By Gary Bernstein © February 2006

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A valentine is a token of love.  That covers a lot of territory and a lot of options.  In photography it covers alot of different image types.  Here are some suggestions from my archives:

The high-key portrait of a mother and baby…

High-key means “white background” to most photographers. In reality the only true high-key is a portrait of a person dressed in white who is either bald or has hair that is lighter than their face so that the face becomes the darkest part of the image; as opposed to low-key portraits in which the face becomes the lightest part of the composition, meaning the subject is wearing medium to dark clothing…with a medium to dark background, etc…

So much for definitions…

Image Number 1 of mother and baby was made in my studio against a piece of white no-seam paper.  It was taken with a 35mm slr on Kodachrome ( with 2 lights (these days I like Sunpak strobes when it comes to electronic flash units   One strobe is to camera left; the second is behind the subjects pointed at the background, and delivering a half-step less exposure than the main light.  Each are in umbrellas.  To the right of the subjects is my silver reflector—a necessity.  Check it out at   While we’re at it, this example comes from my Marathon book “The Glamorous World of People Photography” which is, of course, the perfect Valentine gift for all concerned J.  So Marathon is not only my P.R. source (great for starting a career in photography), but also a major publisher (go to

For Image Number 2…

…you need to fly to Switzerland, rent a sailboat on Lake Geneva (outside of Montreux), set your camera—affixed with a 500mm lens—on a tripod (a Sunpak, please); jump in the sailboat with your lover, put some Kodachrome in the camera first, and don’t forget the very, very long camera release or some form of wireless remote.  Throw a B+W orange filter (currently yellow-orange 040 ) over that lens and you complete the shot.  Take your equipment to Switzerland, by the way, in a Porter Case—I mean it—and there’s only one ( .

On to Valentine Number 3…

It doesn’t get much simpler than this.  The couple is sitting on two adjustable stools in my studio; an adjustable posing table in front of them.  I asked them to put their arms around each other and tip their heads together.  Two lights were positioned exactly like the lighting used for the mother-baby shot above.  On the table in front of them is my patented reflector from Chimera giving that glow to the skin, secondary catchlights to the eyes, and softening the shadows.  Use a short telephoto lens for an image like this. 

Valentine Images 4 and 5 depict an amazing couple.  This is Michael and Rose Moye.  Rose is a successful actress, and Michael is the co-creator of the legendary (and hilarious) show Married With Children, and the Producer of the The Jefferson’s.  Shot in a rental studio in L.A., the entire story of this photo session appears in my Marathon Press book as well.

The photos were made with one light on a boom stand (a combination of strobes, and Lowel hotlights ( – the first image was made against a painted background canvas, and the second against a white cove where I allowed the light to fall off about a step and a half creating the medium gray background (underexpose white and it becomes gray).  I used short telephotos and a 35mm camera for the shoot.

When you’re posing your subjects, make the poses real.  I always try them out myself first.  I’ll get into the guy’s position.  Then ask him to take my place on the set.  Then I’ll get in the girl’s position, and she takes my place.  If it doesn’t look right, I’ll suggest that they “play” with it.  If it still doesn’t look right, we’ll go through the process again.  Bottom line, it has to look elegant and natural.  Also—regardless of the composition—I try to keep heads close together—so you tend to see both faces at the same time as you look at the image—but try to keep the eyes at different heights.

Valentine Number 6…is well, a Valentine…

From a shot I recently made in Beverly Hills—it’s part of my new Beverly Hills Collection of Limited Editions.  More on this in a future article.  It was shot on a 6 MP digital camera, printed on my HP Printer (, with some playing around in Photoshop (  FYI—every form of capture and protection is on my Lexar Media Flash Cards and SD’s (

Last but not least is the first Valentine of my life (and no doubt she will be my last)…

I had a studio staffer shoot my marriage to beautiful Kay…at the Plaza in New York.

Due to a processing error at the lab—none of the pictures came out (true story).  That’ll teach me not to hire a wedding photographer!  Fortunately the day after our wedding, I took this self portrait in our New York studio dressing room.  Kay still looks the same way.  The shot was obviously taken with (now) a vintage Nikon ( on Tri-X Pan…and exposed by the florescent lights above the dressing room table.  Bottom line…YOU should make the Valentine self- portrait with YOUR better half.

See you next issue…

Want to know how to take some great glamour shots of your lady?  Check out Rolando Gomez’ Glamour Made Simple DVD that we produced—now available at  And you can always buy our How to Take Great Pictures DVD also at amazon.  I wish you all a happy Valentine’s day…see you here, and at


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