Stacy Scranton-Morgan is a popular photographer, and I’ve run into her at several different conventions. She’s not only great at taking pictures of the panelists and speakers, but also takes wonderful behind-the-scenes pictures of moments that wouldn’t otherwise be captured. Stacy also takes headshots, which is a necessity for every author. I tracked her down and asked for a little advice on how to take a decent author’s photo.
Mercedes M. Yardley: Hi, Stacy! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. As authors, we’re used to using words and phrases to convey nuances and emotions. As a photographer, you do things visually. It’s a completely different world.
Take the subject of author’s photos. They can be quite daunting to a writer. Suddenly one photo is going to basically encapsulate us as a person. They’ll be used online, on the backs of our books, and as promotional tools. The experience of taking an author’s photo can be terribly awkward. This is where your expertise comes in.
Is it possible to take a good photo if the author is extremely nervous? What would you suggest is the best way to calm down?
Stacy Scranton-Morgan: The first part of the question reminds me of the episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler were having their engagement portraits taken. Chandler was so nervous that he just could not get a good picture. So I would say there are those extreme cases. Most people, especially ones that are not used to having their photographs taken, do get nervous in front of the camera. The best thing you can do is try to relax and have fun with it. Take a few deep breaths. When I’m photographing people, I try to have fun with them. I like to joke around and get them laughing a little bit. By being a little goofy, it usually helps to loosen up my subject. Just remember, you have the easy job. You just have to sit there and be yourself.
MMY: Many authors, especially genre authors, want to portray a specific type of mood. Joyful, happy, quirky, mysterious. How would you suggest getting this mood across? Is it on the part of the author (look intelligent, darling!) or on the part of the photographer? (I have the perfect lighting for this!)
SSM: The important part of this scenario is to make sure you communicate with the photographer, especially if there is a specific mood you want to convey. There are going to be several things that go into conveying that mood successfully. The first would be expression. If you are trying to convey a mysterious mood, then having a cheesy smile probably won’t help with that. The rest will be up to the photographer. This would be done with the correct background, lighting, and in the processing of the image, for example color vs. black and white, or another tone.
MMY: What are some of the most common questions that you receive? Like “What do I do with my hands?” And perhaps “Can you make me look thinner?” What are the answers to these questions?
SSM: That’s so funny that you said that. Those are probably the most common questions, especially the “Can you make me look thinner?” question. I will usually joke with them and give them some sort of silly answer to that question. But in reality, there are a couple of things that can be done, such as using proper angles and lighting that can help to make someone look a little bit thinner.
MMY: Do you suggest props?
SSM: If there are certain props that will help to convey the mood or message, then by all means, I will encourage incorporating them in the portrait.
MMY: What tips can you give us? Are there better ways to sit or stand? Colors that work best? Poses that you would suggest?
SSC: I can’t emphasize enough the advice to just relax and have FUN. As your photographer, I will guide you on what to do, how to sit or stand, and where to put your hands. Also, remember, the more uncomfortable the pose, the better it’s going to look. LOL. Wearing solid colors will usually make for a better portrait.
MMY: What would you advise against?
SSC: Yes, I would advise against missing out on the KillerCon author headshot special. It is only $25 and you will receive several digital images in both color and black and white. (This is a $150 value.)
MMY: Yes! Killercon is in Las Vegas this week, September 19–22, and you’ll be doing pictures! Excellent. Now describe your ideal author photo-session. Your client walks in and…
SSM: Sits down and completely gives themselves over to the process and when they receive their portraits, loves every single one of them. (This can be quite the fantasy because women rarely like their portraits to begin with. LOL.)
MMY: Thanks again, Stacy!