I love that line from Monty Python. In my case, I have been specializing in architectural photography and I recently had a chance to photograph something quite different: an author portrait of Greg Cheek for his new book jacket.
Yet it was in many ways it a return to something quite familiar. Like many photographers, I have a background in wedding and portrait photography that preceded my current full time architectural work. What was most extra-ordinary about this job was that it was arranged by my daughter in Germany. I would fly out for the job and get to see her too!
The most important part about this job was the preparation. I needed to learn about my subject and his book, and learn about the specialty that is author portraiture. For the first, I had an advance copy of the manuscript, which I read in the days leading up to the photography. For the latter, I learned from a famous author photographer, Marion Ettinger. She sets the standard for properly portraying the author in a photograph.
We have seen bad author portraits. Some of them are selfies! In a recent book I read, the author looks like Dilbert, not the intelligent achiever he is. So, if the goal is to promote the book and the author's career, then we do not want to do something that will do the opposite.
Here are a few attributes that I think describe Greg, based on his book: Cancer Survivor, Enlightened Achiever, Influencer and Speaker, World Traveler, enthusiastic Ray of Hope and Positive Thinker. Do you think a picture of him against a white background could possibly illustrate these? The best photograph would be the culmination of good lighting and appropriate expression against the right background. The next step was to scout some locations the day before photography and get some rest.
Of the hundreds of photographs we made, the above 4 are the final picks. The one on the left is the World Traveler, the next, with the blue cube background is most handsome, the third, with the red sculpture behind is the survivor, while the last one, on the right says it all. It sparkles with enthusiasm!
Oh, by the way. The book is very good. You can find out more here: http://gregcheekspeaks.com/