by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
There's been a great deal of chatter on some of my writers' groups lately about headshots and how often they should be replaced. Opinions vary widely, going from every time you change your hair style/color, to when it no longer looks like you.
I'm firmly in the latter camp. Considering I have been known to have my hair the color-of-the-week and (if I'm wearing a wig or hairpiece that day) go from long to short to mid-range with dizzying speed, as long as the face resembles mine I'm fine. Otherwise I would go both broke and crazy trying to keep up with photos of all my varied looks.
The fact that the picture looks like me is in itself a small miracle. While I admit I'm no beauty, children and dogs don't run screaming at my appearance. At least, not most of the time. I do, however, have the kind of face that does not take good photographs. My face is round, chubby and either paper-pale or blazing red, depending on the momentary state of my blood pressure. In most of my photographs I look like a gigantic sugar cookie with an idiotic grin - which might be why I took up photography years ago. If one is taking the photo, one cannot be in it!
When I came back to writing seriously after a ten-year hiatus - long story - I knew I had to have a good headshot, which meant needing a photographer who was at least part magician. Knowing I needed all the help I could get, I went to Glamour Shots at NorthPark Mall (are they even still in business?) which gives you an idea of how long ago this was. I booked a standard package and luckily had a late-ish afternoon appointment. Luckily, because I became a challenge to this place, which prided itself on delivering a good shot.
One hairstylist, two make-up artists, three photographers and three and a half hours later (most shoots ran no more than thirty to forty-five minutes) I finally had a decent likeness. In spite of all the challenges (problems?) of the shoot they charged me only the standard sitting fee, but of course I had to add extras - two additional 8x10s, both different, as presents for my mother and brand-new husband, and (what really drove up the price) I wanted to buy all rights to the shot I wanted as I was going to use it professionally. They did sell me the rights to that shot, but it was expensive! However, I guess the price has amortized out over the years I have used it. People still recognize me from it, so I am going to continue using it for a while longer at least.
During the interim years I have done at least two other shoots, both ending with images that either didn't look a thing like me or looked so much like me at my worst that, refusing to use them, I condemned them to pixel-heaven. According to impartial judges, the old shot still looks more like me than any of the newer attempts. So, like the man who came to dinner it just keeps hanging around.
The truly sad part of this tale is that my mother died unexpectedly just a few days after this shoot. She never saw the picture I had made especially for her.