SNAPSHOTS FOR FUN AND PROFIT
By Gary Bernstein
All Images © 2007 Gary Bernstein. All Rights Reserved.
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.
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 marathonpress.com 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 (www.chimeralighting.com).
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
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…
background for this shot could be white paper or a white wall in your
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 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.
you next article, and at my homes away from home: