Q. So you're the person that takes the photos for the website? How did you get that sweet gig?
A. Well - it sort of came with the rest of the job as being the person that processes everything, writes the descriptions, and gets it onto the website. You gotta have pictures ... .
Q. Absolutely. Walk us through the process - what goes into photographing a bead?
A. I start with a box of beads - usually all from one wholesaler. I'll empty the box and sort it, and get a sense of what I need to do. If it is all consistent items, say, a new shipment of Swarovskis where it is two or three shapes in a rainbow of colours - then I sort them.
Q. Why sort them?
A. Well - it's much faster to process them afterwards if they are in some sort of order.
Q. Fair enough. Then what.
A. Then I start shooting. I start by taking a photo of the invoice, then the package ...
Q. Wait a minute - the invoice? the package?
Yep - it's how I can be certain that I match up the correct product with the correct information. That's one of the reasons why I love digital photography - you can use photos to store information like that.
OK - then what?
I take them out of the package, arrange them on a stage, shoot them, and then re-package them.
That sounds like less fun than I imagined!
Well - I'm pretty sure that if I dumped them all loose in a box - the gals at the store who then have to re-package them for sale would kill me!
How many pictures do you take of each item? One or two?
Five - fifteen - more. As many as it takes. Depends on how cooperative the bead is being.
Really? Then you must take a lot of pictures.
Yep - 500 - 700 in a day's shooting is not unusual.
Wow. Do you have any tips for the rest of us who are trying to improve our own picture-taking?
Well - I have some specific and concrete tips, or I have a general philsophy.
Let's hear the specific tips first.
- one - Get the subject in focus.
- two - make sure the background is not cluttered
- three - get enough light on the subject, and
- four - take LOTS of pictures.
Is that it? That seems pretty simple. Nothing about f-stops and aperatures?
Yeah - that's it. Look at the picture enlarged - find out where the camera focused. Not on the background, hopefully. "Take lots of pictures" is the most important. I find that if you take lots of shots - your chances of having one good one are much better. The focus may be a little out on one, or, you might move the item and the light hits it a little better. I use 3 lights, and I often pick one up and move it around as I shoot, looking for the most flattering lighting.
You make it sound like you are shooting portraits!
That's actually how I think of it - bead portraits. I'm trying to capture the character of the bead - not just a product shot.
Have any favourites?
Geez - there have been soooo many! I'll fall in love with one for awhile - but soon, there will be another, better one. I will say though - shooting the really big Swarovski pendants in Crystal AB is always a treat! How can you not love those colours!
And matte finish beads seem to be particularly photogenic - I really loved the way these came out.
So if that was the specific tips - what about the "philosophy."
OK - I heard this from another photographer a long time ago - and it helped me a lot - but I'm not sure that it will help anyone else. What he said was, "Don't shoot the object - shoot the light." I spent a lot of time thinking about that - I still do think about it.
Oh - and the other thing is - keep at it. Practice, practice, practice.
Any other tips or tricks?
Hmm - some colours are hard to capture accurately. I've found that you get a truer red with a black background, sapphire beads look like cobalt, and cobalt beads are just impossible to shoot. They never look right.
Can you show us a picture of your set up?
I bought the entire set up from Table Top Studio.
Geez - that's - um - kind of cluttered.
True - I said the photo should be uncluttered, not your desk. But notice, it's well lit and in focus. ;-) Also - I took two photos - just to make sure that one would be ok. And if they both sucked, I would have gone back and taken more.
And what kind of camera are you using?
A Nikon D5000, with the stock 18 - 55 mm Nikon DX lens.
That's a pretty high-end camera, is it?
No - it's what they call - "Pro-sumer" - somewhere between amateur consumer and professional grade. The enthusiasts' camera, I guess.
Do you take photos for fun as well?
Actually, I do.
What kind of photos are those?
I like to shoot a lot of sky and scenery shots - and I use the camera a lot to take photos of dogs - mostly casual or action shots. I like to capture the moment - not stage it.
Can you share some of those with us?
OK - here's a couple of favourites.
What do you like about these two pictures?
The first one - the silhouette - captures, for me - that bond, that partnership - between a dog and his human - plus - the sky is just great! There is the awesome sunset - and a sun pillar in the background too as an added bonus!
The second one is more painterly - and the way the tree trunks echo the colour of the dog - it really ties him to the environment - shows him as a creature that is as comfortable in the forest as he is on the couch - a little echo of his wild ancestors. You can easily imagine him - slipping through the trees - silently stalking ...
Well - thank you for your time. I think that wraps it up for now!
If you have any questions for our photographer - post them in the comments!