The author photo

One of the most enjoyable parts of publishing process so far has been the author photograph. Who doesn’t like to have a professional make them look good? We decided that, for my photo, I should look straight at the camera and not smile. There would be no leaning casually on a chair arm, looking wistfully out the window, or wearing a bikini (yes, apparently there’s one out there). I would also not be curled up in a chair, reading my own book.

The book’s designers, The International Office, took the photograph. I sat on a stool in front of a brick wall, which we thought would make an interesting but unobtrusive background. The designer–Duncan’s his name–set up the lights, camera, and computer so he could shoot straight to screen. This made it easy to review and rank the images. It’s harder than you’d think, though, to look straight at a camera and not smile:

Here are some author photos that I admire. I’ve always envied the ability to look serene in a photo. I especially like this one of Bernadette Hall (left) from The Lustre Jug, and Elizabeth Knox from her collection of essays, The Love School.

I also enjoy black and white ‘scene’ author photos, especially when the author looks as though they’re not quite sure what they’re doing there. I particularly like how Jenny Bornholdt (left, from The Rocky Shore) looks like she’s turned up for a dinner party on the wrong date. That feels like writing to me. Richard Ford’s photo, from his collection of stories, Rock Springs, looks as though his car has broken down.

Some lucky writers can get away with smiling in their author photo, without it laying on the cheese. These are two of my favourite photos from Graft by Helen Heath (left), and Playing God by Glenn Colquhoun.

And here is one that has always worried me. I’m a big fan of science writer Matt Ridley, and of his book Genome, but I’m not sure what the publishers were thinking with the cover reveal, or the pink wash:

And this is my final shot. I think it looks amazing. It’s a little bit rock star.

9 thoughts on “The author photo

  1. choosing “author photos” for books I haven’t written is one of my favourite games. I wish writing the actual books was as easy. I really like Jenny’s photo as well. Interesting DOF and vignetting on yours, looks very nice. Lorry’s picture in the Listener was hilarious. My 9 year old cousin asked me if he was a very serious person.

  2. Nice choice for the final shot, but call me crazy, I really like the two ‘outtakes’, side by side. You could be the first (?) author with two photos.

  3. I like the photo, but not as much as I like the one with Sam in the previous post (I know, not the typical author photo, but it’s a great portrait of the two of you!)

  4. The secret history of the one I’ve been using: the photographer asked me to pretend I was in the Brady Bunch credits, looking up-down-sideways in turn (it was going to be part of a magazine article including a range of teachers). Goofiest shoot ever but at least it made me laugh instead of fake-smile.

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