriter. With a desk lamp. Point at some remote, unknown object. A strained grin. Leaning dramatically against a wall.

No. I wanted it to be a head-on shot of me, with my eyes (magically) open and a laughing smile. Easy. While we were discussing it, Kevin reminded me that our friend Leanne is also a photographer! I literally slapped my forehead for blanking out on that one. Leanne and her fiancé Mark came in to save the day.

First, Leanne scouted out various venues in the area and found places that would work as scenic backdrops and match my personality. We ended up in front of a beautiful steakhouse, a colorful mural, and the gorgeous harbor. Leanne offered to do studio shots too, but I wanted real backdrops.

Mark and Steve_I was rather nervous about the whole thing. I wasn’t sure what to wear for the shoot, so I brought half a dozen other shirts with me for color options, then forgot all about them. Leanne was great. She kept talking me through the whole process, distracting me enough so I could smile more naturally. Mark helped to lighten the mood too. It was a great experience.

We took a few alternate shots, including the angled and the look-away-from-the-camera shots, but I was glad to have the options to look at later. Without seeing some of the other shots, I may have wondered about them after all.

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Leanne went through the photos in her studio and sent me the best shots and a few others for comparison. Some were great photos all in all but they weren’t what I was envisioning. In some, I had the perfect pose, but I wasn’t smiling. Oh look, my nostrils flared. Nope, my eyes are closed. Gee whiz, what an over-smile!

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Leanne caught all that too and so we set up a second day and tried some new things. Kevin joined the three of us and added to the hilarity I needed to get that laughter going. When the shoot was over and the photos came in, I knew that the author photo I wanted was among them.

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The last thing to do was to choose among the color options and ask Leanne to convert what I needed over to black and white. (I have opted to put the photo inside the book on the author page rather than the back cover.) I didn’t want the automatic conversion process to lose the detail in the photo, so I now have the black and white version ready directly. And after the whole journey, the quest was finally complete!


And as a bonus, Kevin and I ended up with this great shot.


One thought on “The Quest for an Author Photo

  1. Steve, it’s funny, but I just lost a whole hard drive worth of pictures. While I was able to reconstruct some, I have to search through tens of thousands of nameless files to find them. When I had to pick one as an author photo, one of the few available was from a company softball game. I guess it’ll work, for now. I’ll have to recreate your journey and try to get some new photos. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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