In the interest of truth in journalism, I decided it was time to update my column photo. Columnists are notorious for putting this off. I know some who are still using their eighth-grade graduation pictures. I’m not that irresponsible. My last one was my high school graduation picture.
But I have a good reason for waiting: I’m in the witness protection program. Just kidding.
It was time, so I made the appointment. Then I prepared by getting my teeth professionally whitened, scheduling a couple of visits to a tanning salon and having “a little work done.” No, I didn’t do any of that. I did schedule an appointment with my hairdresser though. And I tried to make it far enough ahead of my photo shoot so that my hair wouldn’t have that “just cut” look, but not too far ahead so that it wouldn’t have that “needs cut” look either.
Then I went to the source of advice on everything, the internet, and researched tips for having professional photos taken. There was a lot out there, but the article I found most helpful was about a New York-based portrait photographer named Peter Hurley. The author said Hurley specializes in making people look better than they do in real life. I thought that’s why God made Photoshop.
But I was open to suggestions so I read the article. For starters, very few people have symmetrical faces so Mr. Hurley says it’s important that your photographer select your best side. Good point. No one I know wants to be on my bad side.
I could see I was going to have to practice the other photo tips a lot if I wanted to appear natural. So I watched several videos where Hurley demonstrated his techniques with the help of models who, as far as I could see, had no bad sides. Then I went to my mirror.
Hurley stressed the importance of bringing the face forward to emphasize the jawline and prevent a double chin. That makes sense. I’ve never believed the camera adds 10 pounds, but I figure a double chin might add one or two.
I stood in front of my mirror practicing jutting my face forward until my neck hurt. I looked like a meerkat looking out of his hole. That didn’t seem quite right, so I adjusted and went on to the smile.
Hurley prefers a natural smile, not the cheesy grin we often get when someone tells us to smile or offers us ice cream. I came up with something somewhere between Mona Lisa’s smile and an “I’ll-take-hot-fudge-on-mine” grin.
Next came the eyes. Hurley recommends a squinch to make the subject appear more confident. Not a squint, mind you. A squint makes you look like it’s time to visit your optometrist. A squinch is slightly less, well, squinty.
Those who fear the camera tend to get a deer-in-the-headlights look which he says can make them appear less confident. And I think you’d agree deer in headlights don’t look confident at all. To be fair, I don’t think that’s their biggest concern at the moment.
It took some practice to get from deer in the headlights to squint to squinch but I finally settled on a sort of Clint-Eastwood-about-to-say-make-my-day gaze.
After an hour and a half standing in front of the mirror practicing, I put it all together: my Mona Lisa grin, my Clint Eastwood eyes and my face forward past double chin but not quite to meerkat. It wasn’t bad. I felt ready for my photo shoot and pleased I’d come across such a helpful article. Also that I was home alone.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of ’Tis the Season to Feel Inadequate; Holidays, Special Occasions and Other Times Our Celebrations Get Out of Hand and other books. Contact her at www.dorothyrosby.com/contact.