Say cheese, please

| 24 May 2012 | 12:42

WEST MILFORD — As a youngster, in the small environs of Our LadyQueen of Peace School, she was always the “top artist.” Upon entering West Milford High School, however, she suffered a bit ofculture shock when she saw the amount of artistic competition.But fear not, Linda Birdsall found her niche in the arts and has gone on to become a talented, innovative, award-winning portrait photographer.

Birdsall, a life-long West Milford resident, was lucky enough to be in the first photography class offered at the high school.Prior to taking that class she had access to a friend’s dark room and since she hadexperience with developing, she wound up helping the teacher with the new course.It was the dark room that changed her life.

“Once I saw a picture develop before my eyes, I was hooked,” Birdsall said.

After graduating in 1975, Birdsall went to the Germain School of Photography in New York City. In 1976, she landed her first job as an assistant, “a flunky” she said, in a photography studio.She married her boss, became a step-mother to Rob and Stacey and had two children, Michael, now a Marine who plays trumpet in the Marine band, and Stacey, a make-up artist, and now she has a seven-year old granddaughter, Lauren.Her husband passed away 12 years ago.

“When my son was born I thought I’d dust off what I knew and take my own kid’s pictures.I liked what I was doing and thought ‘I’m good at this,’ so I’ve been doing portraits for 21 years,” she said.“Portrait Artistry by Linda Marie” in Pompton Plains came into being in 1984.

Birdsall’s style has developed over the years, inspired by impressionistic painters and classic portraits. She likes to keep things simple in her portraits.

“The first thing should be the impact of the face,” she said.

She photographs newborns to adults.She delights in teen subjects, saying they are in their prime and full of “pizzazz,” and her children’s fantasy photos are more than impressive.Now fully into digital photography, Birdsall can take a photo of a beautiful flower at her home and with the magic ofphoto technology lay a sleeping babyon a flower petal.A newborn can be cradled in a birdbath,nestled in the woods.

Children can be photographed in an enchanted forest, or on a sandy sea shore.They can be mermaids or pirates, boys in knickers, girls with fairy wings, babies on a bed of roses.Birdsall’s creativity and imagination appear boundless.

Because most parents won’t be able to provide a sailor suit or fairy costume and wand, Birdsall has all that available.She even has summer dresses for outdoor garden photos.For her beach photos, she trucks in sand and shells; for winter photos, she adds imitation snow.And then she adds that beautiful child.

Digital photography, she found, is constantly evolving.

“The technology hasn’t stopped. I’m still learning the fun stuff,” Birdsall said.She employs six part-time assistants, each with their own talents.

Birdsall gave some tips for people preparing to have a portraittaken.

“For a classic portrait, think about where you are putting it in your home.You don’t want a child in a pink dress that doesn’t match the living room," she said."Think it through.You don’t want a light and airy photograph in a dark,classical room.We try to help a client through the process, we give them options.”

It’s not often that a weekend photographer gets some hints from an award-winning professional.Birdsall, the recipient of the coveted Kodak Gallery Award, and with blue ribbons from the Professional Photographers of NJ and the Professional Photographers of America, has a few tips for taking children’s photos.

The most important element of a good child’s photo is for the photographer to get down to the child’s eye level.Also, because most amateur photographers are shooting with an automatic digital camera, they have to learn to anticipate.By the time the auto focus has locked onto the subject, that perfect shot may be history.

The best way to appreciate Birdsall’s talents is to visit her Web site.There you can view the different galleries and see for yourself Birdsall’s range of artistry.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.