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Barbara Helgason needs no further introduction to the world of stock images. Most of us would have probably seen her very famous piece of a Dachshund puppy listening to music on earphones at some point. Her work is a true reflection of who she is and what she loves. And such image could have only come from someone who truly put her heart into photography. All these and more in this issue of Hear It!

Photographer: hannamariah / Barbara Helgason
Country of Origin: Canada

1. Production Equipment: Please list the production equipment that you use on a regular basis (eg. Cameras, lenses, flash & lighting, photo editing software).
  • Camera: Canon 350D and 40D.
  • Lenses: Tamron 28-200mm, Canon 50mm 1.8, Canon 70-300IS, Canon 17-85mm IS.
  • Flash & Lighting: Alien Bees B800, Canon Speedlite 430ex, Canon Speedlite Transmitter.
  • Software: Adobe Photoshop CS2 (can't live without it!)
  • Others: Umbrella and softbox.

2. What do you think of photography these days?
I LOVE it! If only I had a digital camera when my kids were growing up. I used to store rolls of film in the fridge until we could afford to develop them, but things have changed so quickly ever since.

3. What did you want to be when you were younger?
I loved horses and wanted to be a professional show jumper. (Editor: Wow! Seriously?)

4. Tell us about the time when you first got started in photography.
My dad loved photography and I guess I was influenced by him. My earliest pictures were mostly of my little Dachshund. My dad would get my rolls developed and then suggest if I could find something else to shoot. When I was a teenager, I "accidentally" captured a beautiful seagull silhouette against the sunset and I thought right then and there I had talent.

5. In your opinion, what does it take to become successful in this industry?
I think you have to have an eye for it. But mostly you need to have thick skin and perseverance. It hurts when you're just starting out and when your favorite images (often the ones you are so proud of) gets rejected. You start off thinking you know it all, only to find out quickly that you actually don't really know anything. (Editor: Ain't that the truth!)

6. What was your biggest challenge coming into this industry?
It would have to be learning to understand photography; how everything on the camera works and how it is all related. I actually had to study the manual and kept practicing all of it until photography became a second nature to me. Yet, there is much more to learn, especially with studio lighting.

7. What are the best perks as a Photographer?
Honestly, the best thing I've gained from being a photographer is that I've learned to look at the world around me in different ways. It's like I have a new pair of eyes. I see beauty where I've never noticed before, lighting and colors around me that I didn't know ever existed previously.

8. How do you plan for your shooting sessions?
I charge my batteries, clean my lenses, quickly remind myself to set the WB. If shooting jpeg, double check the ISO and to turn off the IS if using a tripod. I have the tendency of forgetting either one of those at one time or another.

9. How would you describe your work to first time viewers?
My work is a reflection of who I am. I love my family, I love to travel, I love good food, and I love my dog. It's simple really, I shoot what I love and I love what I shoot.

10. Do you shoot to what your heart tells you or do you go through a complex check list in your mind when you produce your work? Describe the feeling/check list.
I'll start shooting immediately with still life and food shots, then slowly analyze and make changes afterwards. It usually takes me 20 to 50 shots before I get it right. With people however, I plan the poses before the shooting begins.

11. From your experience, what subjects gives you the greatest satisfaction? Any examples?
People. When people are excited and happy over a picture I took, that would give me the greatest satisfaction ever!

12. From your experience, what subjects are the hardest to work with? Any examples?
That's definitely people again. I'll get all stressed up when shooting people and I would never do weddings because it is just such a huge responsibility.

13. What is your philosophy when it comes to your work?
It has to be fun for me. If I'm not having fun, it'll show in my work.

14. Describe who/what inspires you, tell us why?
Images in the world around me inspire me. I see stock images everywhere I go, and I so often think, I could have done that!

15. What do you do when those creative juices just seems to evade you. How do you "get creative"?
I look through old magazines for inspiration.

16. Tell us about a time when inspiration just hits you, and you felt the insatiable urge to create. What did you do with that energy?
It was an experience I had with my puppy. I was photographing her when she shook her head. At that point, I didn't think the shot would have been anything worth keeping until I took another look at it several weeks later and noticed it looked like she was listening to music! That evening I photographed my earphones and stayed up all night photoshopping them into the image. I knew this image was going to be something special and it had to be perfect. Today that picture is one of the best selling dog pictures in the world!

17. What have you discovered about yourself through photography?
I've discovered that I am much more determined than I ever thought I could be. I used to look at other images and wished I could do it. Now, I know I can.

18. Whose work do you admire the most? Why?
Pittsburgh's food photographer Michael Ray has always been an inspiration. I've learned a lot from his website and I could stare at any one of his food shots for a very long time. They are just beautiful.

19. Do you have any advice for those who are just getting in to stock photography?
Well, its always important to learn from rejections. Don't take things personally and be willing to sacrifice your time.

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