crisderaud (a.k.a Cris DeRaud)
Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not shooting?
I had been an automotive technician and a licensed smog tester until July 2000 when I had to undergo brain surgery for weak blood vessels. Unfortunately, the surgeon had to disturb the optic nerves to both eyes, and I lost 40% of my field of vision to blindness. That forced an early retirement, and I am now unable to drive. I receive disability compensation from Social Security.
I spend most of my time in my home, usually at the computer. I explore the Internet looking for interesting information, useful new programs, and I like learning about the different countries and their cultures.
Wow. 40% of your field of vision lost during your brain surgery, and now you are doing photography. Incredible. Has the lack of field of vision had an effect on your photography? If so, what types of adjustments, if any, do you make during photography?
Composition is difficult for me to see because things to the left of where I am looking disappear. I cannot see all of anything at any one time. I have to scan with my eyes and try to memorize what is in the blind areas. I usually confine my choice of subjects to single, inanimate objects where I have time to set up the shot just right in a controlled studio setting. Stock photography works well for me because of my vision loss.
I am also limited in what I can do in the post production process. I cannot see a Photoshop brush cursor and the image at the same time so I end up running the brushes around the image like a drunk driver. This makes it hard to create layer masks or to isolate objects in a photograph so that I can make separate adjustments to different areas of a photo. I confine my shots to those that I can make adjustments to the entire photo or ones that are easy to select with the magic wand.
There are many things I would like to photograph, but I just can't get to them. I don't drive and there is not much of interest within range of the bus or my bicycle, so I try to make interesting images out of what I have around me. Sometimes I spot a little beauty in junk and am able to capture it as a texture or as grunge and that often works for me.
How long have you been shooting? How did you get started?
I actually started doing photography with SXC. I took a shot of an antique magnifying with my Minolta Dimage Z2 camera and sent it to SXC the day after Christmas in 2006. The shot got accepted, and I was hooked from that moment on. When the photo got a download, I really caught the bug. I sent in a couple more photos that I had on my computer, and they got accepted too. That gave me a gallery of three photos, and I was proud of them. But I needed more new ones and good ones so I bought a Panasonic FZ-50 the day after New Years 2007 and set about taking better pictures to add to my gallery. I soon found out that SXC doesn't approve photos of just anything, even if the photography is good. There is a criterion for stock photography, and I needed to research the site and look closely at thousands of photos for the common factors that make for a good stock photo. After many, "Sorry, we are not looking for such images right now", I began to understand what SXC was looking for and began to produce photos in that genre.
I got started with the help of Bazil Raubach who's SXC name is larar (derived from his daughter's name Lara Raubach). I was entranced by his photos of South Africa and its people. His shots are so clear and professional I had to write and thank him for posting them on SXC. We soon became friends, and he gave me the confidence and inspiration to send in pictures of my own. Throughout 2007 (and to this day) we communicate regularly, and he provides me a wealth of knowledge and support. He is a professional and has started his own stock photo site and is head designer at a regional newspaper.
How and when did you discover SXC?
In September 2006 I was looking at an article on LiveScience.com, and it had a thumbnail picture of a very odd object and I wanted to know what the object was. I saw the picture had some faint writing in the lower right corner, and there was just enough pixel resolution to make out the letters "sxc hu". I entered that in a search bar and that lead me to SXC.hu. I was so happy to find a site with millions of photos that could be downloaded in high resolution! I felt like I had hit a jackpot.
I signed up so I could download photos to practice editing with the Microsoft Digital Imaging Pro 10 program that I was using at the time. I soon found myself collecting photos of castles, flowers, faces and places to spice up my emails to family and friends. I anxiously anticipated each new batch of photos to post so I could discover more of the great diversity of people and places throughout the world. I began to comment on the photos and to recognize the photographers. I noted that SXC is not a huge cluster of anonymous contributors but it has a core community and I wanted to be a part of it.
What about SXC do you find most valuable?
Without a doubt it is the community activity on the site. This site rocks with activity. The comments on the pictures and the download number are great indicators of a photo's value to the public and I am here to provide images that people want and will use.
The forum is where you really get to know the members in the core community. I find myself checking the forum for new comments before I look at my own gallery. There is friendship, support, recognition and helpful advice in the forums, and I like to add good stuff to the topics there when I have something to share or a comment in an ongoing thread.
The overall SXC experience provides me with challenges, friendship, entertainment and communication from my desktop computer. The disabilities from the surgery leave me with a very narrow range of things to do with the unlimited amount of spare time that I have. There is a whole laundry list of things I used to do that are just not practical to pursue anymore, like reading, woodworking, building onto the house, working with power tools, fixing cars, and spending time in the mountains. But I can make photographs to post on SXC for other people to use in their blogs, headers, and compositions. Making these images for others to use brings me satisfaction and the personal reward of accomplishment.
Do you find any parallels between the job of an automotive technician and photographer?
Working on cars has given me a good understanding of the construction and operation of electro-mechanical devices, and today's cameras certainly fall within that category. I was introduced to computers in the mid 80s in the automotive shop. Fundamental automotive computer enhancements were added to fuel control systems in 1980, and I learned about computer systems from working on the vehicles and operating the equipment needed to test the systems.
Automotive systems are precision devices capable of functioning under varying conditions, and the camera mechanism is similar to the automobile in that it has a computerized brain to help make the adjustments to various lighting and focusing conditions. Understanding how the camera functions helps to know what the camera is capable of doing and which mode and settings to use. I generally use the manual mode setting under controlled conditions and the programmable (P) mode setting when I am outside the studio.
I refer to my camera manual often for researching some of the more obscure functions built into it that may be useful for what I do. I have found that downloading the manual in pdf form from the manufacturers is helpful because you can blow it up to a large size on the computer screen and use the search feature to help find what you are looking for.
You have a lot of great textures and backgrounds. Tell us about your fascination with this genre of image.
I had seen the success that many photographers had with their texture shots and began to feel there was a demand for them. Most notably were the images of Clix, dlritter and charcoa1. I posted some images that were texture experiments in my first dozen photos and they seemed to attract more attention than the photos of objects. I began to look around the house for more textures of interest and I soon discovered my brother's collection of art supplies, particularly his different canvases.
Photos of art supplies are as useful in the digital realm as the actual supplies are to the artist. I set out to provide digital raw materials that were clear, clean and had distinct textures by angling the lights to cast shadow. I also kept the file size large so that the user could pare it down to where they needed it. The strategy was successful and those shots downloaded quickly.
I continued to exhaust my supply of interesting texture materials I had here at the house so I tried constructing some textures. Those textures I made have done well but not as well as those I happened to discover. My fascination with textures was driven by the demand for them and that I had a supply of them.
Where do you see your photography going in the future? What would you like to explore next?
What I would like to do next is portrait photography. I have been gearing up for it but that is not practical for me yet at this time. I will more than likely do more complex object shots. I need a controlled studio environment where I can work slowly and carefully because of my vision loss. Subjects that move, have a time factor (e.g. food, condensation, wilting or sagging objects) or require careful composition just don't work well for me.
I am always looking for new techniques I can use successfully. Whether they are camera adjustments, photo techniques or post processing procedures, I will try to use what I learn as I progress. As my photography skills develop, I will change my venue to make my images more professional.
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