How NOT to take an author photo by Sarah Pekkanen
When it came time to take a photo for the jacket of my debut novel, The Opposite of Me, I figured I should do it right. Instead of having my husband snap a headshot with our cheap little camera, I hired a professional photographer. I asked her to come by one afternoon during a narrow sliver of time when I’d organized a baby-sitter for my baby and a Wii extravaganza for my older kids. I was showered (a minor triumph), mascara’d, and though I hadn’t managed to squeeze in a haircut or a trip to buy new Spanx, all things considered, I was feeling pretty triumphant about my grooming.
So there we were, me and the photographer, in my backyard, ready to take the picture that would proclaim to readers: See how friendly (but not too friendly, certainly not in a stalkerish way!) and smart (not too smart, though! No threats to you Mensa members here!) this author is? Isn’t her novel just leaping into your hands and compelling you to start reading it?
The problem was, it was hot outside. Brutally hot. And I was wearing a sweater (even I knew better than to trot out my usual summer uniform of slightly stained Old Navy t-shirts).
“Perch on this chair,” Hilary the photographer suggested.
I obligingly perched, smiled, and sweated while the camera clicked. After a few minutes, my thigh muscles complained about perching on the edge of a chair and suggested we all go inside for a little restorative chocolate treat.
“You don’t look comfortable,” she said. “Maybe a different outfit?”
I raced inside, changed, came back outside, and posed again.
“Hmm…” Hilary said. “I’m not sure that shirt is the right color for you.”
Since I know and trust Hilary – she shoots my photo for a magazine column I write – I dashed upstairs again to change. I tore through my closet, which was stuffed with shorts and t-shirts, maternity wear, and a few very outdated business suits. Where were all my clothes? My cute, trendy, flattering clothes? Did I really dress like this? The horror!
“Mom,” one of my kids whined, “can we have popcorn?”
“I’m having a photo shoot,” I said importantly. “You know, for my book.” The kid looked at me blankly.
“The Opposite of Me?” I said. “At bookstores everywhere? Didn’t Mommy teach you to say that whenever possible?”
“He bit me!” came an outraged wail.
“Stop fighting and I’ll take you to the pool in ten minutes,” I lied to my children, whose sense of time is seriously warped from scenarios just like this one.
“I’ve got to go,” the babysitter said apologetically. “I have another job to get to.”
“Let’s put the baby on a blanket outside,” I said desperately. “He can watch the photo shoot.”
“Did you powder your nose? You really should,” the photographer asked, clearly feeling this was no time for subtlety.
I powdered, brushed my hair, threw back my shoulders, and posed again.
“THARM alert!” The photographer shouted.
(A “Tharm” happens when you position your arm in such a way that it appears to be bigger than a typical arm — more like a thigh. Like the Ebola virus and men with bushy toupees, it is to be avoided at all costs).
I shifted, sweated, and posed. The baby rolled off the blanket into the grass. The older kids made popcorn themselves and doused it with a pound of butter. Was the baby rolling onto a bee? Why were the older kids being so quiet inside? And why didn’t I have cuter clothes? Wasn’t it bad enough that I drove a minivan?
It was absolutely exhausting. And you know what? The tension showed in my face. I didn’t use the photos from that shoot, after all. Instead, I found an old shot Hilary had taken of me for my magazine column. I wasn’t wearing much makeup, and I wasn’t posing. I’d just moved in close to my sweet black Lab, Bella, to give her a cuddle, and I think my happiness of being near my dog showed.
That’s the photo on the back cover of my book.
Thanks, Sarah. Babes, I read OPPOSITE last month and you’re in for a treat with this read. Grab a bottle of Middle Sister we wrote about yesterday and settle in to read this tale of fraternal twins and finding your grown up self.
BUY THE BOOK