Return to Article Index E-Mail this Article to a friend

November 2006
by Gary Bernstein


Let’s talk about holiday cards. Not only do I shoot them for others, but I send out my own as well. My holiday cards, however, fall into two categories—those we send from our own family, and those I send as a advertisement of my photography services.

The images I select for my promotional cards fall into categories as well. In the case of the cards shown in this month’s column, I put together mailings that promote family portraits and corporate photo sessions. To those of you who want to get started “in the biz,” this is truly one of the must-do’s.

In the case of each card, I try to avoid over use of my celebrity photographs. Bottom line—tailor the card to the client. Most clients want to know that you don’t have to be a celebrity to receive good photography. The flip side of the card is in black and white, has a small picture of me, tells the reader something about the shoot, provides contact info, and has room for an address and postage stamp.

Most of my work involves “eye contact” on the part of the subject. Over the past few years many photographers have moved to a more candid, editorial, “pensively looking away into the great unknown” sort of capture—sort of what I did with Eric Dickerson (second from the top left on my corporate card). But I have found that most clients opt for pictures where the subject is confronting the viewer directly.

The Dickerson photograph was shot on 35mm slide film (you remember film, right?) on a sunny day with Eric standing under an awning receiving open shade lighting. A reflector was placed to camera right to fill in the shadows.

The company that has provided me with my marketing materials for years is the one and only Marathon Press. They are also the best at teaching you HOW TO market yourself as a photographer.

Let’s look at some shots from a recent corporate shoot. A few months ago I was asked to do a corporate session in Utah for a new health beverage called Zija. It was touted by its executives to be the healthiest thing since well…breathing. The company’s CEO, Rodney Larsen suggested he send me out a few cases to try (my kind of guy). Bottom line: We (my wife and I) think it’s truly the most wonderful product imaginable.

The advertising shot above was made with a local Utah child (not a professional child model)—shot available light at 12 noon on a sunny day with a 6 mp auto-everything camera. I bounced in a bit of light using my Bernstein-Chimera reflector. The child was positioned under an overhang which allowed indirect open-shade lighting to reach his face. It was filled from beneath by the reflector. I was lying on the ground facing him. You are correct—I was NOT comfortable—but that’s not what it’s about.

The shoot in Utah lasted two days (and for the amount of work done, it should have lasted 5 days—but hey—I was able to handle it with no problem because they gave me all the Zija I could drink for free!

I also shot executive portraits and used this image of CEO Rodney Larsen on both my portrait card and my corporate card.

The top image is cropped the way I made the shot. It shows the use of the Bernstein-Chimera reflector to the right and below Rodney’s face, and simple propping—one stool to sit on, and a chair to lean on. We were working at a rental studio near Salt Lake. The equipment I ordered never made it there, and we ended up shooting with the lights that were available on the set; the point being that the bottom line is to come away with the shot. There is never an excuse for an unhappy client—period. This image was made with a 500 watt hot light on a straight stand. Two similar lights were directed into the cove behind Rodney at 45-degree angles to avoid flare recording about 2 stops less light than the key light and accounting for the medium “New York gray background” (which is always in fashion). The image was made on that same 6 mega pixel camera with a short zoom lens.I like this shot. It has a corporate feel, but it’s not uptight. Rodney’s strength and power comes across along with his approachability. The shorter lens and camera angle brings him right into the viewer’s face. He is a confident guy, and this image shows it. The styling (his own) is flawless; the cut of the suit, the collar, the tie, the knot—it’s all important. If I were styling him (and I styled and shot Esquire Magazine fashion layouts for about 3 years), I wouldn’t change a thing. In the second version (the final version), I cropped out the reflector, and added in the rest of his coat in Photoshop.

Getting back to the cards. Notice that in addition to more formally posed shots, I will just ask couples to get together, hug and smile. Sometimes there’s nothing nicer or more real. The bottom line is always how they look—the attitude—the interaction, etc. etc. etc.

This image of a husband and wife was made in Malibu with late afternoon overcast light using fill flash to open up the faces slightly. I used a short telephoto lens to give the feeling of the environment while throwing the background out of focus. There’s a little bit of movement—a little bit of blur—and that’s just fine. It’s about the feeling and the capturing of a moment that just won’t come again no matter how much we would like it to. That’s the ultimate purpose of photography—capturing memories

The promotional cards I send out in the mail are reflected on my website with even more photos. My website is a collection of new and old images over the past 35 years of photography. Please check it out at



Contact Form