Claire King


All about the Image

Posted on: October 20th, 2011 by Claire - 23 Comments

There comes a day in a girl’s life when she needs to choose the photo that’s going on the jacket of her first novel.

For those of you who would be very blasé about this, please could you humour me here? I’m not a fan of seeing myself in photographs *at all*, in fact it’s usually my behind the camera taking pictures of my beautiful kids, so there aren’t even that many these days.

Here are some pictures I’ve been happy to put online on my Twitter profile and so on, and for my author picture in the Bristol Prize Anthology.

Claire King April 2011

Claire King April 2010

Claire King, Nov 2010




Two of these photos are just webcam pictures from my computer, and the third was taken by a photographer friend as I emerged from a 120 hour working week and could hardly keep my eyes open.

None of them, for me, deserve to sit on a lovely book jacket on a novel I loved into life. So I decided to spend part of my advance on a proper, grown up author photo. I called a proper, grown up photographer…

“What do you want, by way of a photo?” She asked.

“I want it to look like me, only better,” I said. “I want it to say ‘friendly’, but also ‘wise’. I need to to make my eyes look bigger and my face less fat, but I don’t want you to retouch it to do that. Is that OK?”

“I think you should just relax,” said Debbie.

I didn’t really relax. I went into a big and very silly panic about hair and makeup and outfits. And all the while I was wishing I was a male novelist, who could just grow a day’s stubble, put on a leather jacket and lean against a wall.

But since I’m not, I went MAC instead, for a make-over with the lovely Benjamin (artist, illustrator and fan of English literature). If you ever want to be made to feel fabulous and not at all self-conscious, I fully recommend it. It costs £25, but you can then choose cosmetics to the value of £25 when you leave. What’s not to like about that? Benjamin put a good hour into buffing me up to be camera ready. I must have needed it!

Next stop, Liverpool Street station to meet with photographer, Debbie Scanlan.

Debbie: “How are you?”

Me: “Nervous”

“Don’t be daft. Come on,” she said, “let’s go and get coffee and cakes.” So we go and find a cafe and tuck into treacle tart. We chat as though we’ve known each other years (this is what Debbie does) and then the camera comes out. I freeze up.

“It’s OK,” she said, “I’m just testing the light.”

“The best way to look good on a photo,” she said, is to tilt your chin down slightly, and then look up with your eyes. Try it.”

I do. Click, click, click, click.


Afterwards we went outdoors and sat in a small park, taking more photos, and laughing at passers by, who were clearly thinking I was famous, and also checking out Debbie’s bum as she turned herself into a bendy human tripod. We took more pictures. Lots more, in fact. Here are a couple of those. Plus (by demand) the “Freaky face” one…


So there you have it. Overall it was relatively painless, and Debbie was just lovely. Then just comes the small task of choosing which photo should go on the book.

After discussions with husband, children and best mates, there was an overwhelming concensus as to which was the most ‘Claire’ and the most suitable for a book jacket. Which do you think?

23 Responses

  1. Anna Smith says:

    Lovely lovely pictures! The laughing one is very lively, and I think the others all show writerly wisdom. Tough choice! Well done xx

  2. Pete says:

    *Puts his photpgrapher’s hat on*

    Left is the most ‘Claire’ for me not ‘serious book photo’ that everyone else seems to have.
    Middle and top right – B/W much better . It’s a good serious writers photo but it’s a bit Oxford don for me (unless you want that look).
    Bottom left is very well lit and the best colour although I would be interested to see a B/W version.
    Bottom right – Nicely backlit and serious but much softer. Very close call between bottom two but I prefer the right (just).

    Very nice shots and lovely not to see a head on chin shot. Whichever one you use, I would ask her just to burn out or remove some of background detail for the final version but I’m sure she’ll do that for you. Congratulations you’re an author!

    • claire says:

      Thanks Photo-Pete! I definitely did not want head on chin, arm on back of sofa or finger on cheek…I think I’d like to keep the background bits though. Otherwise a studio shot would have made more sense and I kind of wanted it to be more out and abouty…

  3. Nettie says:

    Ooh – have you chosen one yet? I like the two b&w pics on the right. These are lovely pics and you look very friendly and very wise.

  4. “And all the while I was wishing I was a male novelist, who could just grow a day’s stubble, put on a leather jacket and lean against a wall.”

    – Brilliant! So true.

    I like the bottom right photo. The sun coming through behind you has a lovely effect. There’s something good about it being outdooors too, it has a good energy.

    • claire says:

      You’re right, the sun was just going down behind the buildings (we were in London, late afternoon), and since the book is set almost exclusively outdoors, it would be nice to have that sense of energy…

  5. Jan says:

    I love No 1 – it’s fun, looks very natural and is very flattering. Good luck with the novel!

  6. ooo I love the top right black and white one – for some reason, in the b and w below on right, you look equally lovely, but older than you are. Be young and smashing!
    (they are all great. what a terrific photographer – with a terrific subject natch!.)

  7. Mike Clarke says:

    Nice pics. I’ve never met you (to my knowledge) in person so this is perhaps more from the perspective of a bookstore browser.

    If it’s for a book jacket then presumably you’ll pick one of you with an expression that suits the book’s tone.

    So top left would be great for a comedy (have you just been told a dirty joke in it?) but maybe not a Scandinavian detective novel. Bottom right looks perfect for a bit of intrigue.

    • claire says:

      That’s a great point, because I do love the laughing ones but they’re not really in keeping with the tone of the book. But I think they’d go nicely alongside an interview perhaps…

  8. Janetyjanet says:

    Wot, no psycho photo – and you looked so very well adjusted in it too!

  9. I love the b/w pics the best, especially the one top left of smiley Claire. Probably not right for a book cover but could be used for blog/publicity? I think my favourite is the b/w on middle row. Very pretty author pic.

  10. Tara Bradford says:

    Gorgeous as befitting the beautiful subject! Always wise to use a professional photographer. 🙂

  11. So hard to choose. Okay, I’ve looked and looked and I choose the b/w one on the right in second line.

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