Camera Ready

“Is that a selfie on your website?” I am asked innocently.

“Yes, isn’t it a great picture?” I naively answer.

“No. You need a professional head shot. NOT a selfie. You cannot use a selfie on a professional website or on LinkedIn. You do want people to hire you, right?”

“Yes,” I answer, “And how would a professional head shot encourage people to hire me to write for them? Or ghost author a book? Or mentor them?”

What I hear is that I now have one more thing to do so that my website can go live. And this one more thing doesn’t have anything to do with writing. Starting a business has so much more to it than one might think.

My experience with professional photos consists of kid-related pictures, wedding photos and a few family photos we had taken over the years. I wasn’t a glamour shot girl. Early on I was intrigued by the timer on cameras and have many a picture running INTO the photo. Those always made me laugh.

In fact, until selfies came along, I rarely looked at photos of myself, even though I’m very visual and love pictures. And let me tell you, I LOVE selfies. With a selfie, I decide how everything will look, including this photo-shy girl. Yes, I must use a certain position and I need to hold my phone at the right angle; however, I would put my selfies up against the best of them.

I like the selfie-it’s a really good picture of me. My hair worked, it was summertime on a deck, I had a tan. It is all good. I love this version of myself.

I like reading what I write, I like listening to my voice-but a picture. No. I don’t like looking at myself in pictures.

Unless it’s a fun selfie. With others. And we are engaged in an activity or on a mountain.

Or on the beach.

Who among us likes looking at ourselves in pictures?

Does anyone?

You would think with all the zooming and Facetime we would be used to seeing ourselves. I don’t know about you, but often I am zooming in my pajamas or yoga clothes with a ponytail. Yes, I understand so very professional.

That’s part of my concern as well. If I have a professional head shot out there in the world, are you going to expect that when we zoom and meet?!

Enter Jill Gray from Higher Focus Photography. I had the pleasure of working with Jill and her husband on writing projects a few years ago. We had a wonderful time and I respect her professionalism. We interviewed and photographed an artist and her husband in the city, both telling their story in our own medium. The photos were spectacular, and I felt we had gotten the story in words and pictures in a way that reflected art and personality.

When it was suggested (strongly) that I get a professional head shot, I immediately thought of Jill. When we worked together, I felt completely comfortable. Observing Jill and her husband work, Tim, I marveled at their magic. At one point, Jill asked me to talk with our subjects to relax them. Sure enough, Jill got real life, spontaneous photos that reflected their unique personalities.

Calling Jill to catch up and find out more about head shots, her voice and words were soothing, “We make it fun and photograph the best version of you!”

“Jill, I don’t want to do this! I don’t like having my picture taken. I’m a writer. Why do I need a picture too?”

“For starters it lets people see you, know you and relate to you. Most people have this same reaction you are having. We’ll have a great time, and you will leave with a digital image you love.”

I trust Jill. I just don’t trust my hair.

Agreeing to a photo shoot, not the great time (how can that be?!), I begin by reaching out to my hair guru Valerie Williams. Between all our schedules it took at least 25 texts to find a time Val can make magic with my hair that allowed me to go directly to Higher Focus Photography. Where they will then do their magic.

We find a date and I forget about it.

I’m busy, trying to juggle my new business.

The Friday before the Saturday shoot, I send both Jill and Val selfies that I like hoping Val can create beach hair in February so Jill can create amazing pictures.

Jill and I speak in the afternoon. She asks me what inspires me.

The beach.





“Bring anything you want that inspires you and we will work that into the photos. Also, did you want to hire the make-up artist?”

Wait, what?

“She is an artist and knows how to make you look great.”

Um…no. This is too much for me.

Reaching out to friends they offered much appreciated advice:

From bring your yoga mat and all awesome things that say, I am PAM; Just put on your favorite outfit and smile-you got this! Don’t forget your WW cape, shield, boots, & lasso! I was reminded to breathe, and my accountability partner Jill sent photo ideas.

It, however, wasn’t until a friend texted, “Oh it sounds amazing. What a great opportunity! Just have fun with it!” that I realized I was missing this experience completely by stressing out.

I used to write feature stories doing interesting activities-things that scared me, made me smile. This, too, was an experience worth investigating.

Friday afternoon was spent packing up costume changes, make-up, and shoes. I ran everything by another friend who gently suggested re-thinking the makeup artist. “You are investing in yourself,” she reminded me. I texted Jill and sure enough the stylist was available.

And so, after good night’s sleep I woke up Saturday morning with a raging stomachache. Could barely eat, could barely sit still. How in the world was I going to get through this?

Luckily, Valerie Williams is a pro at hair and relaxing people. As we chatted, I began to relax. She gently coaxed my wild beach hair into something that resembled professional-looking beach hair and sent me to the studio.

Arriving at Higher Focus, Jill met me outside with a huge hug and a, “This is going to be such fun!” as we carried in 3 bags and a laundry basket of clothes and props (including my bracelets and cape). Jill set me up in the makeup room and as Carley got busy, Jill popped on the requested ‘80’s playlist which included “I am Woman” by Helen Reddy. We reviewed what was needed-headshot first and then a variety of pictures for other articles and needs.

When Carley finished (I didn’t look until then), I was stunned. It was definitely me (without a stomachache)-a version that I hadn’t ever seen before. I might be a writer by day, but this version? Magic indeed.

I was camera ready. I could be a model.

We worked on the headshots first, Jill suggesting different backgrounds, different clothing. She smiled and talked to me the entire time. “This is my passion and I’m lucky to be able to do this,” Jill remarked as I asked her about her work. She encouraged me to relax, let go and enjoy. I was still a little self-conscience for those first few headshots (who me?), and then gradually as I leaned into trusting Jill, trusting Carley to style me, my breathing slowed, my inner gorgeous came out.

It became fun. It became magical.

Jill encouraged me to try different angles, (“mirror me” she suggested), different facial expressions, twirling (like Wonder Woman) and other creative ideas we dreamed up. At one point I had an idea, Carley, and Jill jumped all over it (thank you Carrie Bradshaw).

The afternoon went by quickly, oh-too-quickly as Jill and her team moved props, lights, me (through many a costume change) and kept the photo shoot on track.

Honestly, I was having the time of my life. Trusting Jill to get the images we had discussed I let go and flowed with it. We laughed, joked, and tried different ideas. Jill is the ultimate professional. She understood my fears, my trepidation of not only having pictures taken, but what the experience would be like. Because while the pictures would reflect one thing, the memory of the photo shoot was as important as what we saw in print.

As the photo shoot came to a close, Jill showed me the pictures on her camera. I was stunned. Writer by day….and model?! Jill smiled at my reaction.

What selfie?!

Here’s the thing. Not only did I love the pictures (beach girl does professional headshot and a whole lot more-wait until you see these!) I had the time of my life. This is the me that I feel I am, talking about my work, laughing with a talented team who I trusted and who trusted me.

This writer was camera ready. Jill and her team created magic, inspiring me to hold this memory in my heart. Jill was right. We did have a great time. The photo shoot was an opportunity to stretch my comfort zone in a safe, magical place.

Thanks to Jill and Tim Gray who own Higher Focus Photography, a portrait studio in Wildwood, MO. They specialize in Personal Branding, Executive Headshots, creative High School Senior portraits, and Family Portraiture.

Thanks to Carley Guinn who made me feel as beautiful and powerful on the outside as I felt on this inside. She was the makeup artist and stylist on the shoot.

FB: Beauty by Carley G.

Instagram: @carleybguinn

Thanks to Valerie Williams, hair stylist and all-around amazing person, who understands my hair as much as I do.

Cloud 9 Designs
Salon Lofts 15868 Fountain Plaza Dr. loft #9
Ellisville, Missouri 63011
(314) 608-9981







About Pam Wilson

I've been writing since I can remember. At heart, I am a story-teller; making sense of my world, finding humor and light through writing. Now I help clients to write their own stories. As I continue my own writing journey, my passion is to help clients write their own stories.


  1. Alex Culberson on March 31, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    What an insightful and fun read! I love learning more about you and hearing your voice shine through your words here. So very inspiring!!

    • Pam Wilson on March 31, 2022 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks for reading, Alex! Ahhh, that voice….the one we all have and figure out how to use. You with your yoga and all-around emotional intelligence inspires me all the time, my friend!!!

  2. Maggie P on April 5, 2022 at 8:55 am

    I love the story. You have a gift for creating it.

    • Pam Wilson on April 5, 2022 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you for reading!!! Love to tell a story and this brings me such joy!!!