Tips, Directions and More

Before I begin…a huge favor:

Over the past 10 years I’ve been fortunate enough to develop adult onset asthma and as a result I have to ask that you please do not wear any perfume (or cologne) to our session.  Wheezing and photography aren’t the best combination.  If you forget, or if anyone in your group is wearing perfume, we will likely need to reschedule.  Thanks in advance for your consideration!

Where the heck is the studio?

The studio is located at 31 THORPE ROAD, NEEDHAM, MA, suite 104.

It’s less than one mile off Route 128 and around the corner from Starbucks, Cafe Fresh Bagels and a great restaurant, Blue on Highland.  We’re in suite 104 on the first floor. There is 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 strange reason I have clients who circle for 20 minutes before discovering they were around the corner the entire time. For that reason, here is the key to avoid getting terribly lost.

Are you ready?

When you turn onto Thorpe Road, 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 equal to being at a stop light with six cars ahead of you.

I know you think I’m being silly, but every week without fail I have one client who circles the neighborhood. They are usually three houses past the entrance, and for some reason they cannot find the driveway to this rather large old mill and big parking lot. They’re also too embarrassed to call because they laughed at these directions (as you are now), and thought “it won’t be me”.  So if you don’t think it will be you, please put my cell into your phone right now – Rick Bern (617)504-7005.

Finally, there’s a sign at the entrance and it looks a heck of a lot like this photo:


And Gorse Mill looks a lot like this photo:


And here’s a map!  Good luck!!

What should I wear?

If you are taking a group photo, try to ensure that all colors are similar in appearance. For example, in a family portrait be sure everyone’s clothes share a similar value. Value is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. If the photo were to be viewed in black and white, all shirts would look similarly light or dark. Another way to gauge the value of a color is to squint your eyes. The goal is to not have one color overpowering another, to create balance in the photo, and to not have any one person or item of clothing become the focal point.

Whether taking a group photo or an individual portrait, think about bringing options with you. Consider something black, something gray and something you love that you think makes you look like a rock star. Men should try to avoid collars with buttons, mostly because I don’t like them and it is not as crisp looking in a photo.  Take the time to press your shirt, dry clean your suit and get a haircut. Bring collar stays. Use your session as an excuse to buy a new shirt, new suit and new tie. Those with pale skin tones should avoid a white business shirt if possible – light blue is probably better. If you have darker skin tones, white shirt is ok. I’ve also seen amazing pink shirts on the right person. It is fine to bring multiple outfits, ties, shirts etc. I have pretty strong opinions and am happy to help if asked…or even when not asked.

Try to keep to solid colors. Any pattern, design, logo, or graphic 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 recently photographed a family who all wore all different color plaid and although we were laughing the entire time, it actually looked great…once we converted it to black and white.

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. If you can pop the lenses out and keep the frames, that’s a huge help. Getting a screwdriver is simple to do and it could save you $50 in post-production editing to reduce reflection in your glasses. If you want to wear them, as many people may want to for a headshot, be sure they are clean and I will work with the lights to reduce the glare. If you choose not to wear your glasses, be sure to take them off early enough 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 their 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?

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’m so glad you asked about nose hair. My camera creates extremely high resolution images that show everything in your anterior nasal passage. If I had a penny for how often I need to request the removal of unwanted nasal hair from my retoucher, I’d be a very wealthy man. Invest $12 in a nose hair trimmer at the drugstore and get busy—yes this goes for women as well as men. While you’re holding the trimmer in your hand, feel free to remove other stray facial hair too.  Better to spend $12 in advance than $50 to have it digitally removed from the photo after.

When should I arrive for my session?

Coming 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 early so we can start on time.  All missed appointments without prior notice will be charged 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 the session. 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 of the session, images will pop up on the screen every few moments. These images are in fact, protected by copyright law. Unauthorized photos taken with any camera, yes even an iPhone, are in violation of that protection and could result in fines and other legal action.

I love sharing on social media. If you want to post something online, simply ask. Additionally, I am happy to post nearly anything on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter from our session, with our 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 hamster 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 schedule another 30-minute session where you will return to the studio and view the images using a projector and large screen, or if more convenient, a secure online gallery can be generated for viewing and selection purposes.

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 and can be adjusted to fit your needs.  Often families will focus on the large group shot, then break down into smaller combinations and individual portraits.

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

It’s completely up to you, but before the big day I recommend thinking about what you are hoping to accomplish. When the session is over, what will make you the happiest? Consider quality versus quantity, what do you really want? Do a little planning in advance of coming to the studio and ask yourself where the photos will be hung, what mood would you like everyone to be in for the image (formal, relaxed, casual, playful, spontaneous). Discuss this with me before your shoot so that I can help get you there.

And honestly, you really cannot be too prepared. It is okay to send me photos of the walls where portraits could go. Take shots on your iPhone from around your house so I can see your style, and help me better understand what we are trying to create during our session together. Take pictures of other portraits that may be hanging so I can see your taste in frames so we can work this in as well. More information is better, so feel free to become involved in the process.

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 am 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 own 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 resulting photos. And I absolutely 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 love to do. Here are a few simple guidelines. Best practice for bringing your pet into the studio is to 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. Shedding dogs are best captured outside.

What is “not well-fed”? Only feed your dog ½ their normal breakfast on the day of the shoot because a slightly hungry dog will give me his or her full attention and will respond better to 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 calm even 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 – plus allow time for them to settle down and reach a calm state before walking into the studio. Another option for a high energy dog is to shoot outdoors, on location.

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

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

Prompting your kids to “SAY CHEESE” or “smile for the camera” will never produce a genuine expression. In fact, it will do the exact opposite.

Despite best intentions, parental cheerleading is more distracting than helpful. Too many voices calling out at a child (0r a pet) is overwhelming, and hampers my ability to produce a truly authentic image. Trust me, I’m not shy; if I need help, I promise I will ask for it. If you hear me make the joke that “I’m going to need to put you in a time-out” it’s my way of gently reminding you to chill.

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

I’m happy to travel to interesting locations and shoot portraits, I really am.  It’s fun, gets me out of the studio and I love it.  I’ve spent a lot of time at Cutler Park, Larz Anderson Park, behind my studio, standing in a parking lot, up against a brick wall, on train tracks…it doesn’t matter to me so long as the light is good and the subject is willing.

But to demonstrate that obsessing over the “perfect” background isn’t absolutely necessary, here is a shot of my youngest son in our driveway during construction.  The background we used in the black and white shot is a smelly dumpster. My message is simple – don’t worry about the background so much, I can shoot anywhere because there’s the potential for beauty in everything. And if not, I can blur it out.




Do you accept credit cards?

Yes – We accept cash, personal 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.



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