Digital Camera Home > Pro Tips with Gary Bernstein: Leno, Cropping and Scrapbooks

(Editor's Note: Gary Bernstein is an internationally acclaimed photographer, who's made a particular specialty of shooting celebrities. Besides a broad and successful career as a commercial photographer, he has over 200 celebrity "shoots" to his credit, including names like Jay Leno, Sophia Loren, Kay Sutton, Bjorn Borg, Margaux Hemingway, Robert Duvall, and Paul Newman, among many others. Gary's graciously agreed to be the monthly judge for our photo contest, and will also be sharing some of his tips and experiences with our readers in a monthly column. Here's his first column, but be sure to also check out his fascinating collection of celebrity portraits at, and the amazing array of live video photo lessons he and his colleagues have put together at


Leno, Cropping and Scrapbooks

By Gary Bernstein


I am thrilled to be part of the family.� This is the first of many columns written for the photographers who hang out at this ultra cool website.� As you can tell from the title�most of my columns will be a mixed bag�hopefully something for every photographer!� I will tell you how I personally do things�the way the pictures are made--the products I like�the companies that help me, etc. etc.� My credo has always been total disclosure.

Although it was never my desire to be a celebrity photographer, I�ve seen my share over the years.� I just always wanted to take pictures of people�and more than that�I wanted to thrill people with their own image.� As you know from personal experience, that�s quite a challenge.� Trust me�nobody is more difficult to please than a celebrity!� So we�ll cover some of the techniques and tricks you can use to make your pictures stronger�and not just for people photography�for all sorts of photography.

I started like most photographers�shooting �everything��at a time before digital, when it was truly expensive to shoot everything!!� And while I shoot assignments for product and furniture companies and environmental companies, and editorial layouts for magazines like Architectural Digest�I always concentrated my efforts on people photography.�

I learned a long time ago to treat all my subjects as though they were celebrities�whether it was a 80 year old grandma or a newcomer who was just �hoping� to break in the entertainment biz. �One of those newcomers was a guy named Jay Leno; and I�ve photographed Jay from the days when nobody knew him�right through his stint at the Tonight Show.� Here�s an early Leno shot from my collection of images at

The image was taken on Kodachrome with a 105mm lens on a Nikon SLR ( .� I used 3 lights; a main light, and two lights illuminating the flag in the background (placed at 45-degree angles), and a small silvered reflector ( was positioned below Jay�s face to fill in the shadows.

I am not big on rules for photography.� If it looks good I shoot it (as long as it works�more on that coming up).� But throughout my columns, I will give you suggestions�places from which to start your experimentation in this wonderful art of ours.� One suggestion is that you don�t position the subject in the center of the frame.� Wow�Leno is positioned dead center in this photograph!� So rules are meant to be broken apparently.� What I did do�is crop in very tight and surround Jay with the American Flag as a graphic element that forces you only to his face.� Does it work?� That�s up to my client�which in the case of most of my sessions is the celebrity and/or advertiser who's using their image.� I guess in this case, you are my client.� If this image holds your attention�if you enjoy it�then I have succeeded.� If not, it at least gives you something to contemplate!

Please DO remember this:�� Cropping is very, very important in all types of photography.� Indeed less is often more. (If you have a favorite photo that you'd like to submit to the Imaging Resource or ZugaTV photo contests, take a close look at it before you send it in: Is there anything that can be left out? You'd be surprised how many photos we see that are "near misses" for prizes, simply because the photographer didn't take time to crop away extraneous detail.)

This next image�a recent father-daughter photograph�was made as part of a holiday family photo session.� The image was made with my Olympus E-1 digital and a 14-54 Zuiko Digital lens ( ) using two Lowel Pro-lights ( ) in Chimera softboxes ( as a double main light (�� One box was placed about 3 feet high to camera left, with the second at 6 feet to camera right.� Again notice how tight the crop is on the faces.

Next, check out this recent product (furniture) shot.� Talk about tight cropping telling the story!� This image was made using the Olympus E-1 Digital Camera with their newest �toy� the amazing 150mm Zuiko f/2 Digital tele�an incredible piece of glass, without a doubt.� As for the lighting�this is all morning sunlight coming through a window.� I always have my camera set for half-step brackets�and never even bother about white balance (hey, I have Photoshop).

Last but not least�

I have another favorite new toy�

I am in the middle of putting together new family albums.� I�m shooting digital copies of old prints, scanning Polaroids from years ago (on an HP Scanjet 8200), and I�m printing the every shot with the HP Photosmart 375 ( printer that has its own 2.5� LCD�so I can edit right on the printer.� I really picked up the printer for quick prints while I�m shooting on location (as it has an optional battery), but it also has an optional print cartridge that I use that gives me true black and white.� Those techies out there know that there�s a lot of talk about the lack of stability of certain digital media (yes, we were lied to(!)).� The cool thing is that the prints keep getting better and better (and more long-lasting).� For example, this printer uses HP paper that is light fast for more than 87+ years.� How did I find all this out?� I went to CompUSA ( �and they spent the time educating me as to what I want and why I want it.� A fact.� The point though, is that the current generation of desktop photo inkjet printers can actually deliver excellent image quality that'll actually stand the test of time. - Perhaps a good choice for a family holiday present?

This image was made soon after one of my daughters was born…with a Nikon and an 85mm Nikkor lens on Kodak Plus-X film. The lighting was a single flash bounced into an 8-foot piece of white paper-hence the even lighting and huge catchlights in the baby's eyes. You can create the same lighting with any flash source-even a portable flash (or a continuous light source)-. Just remember to keep the light source higher than the eye level of your subjects.

OK.� That�s it until next time.� Keep on shooting and happy holidays.� If you have any questions�or anything you�d like to talk about, read about�please just send your emails to the website, at [email protected], and the folks at IR will forward them on to me.