When I discovered I had to produce an ‘author photograph’ for publishing on Amazon, I have to admit I panicked a little. The reason being that, apart from obligatory passport photographs (which are generally quite unflattering anyway), I have studiously avoided being photographed for many years. I tend to pull stupid faces in photographs and end up looking utterly ridiculous, so I always decline when friends offer to take a pic of me on holidays or outings. The odd sneaky shot is snapped of me, but I always demand they are instantly deleted when shown confirmation of my pathetic face pulling antics.
I thought perhaps booking a ‘professional’ portrait photographer might make me work harder at looking normal (without the weird faces) but it was disastrous. First of all my eyes had developed a case of conjunctivitis a week before the shoot. Often when my eyes are subjected to an overheated airless environment, they start to water and the next day I might have mild (or even severe) conjunctivitis – especially if I have also have a cold. Which I did.
I’d showered and washed my hair that morning, after doing some mundane housework, and let it dry to its natural curly state. I considered cancelling the shoot as when I checked my eyes they were still a little bloodshot, but then decided I just wanted to get this out of the way and if he stood far enough away from me taking the shots, they wouldn’t be that noticeable. (Ha! How little I know about photography!) I then went shopping and to the post office. Because my hair was still a little damp when I went out I donned a hat, wrapped myself up well in a jacket and scarf. I hadn’t long returned home when he arrived a little early which flustered me a little as I was sure there were things I really should be doing to prepare (and there was).
The photographer was one of those who operate using a mobile studio. In he came with his backdrop and what seemed like six millions cases. The double doors between the living and dining-room were closed off and the backdrop set up there. All the other equipment was placed in front of the only other door out of the dining room, trapping us in there. Of course I instantly wanted to go to the loo – but decided to hold on. He started snapping shots with me working hard at remaining sensible faced (not entirely successful). Three quarters of the way through I realised I hadn’t brushed my hair when he showed me some ghastly examples of the pics. And of course there were a bunch of unusable face pulling ones that had to be deleted. And the worst thing was they were close ups that honed in on my still recovering eyes! I looked like I had a severe cold or a hangover! I was shocked when I saw the pics and said to the photographer, ‘That’s not me. I don’t look like that! Do I?’ He sensibly remained quiet. There was something quite strange about the pictures. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just put it down to the ‘bad hair’ look and dodgy eyes.
I managed to climb over the equipment and raced upstairs for a quick brush, but the hair was too far gone. It drooped without life from being flattened by the hat (which I foolishly hadn’t thought about). Abandoning any thoughts of improvement, I returned to the dining room and allowed him to take a few more pics. There wasn’t one shot that I liked and I made him delete the majority of them. He left with the promise of improving the remaining shots for me.
It wasn’t until he returned with the pictures and put them on my memory stick to view on the computer that I realised why I looked weird. I was wearing the wrong glasses. I had my ‘bedroom’ glasses on. Which are more than ten years old and were only ever a spare pair (you know from those opticians where if you buy one pair – you get the second pair free – within a limited choice of largely unflattering frames).
I keep a pair of glasses in my bedroom in case I want to check my weight after a ‘treat’ day. I allow myself three ‘treat’ days a week, where I can eat things like cake, ice-cream, chocolate or a fry up, pies etc. The rest of the week I consume healthier food. I don’t have all of those things on a treat day, but I might have one or two. It had been a treat day the day before and I had checked my weight after my shower and must have accidentally left the glasses on as I was going out shortly after.
I’m short sighted, and even though I’m not very tall, I can’t read the digital scales without glasses. I usually put on my ‘normal’ glasses (which I always leave in the living room as I need them for watching tele) when I go out in case I need to read anything from a distance (like the number of an approaching bus) – or if I’m driving. If I am working at home, I might not wear my glasses all day as I don’t require them for computer work, reading, eating or any close work (I should really wear them for housework as some days after finishing the vacuuming and packing the cleaner away I will later discover, after putting my glasses on, that I’ve missed something). I’d driven to the supermarket that day and walked to the Post Office – wearing the ‘wrong’ glasses. I’ve done it before and it’s not an issue – but for the photographs it was.
It was depressing to consider that I resembled the photographs and the photographer assured me I did (thank you). When I’m looking in the mirror, nine times out of ten, I’m not wearing my glasses (when I’m brushing my teeth in the bathroom, or smoothing some moisturiser on my face in my bedroom). It gives me allusion of looking younger and wrinkle free (as I can’t see them), especially if the bedroom mirror needs a dusting.
So what do I do with these pictures? I printed a couple out hoping that they might not look so bad off the computer screen. Sadly they do. I thought I might give one to my son. I don’t think there’s been any photos of me since he was young. I’m a little reluctant to use them as my ‘author pic’. I’ve looked at hundreds of ‘author pics’ on agents sites in the past year and I’ve seen many pics of authors in books I read. I’ve never seen a ‘bad’ one like mine. Not one. I’m not sure there’s time before publishing my first book for me have new pictures taken where I am more organised. I might just use a recent(ish) passport picture. Or use a very old picture. Is that cheating?