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Schedule a Photo Shoot

by Barbara Florio Graham


Most of us have digital cameras, but obtaining a photo of yourself isn't always easy. Snapshots taken by friends or family are fine for most purposes, but when you need a professional portrait to use on your website, in your promotional materials or for the back cover of your book, you need to hire a professional.

But that doesn't necessarily mean going to an expensive photo studio. I scheduled a photo shoot in my own home, which produced dozens of good shots of me in different poses, wearing different jewelry, with my books and with my cat.

The cat is an important element in my case. I named my company after the first Simon Teakettle, and a local reporter had just written a profile of me for a magazine. Her title was, The Cat Who Owns the Company.

She wanted a photo of me with Simon Teakettle III (whose nickname, Terzo, means third) and knowing that magazine editors like to see subjects in their home surroundings rather than in a photo studio, I decided to hire a friend who is a freelance writer/photographer.

I drew up a contract which paid her for the two-hour photo shoot itself, giving me unlimited use of the photos I liked for promotional purposes.

At the same time, I allowed her to retain ownership of these pictures. The contract specifies that not only will she receive a credit any time I use her photos, but she can also use them in her portfolio, on her website, or even use them to promote her services. If she wants to enter one of these in a contest, she's free to do so, providing she identifies the subject as Simon Teakettle Ink.

This is a win/win situation for both of us.

In order to arrange something like this yourself, you need to prepare carefully. Select a photographer whose work you admire, who will shoot with two cameras (one of Shannon's digital cameras is auto-focus and the other allows for focusing), and will bring additional equipment if he/she feels it's necessary. That might mean an auxiliary light and a reflective umbrella.

Prepare a "shot list," the poses you think would work the best, depending on how you plan to use the photos.

Make sure you look carefully at possible backgrounds. Is there a solid-colored piece of furniture against a light-colored plain wall? Take any pictures hanging on that wall down, clear out the pillows and any other decorative items that might be distracting. The less cropping the photographer has to do, the better.

I don't want my photos "doctored," so Shannon and I agreed from the beginning on no "photo-shopping." But you need to allow the photographer to make key decisions. He or she is the best judge of what type of background is best, and may even suggest certain colors or types of clothing which will look best through the lens.

This may mean you'll be asked to remove a jacket or add one, loosen a tie or eliminate a piece of jewelry. Let the professional dictate, as he or she is the one who can best visualize the finished product.

Select your clothing, jewelry, make-up and hairstyle to give the best impression. I provide many pages of advice on what to wear on camera and how to do your own make-up in my book, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity.

In general,wear a solid dark color to look slimmer (or to have your body "disappear" and your face be most prominent), and apply the kind of make-up you'd wear for an evening special event, because the camera can wash out skin tones and make you appear too pale.

It's a wise idea to both men and women to have pressed powder, a brow brush and comb handy, for last-minute adjustments. A shiny forehead or unruly brows can ruin a good shot.

Try sitting at different angles, angling your head in the opposite direction of your body, looking up into the camera. Take some photos with a full smile and others with just a slight smile.

Avoid a "serious" look, as that tends to make you frown and look tense. If you don't want to grin, just smile and then let your face relax. Think "smile" without opening your lips. That will give you a pleasant expression without a full grin.

If a pet will be in the shot with you, try to schedule the photo session when the pet will be most calm and relaxed.
Some pets may require a third person to help. You may need someone else to hold the dog's leash, or to dangle toys overhead to get the cat to look up.

I persuaded this particular writer to do a story on me based on the cat angle. Now, thanks to the photo shoot, I have a selection of other photos to offer to the next writer who decides my company deserves a cover story!

Barbara Florio Graham is an author, publishing consultant and publicity expert. Read descriptions of her books and services at