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. A wheezing photographer isn’t a happy photographer. If you forget, or if anyone in your party is wearing perfume, we may need to reschedule. 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 the entrance to this rather large mill and huge wide open parking lot. They’re too embarrassed to call because they laughed at these directions (sort of like you are laughing now), and thought “This won’t be me, I have GPS, and 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 does not pertain to you, go ahead and enter my cell into your iPhone so you can call me: My number is: (617) 504-7005.

Oh…there’s also a sign at the entrance.


And here’s a shot of the entire building, known as Gorse Mill:


Here’s a peek inside the studio!

And lastly 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 and I’ll 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 nice collar stays. Use the 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 better. If you have darker skin tones, white shirt can be great. I’ve seen pink shirts look incredible on the right person – it’s really up to you. Bring multiple outfits, ties, shirts etc. I have strong opinions and am happy 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 – on 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 wore all different color plaid 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 options, consider what the images are for and who the 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 are extremely 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 created by the pads where the glasses rest on 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 spent years cultivating some of Boston’s best professional on-site hair and makeup artists and I highly recommend availing yourself of their services. We are lucky enough to have a relationship with makeup artist Bre Welch, who was voted “Best of Boston” by Improper Bostonian Magazine, as well as the insanely fabulous Brandon Ward, and several other great local artists. The cost for a hair and makeup session is $150-$200, takes about an hour and will make you look and feel beautiful. Reserve appointment times well in advance.

Our team can leave you looking completely natural or with the appearance of a New York City runway model. They work on national magazine campaigns, celebrity shoots, and literally hundreds of headshots with me each year. Men can use touch-ups, though often we squeeze them in before or after a female client for 10 minutes to reduce shine and primp hair. Let us know if you are interested and we will work out the best time for everyone involved.

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.

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 about 10 minutes before your scheduled session so we can actually start on time. 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 protected by copyright. Unauthorized photos taken with any camera, yes even an iPhone, are in violation of that copyright protection. Please ask before using an iPhone in the studio.

Follow me on social media and if you want to post something online, simply ask. I am happy to tag you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter from our session, with studio branding.

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 to create your package. Generally, I’ll have more images to show with larger extended families, and fewer images after pet sloth portrait sessions.

For headshots, we typically choose the final images during and directly after the shoot. For family portraits, selections are made at a later date. We can either schedule a 30-minute reveal session where you return to the studio and view the images using a projector and large screen, or if more convenient, we can create a secure online gallery for viewing and selection purposes at home.

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 to 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 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 cannot 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! 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. Seriously shedding dogs are 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 lead 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. Another option for a high energy dog is to shoot outdoors, on location, which I’m happy to do!

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

During the session, I ask parents to remain quiet and calm 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 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, every professional photographer worldwide would probably have caught on by now and used this trick in every photo.

In reality, saying “cheese” produces the exact opposite effect. Despite our best intentions, parental cheerleading is more distracting than helpful. When a child (or pet) hears too many voices coaching and giving direction, it becomes overwhelming, and hampers the ability to capture a truly authentic image. I don’t want subjects to perform for me, or give a fake smile. You’ve hired a professional – trust me when I tell you – I’m not a shy person…if I need help I will ask for it. 

Tip: If you hear me “joking” to a parent that I’m going to have to put them in a time-out in the hallway, it’s my way of gently reminding you to stop with the parental cheerleading and let me “do my thing”.  🙂

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 a special 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 family, not the scenery. Again, I love getting out of the studio and both Cutler and Larz Anderson Park are great spots within a short drive of my 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 smelly dumpster as the official 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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