By Gary Bernstein © December 2005

In my last column we talked about a shoot I did a couple weeks ago with legendary Diahann Carroll.  At the end of this article we will return to that session again when I discuss the marketing and promotion of photography.

For years this column has addressed the techniques for making better photographs.  For the first time ever, we will go into some of the business strategies in photography; how to get started in business; how to work with clients, etc.  This is addition is prompted by the fact that each week I receive more emails from “amateur” photographers requesting business advice.  The digital revolution has made it easier than ever to get in professional photography.  So for those of you who are so inclined, this article may add some fuel to your fire…

We’ll cover some photo techniques in this column and then I’ll give you a short primer on some basic photography business approaches—Bernstein style.

First let’s talk Photo-Technique:

The camera techniques I used in shooting these Max Factor advertisements is incredibly similar to the techniques I used in photographing the session with singer extraordinaire Carly (in the images below).

The Max Factor photographs were made with one main light against a piece of black paper; and on either side of the model I placed black reflectors.  The technique is called “subtractive lighting.”  And in fact, the flip side of the silver reflector in my new reflector kit from Chimera ( has an absorbing black panel just for this purpose.  The black reflector builds the dramatic falloff (shadowing) to the side of the model’s face, and it brings out cheekbones.    

Let’s Talk about The Business of Photography:

All the business smarts (and promotional skills) in the world don’t mean a darn if the pictures aren’t strong.  You must be dedicated to the image.  You must be dedicated to your subject.  You must know your craft—so that it’s reflexive to operate equipment, select angles, and set lighting.  Only then can you truly work freely and creatively with your subject.  If classic imagery and a thrilled client is the driving force behind your photography—the money usually follows. 

As for me…

Regardless of whether I’m being paid a small fortune for the shoot, or doing it for free—the effort and the passion is the same.  When I’m looking though that ground glass—the only thing in the world I care about is making a spectacular image.  And I know that my clients know that about me.

A Shoot with the talented singer Carly

Hopefully these images that were made a few weeks ago will add to the stardom of this very talented young lady who has a hot new singing career.  She sounds as good as she looks—a contemporary/pop style that reminds me of Celine or Whitney.  Naturally every shoot requires music; and this one was scored with Carly’s CD…so it rocked big time…and no doubt added to the impact of her images.

More Business Stuff…The Short Diary of a Photo Booking:

I don’t have fixed prices.

So when the client calls, I need to find out what’s needed.

Are we shooting in the studio…on location…locally…out of town?

How many images?  How many changes?

And most importantly…what will the pictures be used for?

If it’s just a portrait or PR shoot, it’s one price.

If the images are for commercial use…meaning an advertisement, an album or a book cover, for a TV show or for a billboard…the price goes up accordingly.  If it’s for international use, the price is even higher.  Photo usage is the single most important factor in determining price.  Yes, the elements of time and difficulty are considered (“Gary, we want you to shoot at the top of Pikes Peak with three Bengal tigers that haven’t been fed in a week”) but typically nothing trumps usage.

The specifics go into a formal letter/email that specifies every aspect of the shoot.  Get it in writing.  Next to getting your contract in writing, the most important this is to GET IT IN WRITING.  To start with the letter is a bid restating that which has been offered and agreed to, but it is also the actual shoot contract upon receipt of the shoot fee.

Usually I do three changes in a half day for a session like this.  For Carly I did more.  She works the camera as wonderfully as she sings—quite a combination.  Carly had just moved into her apartment.  There was no furniture, even to sit on.  So I stopped by a fabric store in Hollywood and picked up a half dozen remnants with bling, and gaffer-taped them to the walls and mirrors and used them as backgrounds.


I deliver proofs by contact sheet—either hard versions or online.

Here are some of the Carly’s contact sheets that show you how I shoot sessions…the progression…the subtle changes…

Here are some of my favorite images from the session:










The great thing about sequential photography—cameras with motors—is that you can create multiple images that convey so much more than a single image that are worth of being printed together on a promotional card or composite.  They become like freeze frames out of a film.  Even Max Factor—in the advertisements at the top of this article--opted to use multiple images for the campaign.

Back to Business: Self Promotion of YOUR Photography:

Magazine layouts and print ads with photo credits are truly wonderful forms of advertising—and I’ve had my share—thank goodness.  But that’s hard to come by…and nothing really beats self-promotion.  I have worked with the best there is for years—Marathon Press ( in Norfolk, NE.  Check out to hear my on the radio with Bill Camacho from Marathon Press discussing self promotion.  Marathon really does it all, from custom websites to marketing seminars to promotional brochures and mailings—they handle it, from design to printing to mailing.  Marathon even designs and prints my gift certificates.  LET ME REPEAT THAT…We offer gift certificates—that’s right—I can be retained to photograph your significant other—every one of you—everyone reading this column should immediately go out and buy Bernstein gift certificates!!  Reminds me of an old Soupy Sales routine.   

Back to Marathon…

We are just now in the process of designing a new campaign that I can use to promote my portrait services.  We’re talking about monthly mailings.  Here are some of the designs Marathon created from images that you saw in the last article for 

More “reality photography” next month.

Happy shooting.  Happy Holidays! 
See you next issue and at my homes away from home www.ZugaPhoto.TV
All Images © 2005 Gary Bernstein

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