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got yourself a promotional picture. Think you own that
photo? Fat chance. Just as a writer or graphic designer owns his
creative output until he signs over the rights in writing, the
photo belongs to the photographer, and you need to pay up every
time it's printed. So be sure to ask how much the photographer
charges for the negative (i.e., copyright) if you plan to actually
have the photo published anywhere.
Oughta Be in Pictures
If you've been following all the tips in these columns for publicizing
yourself and your IP
business, someday somebody is going to ask you for a press photo.
It first happened to me three years ago, when a Chamber of Commerce
asked me to speak on small business management. Being a beginning (i.e.,
broke) IP, I ran to the closest copy shop and shelled out 10 bucks for
a passport photo. Seeing that photo in the conference schedule next
to the other speakers' professional, glossy, airbrushed, and generally
expensive photos made me cringe, but hey, I was only 10 dollars in the
Then, last year, a women's weightlifting magazine I was writing for
asked for a photo to run in their contributors' section. Not wanting
to relive the humiliation of the passport fiasco, I hauled butt over
to the mall and into one of those shops that specialize in taking glitzy
pictures of regular people. "Oh, yes, we do professional photos all
the time," breathed the woman at the counter. So I proffered my face
to the makeup wizard, let the photographer direct me into incomprehensible
contortions ("Now move your left pinkie just a millimeter to the left.
No, the other left!"), and went home to wait for the results.
The resulting photos made me look -- how shall I put this? -- like
a hooker. A high-class hooker, mind you, the kind who wears suits to
get past doormen at fancy hotels, but a hooker nonetheless. (Turns out,
the store specialized in tarting up women and sending them home with
trashy photos of themselves to revive their husbands' flagging interest.)
And I had to bear seeing my Tammy-Faye-like face in the muscle mag alongside
photos of blonde, tanned, buffed-up weightlifters.
Recently yet another magazine asked for a photo, and I decided to suck
it up and drop some real cash to get a professional press photo, which
I should have done years ago. After checking out several photogs' portfolios online, I settled on Kim
Case Photography in Boston. I asked Case to recommend a stylist
and hired Ann Marie Laurendeau, owner of Anemone
Makeup Studio in Winchester, Mass.
In between shots I grilled Case and Laurendeau for tips on how to get
a photo that makes you look like you make a living by staying on your
toes, not lying on your back. And as a bonus, I also have advice from
my sister in crime, Nancy Austin,
who already boasts a super, professional photo.
- Don't write out a check to the first photog you talk to. Ask to
see their portfolios. "Find out whether the photos you see were actually
taken by that photographer," warns Case. Some studios will assign
you a junior photographer who had nothing to do with the stunning
images you see in the portfolio.
- Keep in mind that professional press photos can cost from $100 to
$400. "Spend at least $150, or you won't get quality," says Case,
who claims to have no vested interest in this statement.
- If you can possibly afford it, spring for a professional stylist.
Ann Marie even works with men to erase undereye circles and brighten
pale complexions. If you think wearing makeup makes you a sissy, consider
this: Y'know that scene in Terminator 2 where Ahnold blows
away the bad guy? Yep -- he was wearing makeup. Lots of it. And perfume.
- Wear solid colors, says Laurendeau. Busy patterns only distract
from your lovely mug.
- Look straight into the camera. Those dreamy shots, where you're
looking contemplatively off into the distance, "are for models and
real estate agents," says Case. Why real estate agents? "They're cheesy."
- Don't go for the glam. Nancy Austin learned this the hard way.
After getting some great shots, "I soon discovered that they were
almost too good," she says. "Although the photos were completely unretouched,
women started to make catty remarks like, 'So what exactly is she
selling?' Mostly the pics were enthusiastically received, but one
time I had to sign copies of that shot for college guys. Really. A
new photo was going to be needed since this one, though everybody
loved it, was distracting."
- Cheese it with the smile -- if you're a woman, that is. You can
gripe all you want about the downfall of feminism and our patriarchal
society, but Austin has been advised by experts that for women, a
full smile is perceived as aggressive and threatening. "If you're
a businesswoman, at least have shots taken that show a slight smile,
mouth closed; and another with a more natural toothy smile," says
And now I offer myself up as a guinea pig (but hopefully a well-dressed,
professional-looking guinea pig) for the sake of all you photo-less
IPs out there. You can see the results of my photo shoot with Kim Case
in the photos below -- three out of the dozens taken. Help me decide
how 1099 readers should see me, and vote on the photo that you
think best illustrates the photo principles outlined above.
Click a thumbnail to see a larger version of the
Click a number to vote for your favorite