By Gary Bernstein
All Images © 2007 Gary Bernstein. All Rights Reserved

Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Image 3 (Above) Image 4 (Below)

Gary Bernstein

Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Image 1 (Above) Image 2 (Below)

Gary Bernstein

Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein
Gary Bernstein

The REAL significant changes - the ones that will be reflected in history - the ones that are evident upon the viewing of images by the public - are the changes in terms of style and creative trends… and indeed things have changed over the years…

As society has become more free; our photographic expression has become equally free. When I started in New York, we were shooting with much larger cameras in a far more static environment. The global information society spearheaded by imbedded photo-journalists influenced a freer movement in fashion and editorial photography, and now the immediacy of the digital revolution is further impacting how we take photographs.

The snapshot - the apparently “less studied, less static” image has become equally desired to the more studied photograph. The operative word here is “apparently,” because in reality it takes some serious know-how to capture an image that appears to be candid, or in fact “may be” candid. It takes directorial skills as well. This revolution is apparent in wedding photography - where the PJ shooter (photo-journalistic) is paid as much as the more traditional wedding photographer. Wedding photography is a good barometer - as it is the one time in our lives when we “know” that we must hire a good photographer and capture the results in a book or album. Most couples today desire a blending of the old with a blending of the new; a combination of candid-looking images with more sophisticated and studied imagery. I couldn’t agree more. That’s what it’s all about.

Formal is great… but… It’s time to get ready for the next addition in professional photography: The production of custom-designed bound books depicting a “day in the life” of a family. It will be a combination of the studied image - so perfect for wall framing, along with the candid session, and perhaps even a bit of the more abstract renditions. So the playing field is again leveled… but it’s just a much bigger playing field!

I am in the process of putting together a new marketing brochure to offer this service to my clients. I am working directly with Marathon Press in Norfolk, NE every step of the way. Check them out on the web at They have been my design and PR team for more years than I care to count.

Here are some of the images that will be used in my new promotional piece (with comments on the photography techniques I used):

Images 1 & 2 were made in a studio - but you can easily shoot them in a home environment. It is a mother-daughter series that blends a formal shot and a more candid closeup…

The sepia image was made using a medium format film camera… and the color headshot of the young lady was made using a 35mm film camera loaded with transparency material.

Lighting comes from above - at 45-degree angles to the subject. A Chimera-Bernstein silver reflector is used beneath the faces to create that glow, fill in the shadows, and create secondary catchlights in the eyes (

Notice the placement of the heads… they lean toward each other and are at different heights. That’s important in terms of composition.

Notice that the space around the image gives it greater importance…

I did the same thing with Sophia.

Images 2 & 3: The new “look” and “new book” I am describing will take similar pictures and show creative variations-on-a-theme… as evidenced in this mother-daughter series…

Notice the cropping that could go across 2 pages in a book (or would allow cropping left or right with the drop in of other images against the white background), and notice the high grain look…

The background for this shot could be white paper or a white wall in your home…

Again notice how the placement of the heads forces you to the center of the composition…

The variations on a theme:

Notice the lighting… frontal light on the mother (which is most flattering to women), and split-lighting on the baby - to bring out character in a face that is flat (all young faces have yet to develop the depth so side-light is perfect to enhance the features).

And a third variation… High-grain with some painting techniques… All of these photographs are made with a single main light… Pick your light: daylight, sunlight, a strobe, a table lamp... They all work. Again - it’s not about the tool, but rather the application that is important.

Let’s look at some candid shooting. A family… Shot at the beach… with available light… film and digital… small cameras… It’s like shooting a video… I tell them what to do… the movements to make… the direction to look… and then I crank film (or pixels… or whatever).

Are these feelings real? You bet. Do couples love this look at much as a formal portrait. Absolutely! How were the images made? Note the placement of the heads in the composition - very similar to the studio work. Notice the relationship of the heads - in terms of angles and in terms of the relationship of head heights - again very important. Notice that the majority of the time, the images are cropped so that the eyes of the subjects are in the top third of the frame. Again, this is for graphic impact. It gives your subject importance. Notice that background elements are softened to emphasize the subjects.

And, of course… the kids… Just sit them down… and let them play… And keep cranking film… motors on cameras are a major plus… And the images show why. What about the lighting here? It’s at the beach… so everything is soft and balanced… but it’s still directional.

You get a natural fill from the sand below. The direct sun and diffused sunlight gives a beautiful hairlight (that the rim and highlights on the hair). For more directional light, I place my subjects against a wall or slightly under an overhang - to bend the light into their faces - getting light into their eyes. That’s what was done here.

Here is another example of putting your subjects under and awning and bending soft directional light into their faces:

I use zoom lenses between “long” wide angles, and “short” telephotos - lenses that focus automatically and quickly - the very same lenses that you are getting on your medium expensive digital cameras. I talk to my subjects as I shoot. Film used to cost money. Pixels don’t! So shoot a lot and learn to print your own! Give your subjects a major choice from which to select.

We will get to more of my new brochure in future columns, and we’ll talk about some of the graphic images being made for my next book, The African American Collection, coming out in Christmas 2007 - technique you can use right now for your own photography.

See you next article, and at my homes away from home:,, and

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