Tips, Directions and More

Before I start…a huge favor?

As an adult I developed asthma so I have to ask that you please not wear any perfume/cologne to our session. Trust me, a wheezing photographer is not a happy photographer. If you forget, or if anyone in your group is wearing perfume, we may need to reschedule the entire shoot. I appreciate your consideration.

Where is the studio?

Rick Bern Photography is located on the first floor (not the basement) at 31 THORPE ROAD, NEEDHAM, MA, suite 104.

The building is less than one mile off Route 128 and around the corner from Starbucks, Cafe Fresh Bagels and my favorite lunch spot, Blue on Highland.  We’re in suite 104 on the first floor. There’s a ramp and it is handicap accessible.

Follow Rte 128 to EXIT 19 CHIGHLAND AVE” toward NEEDHAM. Travel ½ mile and take LEFT onto WEBSTER ST. After the next set of lights go left onto THORPE RD. It is located inside a building on the left side called “GORSE MILL STUDIOS”.

Now I know it sounds simple to find, but for some odd reason I have clients who circle the neighborhood for 20 minutes before discovering they were literally in the right place the entire time. For that reason, here is the key to avoid getting terribly lost.

Are you ready?  Here we go!

When you turn onto Thorpe from Webster, the entrance to the studio is only 100 feet to your left. How far is 100 feet? Well, a football field is 300 feet. So, one third of that. Not a football fan? 100 feet is also the same as sitting at a stop light with 6 cars ahead of you.

I know you think I’m being silly, but every week without fail I have at least one client who is 20 minutes late, flustered by “getting lost”. They pull over about 4 houses past the entrance and cannot find their way back to this rather large mill and huge wide open parking lot. Invariably these lost souls are too embarrassed to call me for directions because they laughed as they read this (sort of like you’re laughing now), and thought to themselves “This will NOT be me…I have GPS…I have a keen sense of direction!”  

News Flash:  Everyone before you said the exact same thing. So if at this moment you believe this long explanation does not pertain to you, go ahead and create a new contact in your iPhone so you can easily call me when you’re circling the neighborhood: My direct cell is: (617) 504-7005.

Oh…there’s a sign that looks a lot like this one, at the entrance.


And here’s Gorse Mill – filled with painters, potters, artists and yes Rick Bern Photography!


A peek inside the studio:

And finally a little help from Google maps to orient you to the area.  Good luck!!

What should I wear?

I get this question more than any other. Let me do my best to offer suggestions – but in the end it’s up to you.

If there’s more than one person in the shot, I suggest trying to make sure the colors worn are similar in appearance. Be sure the clothes share a similar value, which is simply defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. For example if the photo were shot in black and white, all clothing would look similarly light or dark. Another way to gauge the value of color is to squint your eyes. The goal is to not have one item of clothing overpowering another, to create balance, and to not have any person or item of clothing becoming the focal point.

Think about bringing options to the studio with you. Bring something black, something gray and something you love that you think makes you look like a rock star.

Men should avoid collars with buttons, mostly because I don’t like them and it’s not as crisp looking in a photo. Take the time to press your shirt, dry clean your suit and get a haircut. Put in strong collar stays. Use your session as an excuse to buy a new wardrobe, or at least a new shirt and tie. Men with pale skin tones should probably avoid a white business shirt, especially in the winter. Light blue is a better choice. If you have darker skin tones, white shirt can be great. I’ve also seen pink (salmon) shirts look incredible on the right person – as I said, it’s really up to you. Bring multiple outfits, ties, shirts, etc. I have pretty strong opinions once I see it on the screen and I’m here to help…whether or not you want it. 🙂

Try if you can to keep to solid colors. Patterns, designs, logos, or graphics will stand out and lead the viewer’s eyes away from where it should be – your eyes. The goal is always to lead the viewer to the people in the portrait, and not to their choice of clothing. And even though I just said solids are the standard, there are no rules! I photographed a family who all wore different color plaid shirts and although we were laughing at the time at how insane it looked, it turned out great once we converted it to black and white. Be authentic, bring tons of options, consider what the images will be used for and who the end audience will be. You cannot bring too many clothes to the studio – suitcases welcome!

Should I wear my glasses?

Opinions differ on including glasses in photos. I believe that if they are not a dominant part of someone’s appearance, they can be left out. Glasses can create glare and reflection that may or may not be fixable in post-production, but don’t let that stop you from wearing them. If it’s possible to pop the lenses out and keep the frames, that’s a huge help, but only do it if you know you can put them back in. If you want to wear them, be sure they’re super clean, and I will work with the lighting to reduce the glare as best I can. If you choose not to wear your glasses, be sure to take them off when you arrive so as to eliminate the little red spots where the glasses rest on the bridge of your nose.

Should I get a haircut before my portrait?

I advise people to get a haircut about a week before their portrait whenever possible. This assures your hair is neatly groomed, but has “settled” from being freshly cut.

Do you recommend anything in particular as far as hair and makeup for women?

Long hair is beautiful, but stray hair in the face is not. Dryer sheets can be helpful to control static. If you are working with one of my stylists, they have hair spray and will continue to touch up as we shoot. If you choose to do your own makeup, cover any blemishes as you normally would. Do not assume that you need excessive powder or cover-up as you may have seen in the movies or on news anchors. Anchors are working under a completely different light source with different equipment. Bad makeup is very noticeable with the high resolution camera equipment I use. The general rule of thumb is “just slightly more than usual.”

Do you have a hair and makeup artist available?

Yes. I have literally spent years cultivating some of Boston’s best professional on-site hair and makeup artists and I highly recommend availing yourself of their services. I am lucky enough to have a relationship with makeup artist Bre Welch, who was voted “Best of Boston” by Improper Bostonian Magazine and several other great artists who are part of her team. The cost for a hair and makeup session is $200, takes about an hour and will make you look and feel your best. The goal of using a professional for hair/makeup is to create a natural yet finished look. Plan to reserve appointment times well in advance as schedules are nearly always full.

As I said, the team of artists can leave you looking completely natural or with the appearance of a New York City runway model. Or both in the same session. They work on national magazine campaigns, celebrity shoots, and assist with hundreds of headshots with me each year. Men generally don’t require makeup but if you have shiny skin and you want a little help, let me know. I can try to fit your session in just before a female client. We can apply light powder and then remove it after the session is over. Let me know if you are interested and I’ll see what we can work out.

How do I prepare for the hair/makeup artist?

Come to the studio with clean, dry, manageable hair and a clean face.  Feel free to bring a separate set of clothes when sitting in the makeup chair and please be a few minutes early as we normally schedule a full day of back to back appointments with our artists. There’s two bathrooms just steps down the hall from my studio that we use as changing rooms.

What about nose hair?

I can’t tell you how happy I am that you asked me about nose hair! Nikon has created the world’s best high resolution cameras that can now reveal every detail in your anterior nasal passage. If I had a penny for how often I request the removal of unwanted nasal hair from my retoucher, I’d be a wealthy man. Invest $15 in a trimmer at your local drugstore and get busy – yes this goes for the ladies as well. And while you’re holding it in your hand, feel free to hunt around for other stray facial hair. It’s a good practice to get in the habit of doing (not just before photo shoots) and I guarantee your partner will thank you for it.

What time should I arrive for my session?

Vince Lombardi once said “If you are 5 minutes early, you are 10 minutes late”. Coming a few minutes late to your session makes everyone feel rushed and that’s not great for creativity. Please be considerate of the clients who follow your appointment who are likely on a tight schedule. Please leave enough time to find the building, use the restroom, get changed, apply makeup, etc.  I recommend to arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled session so we can actually start on time. No need to come more than 10 minutes early, or you might end up waiting on me. All missed appointments without 24 hour notice will be billed the full session fee.

Can I take pictures during a session?

Although it should go without saying, please do not take photographs (iPhone or otherwise) during our session without permission. Not only could you inadvertently set off studio lights, but you could distract someone and ruin a shot that we are trying to create. Also, since I shoot tethered to a computer to allow my clients a live view, images will pop up on the screen every few moments. These images are in fact protected by copyright. Unauthorized photos taken with any camera, even an iPhone, are in violation of copyright protection. That is a long way of saying, please ask before using an iPhone in the studio.

Can I post the images on Social Media?

Absolutely! Please follow me on Instagram, friend me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. If you want to post images online that’s awesome. My only request is to tag me and give “photo credit: Rick Bern”.

How many photos will we get to see?

Although each portrait session is different, I normally shoot 70-80 images per hour. I then select the best 30-40 for you to choose from. Generally, I’ll have more images to show with larger extended families, and fewer images following baby sloth pet sessions.

For headshots, we typically choose the final images directly after the shoot. For family portraits, selections are often made at a later date. I will create a secure gallery for viewing and selection that you can access online.

If we schedule a family or group portrait, will you take photos of each individual plus various combinations?

Yes absolutely, your family or group photo session is flexible will include as many combinations as we can during the hour session.  Often families will focus on the large group shot first, then break down into small groups and individual portraits.

What information should I provide you before the day of the shoot?

Before a headshot I recommend taking a quiet moment to consider what you want to accomplish from the shoot. Are we taking a simple generic LinkedIn headshot to get back in the workforce, or are we rebranding your identity with a new role or career? What does your choice of shirt/tie, blouse, jacket…say about you? Does the image need to say healthcare consultant, corporate attorney, self-help author, CEO at Biotech startup…or new to the dating scene? What are we communicating? Who is your audience?

In terms of family sessions, ask yourself what will make you the happiest. Where in the house will the photos will be hung? Do you want to create an album? Are these images going to be given away as gifts? What mood would you like in the images (formal, relaxed, casual, playful, spontaneous/natural). Discuss your ideas with me before the session so that I can help.

In the end, you really can’t be too prepared. It’s okay to email me pictures of your walls where portraits will go. Walk around your house taking pictures so I can see your style, and help me better understand what we are trying to create during our session. Images of past portraits help me understand your taste in frames so we can work this in as well. Basically the more information is better, the more involved in the process the better, and in the end you will get what you want.

Are you comfortable photographing children and pets?

As the father of two young boys and two Labradoodles, I am completely at home photographing kids and pets. I’m also a former licensed social worker, which my wife tells me comes in handy nearly every day at work. I do my best to approach every portrait session with openness, patience and a healthy dose of humor. Because these are not my children, I am able to resist the temptation to bargain, beg, bribe and over-promise in the pursuit of an “authentic” expression, and I ask that you do the same. The more comfortable everyone is, the better the photos. And I love photographing animals on their own too, both in the studio or on-location.

How should I prepare my pet for a pet photo session?

Working with pets is something I really enjoy. Here are a few simple guidelines. Be sure they are well groomed, well exercised but not well fed. Oh and please do not come to the studio and brush your dog! Remember that I have asthma, so excess dog hair flying through the studio can be a major problem. Invest in a professional bath or grooming that morning or the day before. Brush them before you leave your house. Heavy shedders or high strung animals are often best captured outside the studio.

What does “not well-fed” mean? Feed your dog half their normal breakfast on the day of the shoot because a slightly hungry dog will give me their full attention and will respond better to special treats. Bring your pet’s favorite snack to the session in a sealed baggie, without the animal’s knowledge, and hand it to me quietly when you arrive. Maintain a very calm tone and allow me to take the leash when you arrive. If your dog is high energy, please schedule your session late enough to allow for you to exercise them hard – wear them out – plus allow time for them to settle down afterward and reach a calm state before walking into the studio.

What can I do to help when you photograph my child or pet?

During the session, I ask parents to remain quiet and let me do my thing. We all want your kids/pets to feel comfortable and act natural.  So please read this note on Parental Cheerleading, and take these words to heart:

A few more words about “Parental Cheerleading”

This should come as no surprise but prompting kids to “Say Cheese” or “Smile for the Camera” will not produce a genuine expression. Believe me, if it worked, professional photographers worldwide would have caught on by now. It doesn’t work. Really.

In reality, saying “cheese” produces the exact opposite effect from what I’m trying to capture. Despite best intentions, parental cheerleading is more distracting than useful. When a child (or pet) hears too many voices coaching and giving direction, it quickly gets overwhelming and hampers the ability to capture anything authentic. I don’t want my subjects to perform for me with a fake smile. You’re investing hard earned dollars to hire a professional – so please trust me when I tell you – I’m not shy and if I need help I will ask for it. 

Bonus Tip: If you hear me joking that I’m going to have to put you in a “time-out”, it’s my way of reminding you to chill so I can do my job.

I’m driving myself crazy trying to think of the ultimate location to use as background for our family portrait.  Where do you recommend we take our family photos?

This is another question I get…a lot. While I’m more than happy to travel to your favorite beach on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, the Cape, or travel to a park near the studio to capture family portraits, I shoot the majority of portraits with a blurred background where the focus is on the person, not the scenery. I love getting out of the studio but most often I shoot right behind my building and nobody would ever know. It’s also a great way to get a mix of studio and environmental portraits, all in the same session.

For a simple demonstration that obsessing over the “perfect” background isn’t necessary, here’s a shot of my kids using a dumpster in my neighborhood as the artsy background. In the end it’s about the subjects, not the scenery!

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes – I accept cash, Venmo, ApplePay, checks and all major credit cards.

If you have any other questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thanks and look forward to working with you!


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