Shelter-in-place leads to creative new work for Fridababy

I’ve been pushing my creative boundaries during Dallas’s shelter-in-place order. One of my favorite clients to work with is Fridababy. They have a lovely new art director who I’ve worked with at other companies that I’ve been collaborating with. This video is one of our creations from last month. Despite not being able to leave and work on location, I’ve been able to build unique sets around my house and studio utilizing whatever I can that is on brand to help build an image library for Fridababy. I’ve also been shooting their new product’s e-commerce photography for their website, Target, Buy Buy Baby and other stores that carry their line of clever and useful products.

The right time to have a baby.

The timing of having my daughter overlapping when it’s incredibly hard to actually shoot models has played out really well for Fridababy. I’ve been able to use her as a model for them between my still life photography. The whole family has been working together to keep her happy and get her to look at the camera. I’ve even been able to jump into a couple of the shots to get the moments they were looking for.

I’ve got long, thin fingers and as awkward as the rest of me is, my hands aren’t. So for a little over a year, I’ve been hand modeling products for my clients. This was another creative way I was able to help build the image library for Fridababy. 

In addition to these specialty images (movement & models). I had quite a few still life in environment and in studio shots I took for them. The library needed more shots in places that felt real. So while homeschooling, chasing that baby, and working, I kept moving furniture around to different parts of the house to create sets. More than once that baby has made a mad dash for the wires and light stands that decorate the house these days.

Dallas Jewelry Photographer | Diamonds Direct Collection Photoshoot

Dallas Jewelry Photographer | Diamonds Direct Collection Photoshoot

2019 was a very, very exciting year!

More and more campaign shoots came in and it seemed the HUGE life changes of 2019 (like having another baby and moving to Dallas, TX) didn’t effect business. I think after I moved out of Miami to Charleston, SC I had to learn how to master the remote client photoshoot. We had already been doing it in Florida. But there are some products that it doesn’t work with and I was concerned how being a jewelry photographer would work out for me in Dallas and Fort Worth. Fine jewelry, high end pieces, really can’t often get shipped to my studio. So relocating and trying to maintain my life as a product and jewelry photographer was going to be challenging.

As fate would have it, one of my favorite jewelry clients didn’t miss a beat when I moved and quickly adjusted their plans to keep working with me. Diamonds Direct is known for their engagement rings and making it super easy to buy exactly what you want. Pick out the setting, pick out your diamond, and viola, your custom jewelry is ready. But they have so much more than that! After I moved, they reached out and asked if I could come and shoot their one of a kind pieces. From previous conversations, I knew these were different pieces then I had photographed before. I knew these were unique and rare pieces. The art direction was simple, plain white backgrounds with some clipping paths so they can drop the files into artwork as needed. However, the project and jewelry was anything but.

The jewelry photoshoot was over a couple days in an undisclosed location behind armed security guards. The collection isn’t usually all in one location so pieces were flown in from around the country for me to photograph. It was a huge responsibility to do justice as their jewelry photographer to these stunning necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. As is often the case with expensive jewelry like this, insurance regulated where the shoot would be. So I had to bring my studio to the location. Over the years, I’ve joked but the smaller the product is, the larger the studio setup we need! Every inch of the space they could give me to shoot was transformed with photography equipment. And in an organized furry we began capturing the collection.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I see I missed a deliver that required a signature. Usually I’m aware a package that requires a signature is coming so I was caught off guard by this. When I was able to catch the delivery and sign for it, the Collections book was waiting for me. Although my work is commonly used in print materials, it is rare for me to get to see it. A big thank you to the team over at Diamonds Direct for trusting me with the project and following through to the very end and sending one of their beautiful Collections books over to me. I love it!

I can only hope that this shoot was a preview into my new life as a Dallas jewelry photographer because if it is, many more great things are to come! Follow this link to see more of work from this (not so bashful but hopefully not too boastful) jewelry photographer.

Kate Benson Photography opening in Dallas Fort Worth

Kate Benson Photography opening in Dallas Fort Worth

There have been big, (huge) changes over the last few months for me. The first update is we’ve expanded our family and welcomed a baby girl on July 1st! She and I are both doing great and the boys are adjusting to life with a baby wonderfully. While that has been going on, Sam (my husband) has taken a job in Dallas and been commuting back and forth from there to Charleston. The end of July will be our move to the grand old state of Texas which means I’ll be setting up shop there too!

Naturally, my travel will be limited for a while having a newborn. But I plan on still working as a local from Miami and now Charleston. That means I’ll still take on shoots of a full day or more without charging travel costs. Although, for the short term, that’s on hold until we’ve settled in and figured out the routine.

We’ve all fallen deeply in love with Charleston and life in the low country. And the friends we’ve made feel like souls we’ve know many times over. So leaving them is of course a bit of a heartbreak. But the next adventure is waiting and onward we shall go! As a side note, I expect we will be back often.

So if you wonder why I haven’t written in a while, the 50-60 hours a week of work, while in my third trimester, and finding housing halfway across the country (while getting my house on the market) and single parenting a 5 year old (who of course broke his elbow at the start of all this) has kept me away from an update. But I am so excited to share what I’ve been shooting. Some truly awesome clients and products have come through the studio and I’ve been blessed to get to take a lot of gorgeous shots. I look forward to sharing more soon! There will be some new galleries on the website as well as some exciting blog posts. So stay tuned!

And on that note, here’s a picture of a very tired mama with a very tiny new baby.

Jewelry photography Tips: How to improve your website photography | Professional Jewelry Photographer Kate Benson

You have just taken the first step in elevating your jewelry photography. Hopefully you will find some of these jewelry photography tips helpful.

They were written to speak to a wide audience so feel free to skip around if you like!

With your jewelry photography, you may be doing it yourself, or working with a photographer and not getting what you want. To get started, here is is a video of what a lot of jewelry photography looks like (although not how all professionals do it) and some of you may watch this video and say, “I would be happy with jewelry photography like that!” while others have had photography like that and are looking to elevate it.

 

Regardless of your situation, there are ways to help improve your images. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into designing your pieces, and you want your jewelry photographs to reflect that! Here are 8 tips from a professional jewelry photographer to help elevate your photos.

 

Tip 1: Have Your Pieces Professionally Polished and Cleaned

Before you bring your jewelry pieces to a photoshoot, make sure to get them professionally polished and cleaned. This will elevate your images because they will look almost new and flawless. When looking at a jewelry image, the camera is much closer to the piece than the naked eye would be. This means the image will show any scratches or flaws in the jewelry that otherwise would not be noticeable. Many of these blemishes a professional photographer can edit out in post production. However, keep in mind that your photograph cost is equal to how much time is spent on your products. If a photographer needs to spend a few hours retouching your images, then your per image rate will be more expensive than if you had your pieces cleaned and the photographer had few corrections to make.

Professional jewelers will be able to polish your jewelry and remove most scratches, too.

 

For example, when jewelry photographer Kate Benson worked with estate fine jewelry for Fine Art Auctions Miami, they would have their pieces professionally polished and cleaned before each shoot. These were mostly worn pieces from private collections. This helped to elevate their images as the product looked as good as it was going to before she photographed it. The images were requested to not be deeply retouched as the buyers needed to see the real state of the jewelry. So getting it well cleaned and polished was critical!

Tip 2: Don’t Wear Jewelry You Want Photographed Before a Photoshoot

Staying along the lines of getting your jewelry professionally polished and clean, is not to wear any jewelry you want photographed. It is tempting when you create a beautiful piece and have the chance to enjoy it yourself to put it on. However, wearing jewelry before the photoshoot exposes the pieces to risk that isn’t needed such as, scratching the pieces, fingerprints, dusts, etc. All of that will increase the likelihood of the pieces needing to be cleaned professionally or be subjected to more retouching. 

If you are looking to clean your jewelry yourself, here is a video taking you step by step. Note: This process will not help to remove scratches.

Tip 3: Review and Carefully Select the Pieces You are Going to Shoot.

Manufacturing defects can happen. When picking out which pieces to photograph, check for everything. Some of the common issues that come through photography studios are: 

  • Crooked jump rings
  • Loose stones that can fall out
  • Scratches or dents
  • Broken clasps
  • Inconsistent assembly of pieces (for example, logo tags changing the sides of the pieces they are on).

By taking a close look at your jewelry and confirming the pieces are in the best shape possible you will save on retouching time. If you are working with a photographer, send more than one piece of the same jewelry to the shoot, so the photographer can pick out the best looking one.

Tip 4: Plan Art Direction for Each Image You Need Before Your Shoot

Whether you are building a website from scratch or creating an ad campaign, plan out every shot you need before shooting and make sure your pieces work for that shot. This is more important if you are working with a photographer but having things mapped out keeps each angle of each style piece consistent to how you want it to be. When putting images on a website you don’t want the angles of jewelry to shift. You want the website to look consistent and seamless. Having these guides will keep you from shifting what the images look like. 

If you are working with a photographer, letting the jewelry photographer know what you want is crucial to getting the photographs you need. Map out with images (either through testing with your photographer or collection inspiration on you own) what images you like. The photographer will want a guide of how you want each shot she/he is taking to look (roughly). From there, jewelry photographers can have a place to start and offer suggestions of alternative options for lighting, angles, etc. where they see something might work better. Most photographers expect to have a conversation about this before the shoot. During that conversation, consider that a jewelry photographer has seen a lot of product like yours before and has an idea already of why some pictures work better than others. Take long chain necklaces for example. How far do you zoom out for your image to show such a large piece? Too far will not show the details of the necklace. A jewelry photographer might suggest either including a zoom feature on your website so customers can see those details clearly, or to add detail shots as secondary images of your piece.

Keep an eye out for future blog posts on how to create moodboards and shot lists for art direction.

Tip 5: Keep it Consistent

Regardless of if you are shooting yourself or a professional jewelry photographer is, use a tripod and make sure the jewelry isn’t shifting/moving around when it is photographed. For example, hanging necklaces might sway for a while, so either place something behind them or wait until they stop moving before shooting. Regardless of if you are using natural light or not, make notes about what the light values were. If you have studio lights, write down their values, positions, and modifiers. If you are shooting in natural light, record the time of day, the weather, etc. Light will change color when it is cloudy or sunny. You want to be able if you are shooting yourself to go back and recreate the setup you have next time you have new pieces to shoot.

If you have a professional jewelry photographer, confirm that he/she is taking steps to recreate your setup when you have more product ready to send. Product photographer Kate Benson had this to say on this topic, “Consistency is one of the reasons I don’t often select to shoot product in natural light. It can be a beautiful atheistic but after spending a decade working in South Florida where the weather changes constantly chasing the light values, temperatures, and adjusting modifiers to correct for clouds/sun slowed down work and created too many variables and hence, inconsistencies. I prefer to create natural light in studio now when clients want that look.”  She explained that each client has their setups and lighting recorded through pictures and charts so whenever they send product again it will look like it was shot at the exact same time once it is on the website.

Tip 6: Matte vs. Shine

Jewelry is a finicky product to shoot. It acts like a mirror, reflecting everything. So what is reflecting in the metal is as important as what isn’t reflecting. Obviously you don’t want to see the yourself/the photographer and camera or objects from around a room in your jewelry but you may need to see something reflecting in the metal to make sure it looks right. If you have a matte finish on your jewelry you can get away with a lot more but when the jewelry has a shiny reflective finish then not seeing the right thing will look matte. Knowing how to put the right reflections into metal could make or break your sales + returns. If customers think they are buying a matte finish piece and get something shiny they could be very unhappy. So being accurate is very important. Pay close attention to what the jewelry looks like in your setup. You may need to add some reflections to make it look right!

Let’s revisit the first video about taking photographs using a light tent. A light tent is a great way to minimize any reflections. Your jewelry will be surrounded by plain white fabric on all sides, with the exception of a camera hole. The only reflection you’ll have is from your camera. It sounds counterintuitive, but the problem with a light tent is that you have no reflections. This gives jewelry a matte look, instead of the shine that looks great and gives pieces shape. Jewelry photographer Kate Benson has been shooting jewelry for over a decade, and she uses a variety of papers, scrims, modifiers, and lights (and almost never a light tent) to make the setup completely adjustable for each piece as necessary. “I have better control over the reflections in each jewelry piece this way. If I’m shooting rings that are different sizes, I can make small tweaks in the lighting setup to make each piece look its best. If I just put one on after the other, and didn’t make any adjustments, the reflections could look wrong.” Here’s an example of a piece of jewelry shot in a light box versus a controlled studio setup.

Bracelet shot using a light box by anonymous photographer

Bracelet shot in studio with a custom lighting setup by Kate Benson

Tip 7: Test it Out

There is a rumor that Vogue Magazine makes 5 different covers for every issue and then sends those covers out to a group of design talented beta viewers who will vote for the cover they like best. Regardless if that is true or not, that concept is a great way to elevate your jewelry photography. Whether you plan on using the photographs on your website, in mailers, or for banners and billboards, creating a few different mockup versions and seeing which ones look the best is sure to improve your photography usage. If you have a single piece, try seeing if your jewelry photographer offers a test shoot option where you can hire her/him to explore a few different photographic options to see what works the best. 

Tip 8: When in Doubt, Hire a Professional Jewelry Photographer

This is probably the fastest way to improve your jewelry photography. Keep in mind, hiring a professional photographer is not the same thing as a professional jewelry photographer. True jewelry photographers will pay close attention to what your jewelry is, what it needs to look like, and will make sure it all translates beautifully in the photography. You can estimate the per shot rate from a professional jewelry photographer in the range of $30 – $80+, which is extremely dependent on what type of jewelry you have, and how many pieces. If you have a ring that you sell with different colored stones on it, it might be possible to recolor the stones, and you might be looking toward the $30 range. If you have fine jewelry that needs a specific lighting setup per piece, you are looking at the higher end of the spectrum. Jewelry photographer Kate Benson recently did a shoot for a client with a high volume of images needed for the brands website and Amazon and was able to get the photography for under $20 a shot with testing because the volume was so high.

Many professional jewelry photographers will not give you this per image rate, but instead quote you based on an hourly or day rate. This way, they have the time they need to get your pieces to look stunning. A lot of work goes into a jewelry photo, including initial prep (like extra polishing), styling (especially difficult with chains), test shooting (if you needed it ), shooting (and lighting adjustments as needed), then retouching. If you receive a per shot rate, confirm that you know the final photography you are getting includes all the elements you need. Make sure every part of the shoot is spelled out before they do the work for you. The last think you want is to hire someone to do a shoot for you and then realize you needed background cleanup, more retouching, clipping paths, custom file sizes, etc. If you hire an hourly rate photographer you can always go back and ask for these things and they can invoice for them after but if you have a per shot rate this might not be included. Over communicating to the photographer is better than under communicating! It takes time but is worth it to avoid any issues later!

In conclusion

There are many factors that can increase your chances of getting the best jewelry photography for your brand. Be confident in what you decide to do and remember that if you try one way and it doesn’t work, you can try something else. Leave any questions you have in the comments and Kate Benson will get back to you ASAP!

Lifestyle, Product, and Fashion Photographer | Shooting in a hurricane | Carolina, Florida, Georgia

Am I a storm chaser or fashion photographer? Sometimes, a little of both.

I was expecting a pretty standard photoshoot last month as I headed to South Florida from Charleston. I got to my dad’s place where I was crashing for the night and he broke the news that there was a storm brewing off the West coast of the state and said I should keep an eye on it. Nine years of living in Miami plus three in South Carolina has given me more than a small number of brushes with nasty storms, and this one looked to be staying away from where I was shooting so I shrugged it off. I went to bed and early the next morning headed off to the first day of shooting as the fashion photographer for InnerShine, my client.

The shoot had some inherent surprises waiting for me once I arrived. InnerShine needed a fall looking location. We were in South Florida. So that meant we needed to work around anything tropical and to get some of the super saturated green color out of the shots since South Florida is basically a jungle (if you haven’t been there). With careful angles and location choices (including sketching out one civilian who couldn’t figure out why there were models in the bushes in front of his home) we created fields of fall grasses and oak trees with leaves changing for the new season.

Another challenge (which is a common one in South Florida) was keeping the models from getting too hot. It can be easy to overlook that this responsibility fall on the fashion photographer but it does. The fashion photographer is the person on set seeing the models closer than anyone else. The girls were wearing sweaters and jeans so as often as possible we gave them flip flops, AC (in cars between shots), and water. Lots of water. Red ant bites, mosquitos and iguanas didn’t stop these girls from bringing their best and both Anna Julia Hagen and Valerie Vigoreaux (both with Wilhelmina Miami) showed me again why I love photographing them so much.

As we wrapped up the first day of shooting, everyone was thrilled with how we all came together.

What is the opposite of a rain dance?

Everyone was thrilled with the images from our first day of shooting. And to be honest, I was wrapped up in the images and production of getting ready for a big second day. Tired and wanting to be on my A game, I crashed early. The only time I looked at my phone was to make a good night call to my family.

Waking up early, my assistant Chelsea and I got straight to work. The day started with some in studio e-commerce fashion photography which we flew through (if you’ve worked with me shooting on model e-commerce in studio, you know I don’t mess around and we move fast). Then we had a quick lunch and I put my fashion photographer hat back on and we started loading our cars to head off to a field I scouted the day before. As models, clients and team loaded everything into the cars, the sky opened up and it started to pour. My fathers words of caution came straight to mind. These were the outer bands of the hurricane.

Ever have that feeling that everyone is staring at you? Waiting for you to do something and you know that there isn’t anything you can do? It was a lot like that. With everyone sitting in their cars, I could still feel all eyes on me despite the way the rain distorted everything. Was it a mistake to not check the weather? Nope. It was not. In fact, outer bands are something we can work around. There are brief downpours with big gusts of wind and then, nothing. So in the calmest manner possible, I waved and started to drive to the location. Letting everyone follow despite their worry.

The drive to the location ate up most of the time the outer band was over us. The field was wet but we brought blankets and we stacked the scrims under them so the models wouldn’t get wet as they sat in the field. And then that insanely beautiful “it just rained” light started. I began firing away. Quickly switching models and sending the other back to change, over and over, throughout different parts of the field I captured moody, beautiful photo after photo.

It was the perfect storm, for photography.

Not once did I mention these were hurricane rains and winds we were dodging. Not yet. Being a fashion photographer is very intuitive and it’s not unusual to get into a zone where you can feel the models energy and they can feel yours. They are able to give you what you need often without words as they watch and ready your subtle changes in body language and expressions, and vice versa. It’s a beautiful dance when you connect with each other to create art in this way. And these girls were rock stars, reading what I needed from them and giving it. I did the same, connecting to them, seeing the shots and angles and of course noticing the small clues that told me I had just a few more shots and then I was going to need to switch models or our weather was about to shift for the worse.

The lighting was constantly changing. The clouds were moving so fast and so varied in thickness the light would drop and then bounce back up and I was playing a great game of catch with it. Making sure it didn’t throw me a curve ball that I couldn’t lock in on and still get the shot. I have to give it credit though, such dramatic shifts in light created a lot of different image opportunities.

The dark stormy setting took some of that saturation out of the greens, it allowed for the field to become a place that could be anywhere. Wrapping blankets around the models and scarves added to the fall setting that the weather so graciously helped create for us. When I finally wrapped the shoot, after we had traveled to some stone walls away from the field, I finally told the girls they may want to walk a bit faster back to the cars since it looked like the next bit of the hurricane was going to rain on us again. It was quite a surprise to the whole team that those windy rain squalls that were popping up were just the tip of the iceberg. They were in disbelief that this was a hurricane until checking for themselves. Two days later Hurricane Michael would make catastrophic landfall on the panhandle.

As I drove home the next day, with a bit more traffic than usual since evacuation orders had been issued, I hit some nasty spots. Tornado warnings kept coming through my assistant Chelsea and I’s phones.  She tried to be calm and let me focus on what little bit of road I could see ahead of me. These were just the outer bands as well. Despite making lemonade out of lemons, I have to admit we got a little lucky. One day later and we might not have been able to shoot. What a difference a day can make. It’s shots like these that are why I am also a lifestyle and fashion photographer and not just solely shooting product. These magic moments create surprises that I would never want to stop getting.