Monday, December 31, 2012

Interview: Bead Photographer

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.

OK -

  • 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?

34760200075001 Swarovski Elements Pendant - 37 mm Spiral Helix Drop (6020) - Crystal AB (1)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!

s33417 Czech Seedbeads - 8 mm Seedbead - Archeology (strand)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!


Sue Henry said...

What is the background you use? Is it matt, smooth, metal, glass? Thanks for the tips!

Maria said...

Dwyn! Excellent job explaining the entire photography process. I too take gazillion shots just to get the best representation and feel of the bead, step, beadwork, event. Your comment about shooting the light is enlightening. (not just a pun...) Best wishes for a Happy Creative Year!