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Tips on Posing for Pictures When You’re a Writer, Not a Model

Surely everyone who writes has had images of their perfect dust jacket photo: a candid shot, perhaps, showing a face that is artlessly come-hither, effortlessly intelligent and profound.  With ocean or Irish mist or some other nature-y thing in the background.  An ego reward off in the distance for finishing the damn book.

And yet some of these same people are the ones who are quick to say, "I hate having my picture taken."

I am not one of those retiring individuals. Even so, I am capable of feeling silly and stupid and dead-faced after the third or fourth click. This afternoon, a Raleigh News & Observer photographer dropped by my office to shoot a picture of me to accompany an essay of mine for the paper's new magazine Walter.   I expected a five-minute snap; turned out to be a portrait session of over an hour. 

My job was a lot easier than his. He, Robert Willett, made it fairly simple for me.  Sit and grin.  Turn this way and that way. Now a little bit pensive. And all the time he was chatting, telling me how terrific I was looking.  I wound up feeling pretty terrific, however the pictures come out.

After the fact, I decided to check around and find out what advice I could for photo subjects who are not getting this kind of help from the photographer or who truly don't like strutting their stuff.

Here's some of the most entertaining:

 From ivillage in the UK:  Relax. No "artificial posing and pouting."  Talk. "Strike a natural pose."  Don't clench your fists or your hands will look gnarled.  Avoid bright lighting and midday sun.  Try lots of little body adjustments.  Lower your expectations; remember that models pose a whole day to get a good shot.  Wear something fabulous.  Wear heels.  Leave the baggy clothes at home.


And a description from photographer Neil Mackenzie Matthews of "The red carpet pose…Turn the body to one side. Position hips 45 degrees to the camera, point the front foot forwards to 12 o'clock, and keep the back foot at three o'clock.

Put the weight through your back leg, bend the front leg slightly at the knee and bring your shoulders round to the front (keeping everything else in position). This helps accentuate the waist and make hips look slimmer. Place one or both hands on hips, or in pockets, to add shape."


When sitting, put the legs a bit to the side. "Facing straight to camera can make the bum and thighs look big…" 

Now relax and smile. 



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  • May 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm Reply

    Robert is a wonderful photographer. He once took a photo of me and a very good  friend for the paper and made us look terrific. I'm sure he will do you justice and maybe more!

    • May 8, 2013 at 10:36 am Reply

      Is the picture findable online, Kenju? I’d love to see it.

  • robertjulianbraxton
    May 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm Reply

    The artist character Andie I think of — wearing something. Humorous instructions sound sort of gender-specific – I don't think I need my hips or bum to look any smaller – perhaps my whole abdomen. Don't envy a time of "sitting" for photo shoot. Is the new magazine available on-line?

  • May 8, 2013 at 4:01 am Reply

    LOL. I could have used this advice recently…well most of it. So far I have no need for the red carpet pose. 

    • May 8, 2013 at 10:33 am Reply

      I still have time to work on that one myself, Jan. Glad to hear you’re dealing with photographers; I hope it’s for your book.

  • May 8, 2013 at 8:08 am Reply

    I know you looked beautiful!

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