Shabani the Gorilla’s Tips on Taking Good Author Photos


Handsome gorilla Shabani was a huge Internet hit a few years ago when his photogenic features caused aspiring Instagram thots to seriously reconsider their life choices. I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t fit in a visit to Nagoya during my recent trip to Japan so I could write about my first-hand impressions of his pulchritude. But that is how the dice rolled and so I’ll have to write this post explaining why Shabani is so photogenic.

Sure, you may be thinking, well, he has quite symmetrical features and is clearly in good health. Also, Shabani was raised by stable parents and being loved and cared for as a child really makes a difference. People who were taken cared of as children by adults who loved them tend to have a sheen. Whether this is self-esteem or confidence or just the protective aura of love, who knows? The Unpublishables co-founder Doretta and I often guess which celebrities were raised lovingly (for example, can you tell which of Queer Eye’s Fab Five had supportive parents when they were kids?). We noticed that they all have the same kind of comfort in their bodies and security that they’re valued.

However, even without that glow of love, it’s possible to look as good as Shabani in your author photos. I’ve written about how to prepare for an author photo before, but this one will be more specifically about what makes author photos look good.


Find an angle that makes you look good

So this is a little unfair because Shabani’s angles all look good, but most of us are aware that we have a particular side that may not be as attractive as the other. Find it and never show it in another photo again. This means asking someone to help you take pictures of your face at different angles and comparing the different photos.

Many years ago, I did this for a friend of mine so that she would know which angle and side to show in her wedding photos. We spent an entire afternoon taking photos and needless to say, her wedding photos are impeccable. Too bad about the groom, but I guess no one really cares except him.

Smizing helps

I addressed this in my author photo post already, but it’s worth repeating: smize, smize, smize for your life. Smizing is basically slightly squinting without frowning or letting your face sag. It also helps if you have a slight smile on your lips. As you can see from Shabani’s picture above, when you smize, you give an impression of dynamism, energy, and PRESENCE.

Find an expression that works for you

Again, I realize how unfair it is that Shabani is the model for this as he can’t seem to go wrong. But not everyone looks good when they’re pensive and not everyone feels comfortable smiling in an author photo. For example, I don’t like grinning in photos when I have to pose (casual ones are fine) because I have TMJ. My jaw locks up and my grin suddenly begins to look like a rictus of pain, and no amount of smizing can remove the impression of insanity.

Once more: practice at home. Try to build a library of expressions that look good in photos and make sure they look natural and unposed, even if they’re not.

Relax your shoulders

This small thing makes such a big difference. Tight shoulders tense up the neck and even though it may not be obvious, people can tell that there’s something off. Look at how loose and comfortable Shabani’s shoulders are. Easy shoulders imply confidence and contentment, and those two qualities are very easy to look at.

Hopefully, this post has given you some useful tips about taking good portrait photos. If you have also been taken by Shabani’s good looks and sweet disposition, please consider donating to Dian Fossey’s Gorilla Fund to ensure that these amazing fellow creatures can live happy and safe lives.

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