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Summer Photo Sessions

By Gary Bernstein

Southern California is great.  We have summer year round (at least that's what we want the rest of the world to believe).  Regardless, we're blessed with beauty around every turn which makes for great photo ops.  In this column we’ll cover just one of the ways to use “home town beauty” to your photographic advantage.

A year ago, I showed you an image from a new limited edition collection I was just starting on.  I’ve yet to place it on, but here’s an advance look-see.

First—some of the technical data on the images:  Each of these photographs was made with a Nikon D50.  That’s a 6mp camera—couldn’t be more basic.  I like it because it is simple, small, quick, and for images that I plan to print on water color paper or canvas—it provides the artistic look I desire. 

The lens is a Nikon 18-55mm zoom, and I used a Lexar SD 1 gig card as my media .

I use auto white-balance; auto-focus; auto-exposure—just like most of you.  My rule for many years has been “if it looks good, shoot it.”  But it didn’t start out that way.  I started by learning the basics of good photography.

I still depend on the law of thirds (invented by the Greeks) which states that you visualize a diagonal line from opposite corners of the rectangular frame; then intersect it with a 90-degree line from another corner; and that intersection is the spot where the viewer’s eye will go first—so I place the center of interest there.  In a portrait, the center of interest is the eyes or the subject’s head.  In a scenic image, it should be the point of graphic interest.  Notice the location of the palm, the pots, the planters, the pedestals in these images (say that four times real fast) 

I like images with backlighting and sidelighting—images that show great depth and texture.  After all, photography has the burden of depicting a three-dimensional world on a two dimensional surface—and the success of that effort is greatly dependent upon the proper (and often exaggerated and unrealistic) use of highlight and shadow.  It’s never been easier than with digital photography to create variations on a theme and to see your results as you go.  The ease with which we now produce a photograph allows every one of us to concentrate that much more on the art within the composition.  So don’t take snaphots—rather make images that are worth of being framed and displayed.

I do my manipulations on my computer with Adobe Photoshop .  The majority of the images in this month’s column were made within a single layer.  I simply do variations and save them under different version numbers.  I used special effect filters that soften an image, often add or subtract pictorial elements as needed, and use the painters palette to create the watercolor-pastel effects shown here.

I soften the borders by using the paint brush tool; matching it to the color of the surrounding canvas; setting the brush at 50% opacity and 50% flow and blending the edges of the image to the canvas.

By the way, these are all pictures of my house.  I’m kidding!!  I’m kidding!! 

As stated, these graphics will soon be offered on my website and other galleries.  I plan to print a series of limited editions on water color paper and a second series on canvas in prints up to 19 inches in size—all of which I will indeed print myself on my newest toy, the HP Photosmart Pro B9180 Printer.  And I thought their 8750 was killer.  This printer is a piece of work.  You can print in 8 different pigments—amazing tones.  It prints 13 x 19’s in less than a minute and a half; with 200 plus years of archival permanence.  Oh yeah.

Shifting Gears…

A Last month I was hired to do a corporate shoot in Utah for a new health beverage called Zija (zee-jah). It was touted by its executives to be the healthiest thing since, well, breathing. The company's CEO, Rodney Larsen suggested that 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. I'm not going to go into the benefits here or the physical changes we continue to experience, but it’s quite a product  (you too can get healthy by calling Zija at 800-978-9452).

Above is one of the finished ads.  It was made with available light at 12 noon with some very hard Utah sunlight straight overhead.  But I cheated (and will tell you how in my next column).  Here’s a hint:  First we glued the can to his chin.  No we didn’t.  You know I kid.  But next column, we’ll talk about the ads that were shot; how they were made, and detail a series of lifestyle and executive portraits that were produced for the company over a very busy 2 days of shooting. 

See you next column.  Enjoy your shooting!
Editor’s Note:  You can contact Gary Bernstein at
All Photographs © 2006 Gary Bernstein . All Rights Reserved

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