Monday, May 7, 2018

Picture This!

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.


  1. I, too, have been reading posts on different loops about headshots. The one I use is old as well, but I like it and I think I still look like that. I'm probably dreaming, but that's my story . . . .
    Sorry to hear your mom didn't get to see your sweet picture.

  2. I've had for first publication in 2000/2001 and one 10 years later 2010....About the only difference in my appearance is having bangs and whether or not I have my glasses on LOL! Great post.
    Good luck and Gods blessings

  3. Years ago I had glamour shots made that I planned on using for my PR. I think it was the same company you used. They applied makeup, fixed my hair, and had me take a variety of poses. The pictures are glamorous, but I just couldn't use them. In my eyes, the woman in the pictures wasn't me. (I rarely wear any makeup.) I finally had friend, who is a professional photographer, take some pictures. No makeup, no fancy hair style. I used that picture for 20 years until I knew age had changed my looks. I now have two pictures I use when necessary, both basically snapshots. They're not great, but they are me.

  4. Susan, if I had your beauty, I wouldn't worry about my photos. As it is, I need a photographer who is also a magician so he can give me more hair and less nose in the picture. Oh, well. I have two shots I use that are not too bad. They're a little old, but they'll have to do.

    1. Earl, what a delightful compliment to wake up to on a Monday morning. Thank you. Of course, I do realize that either you are consummate flatterer, or blind as a bat, but it still makes me feel good. Thank you.

  5. Hi,

    I should update mine, but I haven't gotten around to it. You got a lovely compliment from Earl! So don't fuss too much. Sorry about your mom.

  6. I'm lucky. My son is a photographer, and although his specialty is nature shots, he does my headshots when I need them. I try to update when I have a change. After going to conferences and not being able to recognize the keynote speakers, or other authors, I firmly believe it's important to be recognized.

  7. loved your blog! I think most of us hate pictures of ourselves. I certainly do. My husband rarely can get a good one of me, but my daughter who is more sensitive to what bothers me about my face has managed and that's what I'm using. I have to say that a "glam" shot is intriguing. But having seen how awful I looked when I got glammed up for my daughter's wedding, I'm afraid to try!