I met up with Tampa based photographer, Clinton Bernard, to talk about how his love for the camera grew into a business.
Q: Go ahead and introduce yourself. Who are you?
A: I go by Clinton Bernard. That’s the name I use for my creative ventures. I’m a student. I’m pursuing my Master’s in Clinical Social Work right now at USF [University of South Florida]. I work in the social services field. I’m a social worker here in the Tampa Bay community. And I turned a hobby into a business.
Q: How did you develop your interest in photography?
A : It’s something that I’ve been interested in for a while. I actually used to play with the camera a lot as a kid. I used to have a camera and this mobile printer and I used to print out pictures for my family and stuff like that. I always knew how to work adobe and stuff – I learned those in school by taking different classes. I thought it was cool and that’s what I wanted to do. I felt that it was a skill that I had so I thought why not put it to use. I was taking pictures for people for free.If I had access to a camera, I would just go ahead and flick people up. So I was like why not put my skill to use and benefit from it?
Q: What kind of camera do you use?
A: See that’s one question I don’t answer (laughs). I feel like a lot of times people think that they need an expensive camera just starting. Although I’ve been playing with cameras for awhile, I just started doing photography consistently for the past year and a half. I’m new to the game;I’m just starting but I don’t feel like my work looks amateur. For me and my own critiques it is amateur. But my whole idea that I go for is: you don’t need an expensive camera to get good results. So that’s why I don’t really tell people what kind of camera I use. Because that’s always the go to, “oh you got some nice pictures! What kind of camera do you use?” It’s not about the camera. It’s really not about the camera. I learned that you just get a camera and you fall in love with your camera. You learn your camera back in and back out and you create.
Q: Do you have any influences or people that you researched getting into photography?
A: Not people in particular. I mean, I look at a lot of past editorials. Like, vintage era editorial sand I get inspiration from that. I follow people on Instagram. That’s all I do on Instagram; I look at pictures and stuff like that. But I try to stay off Instagram at points as well when I’m trying to create or get ideas because it becomes trendy and I try not to fall into the trend of what everybody else is doing. When you do that, you start comparing yourself until that work and thinking it isn’t good or it isn’t where it needs to be. I’m gonna say I am guilty! At one point I had to stay away from that because it just didn’t feel natural.
Q: How do you build your chemistry with your clients? How do you get them to feel comfortable in front of the camera?
A: Basically, for everyone that I work with I have a personal consultation with them. I try to do it over the phone if I can’t do it in person. I believe it’s a little more personable. And I just genuinely have a conversation about them and what kind of shoot they’re trying to have. I think if you’re in your natural state and you’re taking pictures, it comes out the best. That’s what I try to tell people. I come to the shoot, I play music. Whatever they want to vibe to. I do a little bit of coaching and then from there the person just starts to take over. You have to build confidence within your clients and I think having chemistry with your client and being a photographer, that takes your shoot – or whatever you’re doing – to the next level.
Q: I actually go on your Instagram quite often. And I’ve seen those pictures you took of Brian. Who knew he was such a model?
A: So Brian’s one of my go-to’s when I want to do lighting tests, when I got new clothes and I pick some stuff out, he tries it on and I play with the camera. That’s really how you learn your camera. You find somebody, or whatever that you’re interested in taking pictures of, and you go out and do photo-walks. That’s where Brian came in at. It just works.
Q: From your point of view, what makes a “good” picture?
A: What makes a good picture? I don’t know… I can’t say what makes a good picture because everyone’s eye is different. Everyone has a different vision to what can be a good picture. I can have one style that I want to shoot with and somebody else’s style is completely different. I can look at something and say “what is this?” but that’s that persons creative eye. They can do the same thing to my work.
Q: When you take your pictures, how do know you got the perfect shot?
A: I just get a feeling. Actually, I get really click happy with shoots and I’m in the zone. The client’s vibin’, I’m vibin’. I come home with so many photos. The long process that I do take is I go through the clips and just the delete the ones that I don’t like. And I do that a couple times.Never in one session. I have to take a pause. And it gotta be a photo that really attracts me. Like you said, I try to invoke happiness in photos unless I’m going for a certain emotion or story that I want it to tell. But most of the time I’m trying to get the person in their best light;happiness. Happiness brings joy to everybody and when people see happy pictures it makes them happy as well. So I think I get a feeling of what I think is good and I just go from there.
Q: What’s a favorite photo session of yours and what made it memorable?
A: I don’t know. That’s tough! Every session is different because each person brings something different. So, I don’t know if I have a favorite yet.
Q: W hat’s something that you learned on a photoshoot?
A: Well, I use natural light a good 80% of the time. So, I’m learning to control light more just using natural light. Learning to become more comfortable with my camera each time. The more you become comfortable and the more you know your camera, it gets quick and easy and you’re in and out.
Q: So what’s next stop on your photography journey? Where do you wanna take it?
A: I’m going to be launching some stuff soon. I don’t want photography just to be one part of me. My plan is to build a brand . I like creating stuff. I’ve always been into creating things within the arts. So, I will be expanding my photography and collab with a couple people. I’m working on building a team of Make-Up Artists, stylists, and models. I’m just building a bigger brand!
"Happiness brings joy to everybody and when people see happy pictures it makes them happy as well"
Q: Do you have any life philosophies to share?
A: I think happiness is the ultimate goal that people look for in life. And a lot of times when I’m doing event photography, I don’t like for people to be like “take my picture” or pose in front of the camera. I just like to vibe out and shoot and capture the moments that really are there. Those turn out to be some of the best pictures. So I think art brings peace to people. All types of art,whether its visual, theatrical, music, poetry, all that. So I support your movement! I fuck wit it! Like, it’s dope! For booking, please email email@example.com. You can view more of Clinton Bernard's work in the Behold the Art gallery or on his IG @clint915!