Ever since my business partner and I started setting up our new company, she had been warning me that we were eventually going to need to do a photo shoot.
She's a photographer as well as a designer, and she already had her own company and website as well, so getting a professional photo of her for the site was no problem. She had a whole line-up of favorites.
But all I had for a head shot of myself was a cute snapshot that my daughter had taken on my birthday last year.
"It's okay for now," my business partner had said diplomatically. "But at some point we'll need to get professional shots of you for the website."
I'd been delaying it and dreading it in equal measure. Since reaching my mid-forties, I've become almost phobic about getting my picture taken. Last year, a couple of high school boys who were doing a project on community journalism wanted to videotape an interview with me. The fear of how I would look on film caused me to perspire through the entire interview. Despite promising to send me a copy of their finished product, they never did, and I'm convinced it's because they didn't want to embarrass me with how I looked on screen.
My business partner must have grown weary of my deferrals every time she suggested a photo shoot, because Sunday morning she sent me a cursory text. I thought she was just letting me know what time she'd pick me up for the trip we'd planned to the beach to take some landscape shots for an upcoming project, but her text made it clear that there were other purposes to the trip. "Wear a white shirt and tan pants," she wrote. "And makeup."
So this was serious, and sent me into a fresh tailspin of worries about brow creases and crow's feet.
Not that my quasi-phobia is strictly the result of aging. At 25, in the hours before my wedding ceremony began, I stood in the sunshine outside a pretty little New England chapel while our wedding photographer did shot after shot. "Karen, it's just me," I said finally. "How good do you really think it's going to get?"
So I try to avoid photos. But my business partner is really good at what she does, and one of the things she does is photography. She made me feel comfortable with a relaxed pose and a beautiful background against the whitecaps of Plum Island. I started to feel less self-conscious as we proceeded through a series of shots. I laughed a little. I imagined that the blue sky and bright sun and sharp breeze blowing my hair around might compensate for the crow's feet and wrinkles.
And in the end, it really wasn't so bad. I've seen only a few samples of the photos, but I think they turned out okay. And that reminded me of something: that's what usually happens when I see pictures of myself. They really aren't so bad. I'm really not so bad. I worry so much about how the pictures will look, and then I find myself looking at a picture of a pleasant-looking, smiling, cheerful middle-aged woman with a few crow's feet but nothing all that hideous.
The pictures showed….me. No cover girl, but a pleasant person with an inoffensive appearance. If it didn’t forever quash my phobia, it reminded me of a simple truth: a smile does a lot. I looked happy and approachable in the photos, which is really just what we needed for our website. It would do. I would do.
I may not be ready for my close-up, to paraphrase the classic movie line, but I’m okay with a mid-distance shot profiled against the ocean on a beautiful fall afternoon.