Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Nook Prangpak, gemstone photographer and second eye of the Nomad’s photographic team.
Nook is known for her skills with the camera as well as for her art direction and, if like us, you are wondering why she has chosen our merry world of gems instead of any other trade to exercise her art then this interview is for you!
Nook Prangpak behind her camera - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: First of all thank you very much for being with us today Nook. It’s always a pleasure to gaze upon your work but for now, let’s learn more about you. Who are you Nook Prangpak?
Nook Prangpak: Hi Simon, thanks for the opportunity. I guess I’m not quite sure yet...I’ve tried to be many different things depending on the moment. There are times when I’ve been a sailor, a scuba diver, a surfer, a trekker, a rock climber but what I ended up being best at is a gemstone photographer :)
More seriously, though, I am from Bangkok, Thailand. I am passionate about desserts, plants and DIY (in that order!). I’ve been working with Nomads for the past 8 years now.
AsiaLounges: You are about as secretive online than in real life so preparing for this interview wasn’t easy :) How did you get to the photography? What got you into it in the first place?
Nook Prangpak: Ahaha I don't think I'm really secretive, just an introvert :)
I studied cinematography in university, and after graduating, I worked for a TV channel doing editing until I realized that it didn't give me the lifestyle that I wanted. I quit my job and was looking for something different, and by luck at the time, a friend recommended me to interview with Nomad's. The initial job was primarily taking photos for inventory. I was expecting it to be a transitional job, giving me time to decide where to go. At first, I didn't know anything about gemstones; I still remember calling them "the blue one," "the red one," as I couldn't distinguish the different varieties!
Later we decided to start Nomad's social media and online marketing, and that's when the job started to get really interesting and fun for me. I had the opportunity to start playing with light, composition and trying different backgrounds. In the beginning, it was a struggle to master the fundamentals, but I asked for advice from friends who were professional photographers. The whole team at Nomads was very encouraging and supportive, which motivated me and gave me confidence.
A stunning Kenyan Tsavorite with its Matcha seasoning - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: Further to the last question, what drove you to chose our merry trade to exercise your art instead of say, cinema or street photography?
Nook Prangpak: Street photography is a hobby I enjoy when I travel. I like capturing moments and how I see the world. But purely by coincidence, I've realized that gemstone photography is what I enjoy most. I think it matches well with my personality. I can quietly do it at my own pace, change as many things as many times as I want. The stone doesn't complain (and doesn't move!), so it allows me to tweak the composition until I get the result I want. Gemstones are unique in how they reflect light, so photographing them is different from other macro/studio photography and comes with its own set of challenges.
Here is Nook in Namibia during a company trip they took a few years back... one must wonder where that mud puddle was :P - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: With your colleague Maria Arkhipova’s interview we have learned that her speciality is portrait photography. Judging by your Instagram presence you seem to like to use props to express your art, is this your speciality or a side effect of the way you wish to express your art?
Nook Prangpak: I love DIY and making things with my hands. It’s a gift that I'm able to make my own props to use in my photography. I really enjoy paper-cutting and actually took some classes to learn new techniques and combine that with my photography work. When traveling, I always try to bring home interesting objects that I can use as backgrounds. It can be rocks, or wood, leaves -- anything that has an interesting pattern or texture that makes the stones stand out.
Contrary to popular beliefs, Nook doesn't always bring back stuff from trips, she brings 'em too sometimes - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: We have asked to Mikola, Josh and Sébastien what Nomad’s meant for them. Now we’d like to know what it means to you, what it stands for in your opinion?
Nook Prangpak: I would say Nomad’s is like a second family with all the members working towards the same goal and purpose but each in their different roles. Our team has people from all different parts of the world and cultures, but we all feel a sense of belonging in the company and try to grow with it. Usually, everyone who joins Nomads is here for the long term and considers it more than just a job.
Part of the Nomad's "Family at the Tropic of Capricorn - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: Most photographers that have been here with us have talked about the capital importance of light in their art. For you, is it yet another tool or something that one needs to truly master to be a good photographer and why?
Nook Prangpak: Yes, light is the crucial factor in creating a good image, especially with gemstones. We need to understand its effects on the brightness and darkness, as well as the mood and tone of the picture. It's necessary to control the light to capture the right color, texture, and feeling. The light's position influences whether the composition looks flat and dull or alive and 3-dimensional. I would suggest everyone spend most of their effort working with the light source as this will make the biggest difference in the picture. For a good photographer, their light setup is their trademark, their 'secret sauce.
Here is a stunning Mahenge Pink Spinel photographed by Nook - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: Between phone pictures and videos or “lower tier” photographers there is a multiplication of “gem photographers” online and the end buyers as well as pro ones end up having trouble figuring out what is what. What, in your opinion, is the difference between a good and a bad photographer?
Nook Prangpak: If the picture's purpose is to sell the stone, it must be accurate, especially with clarity and color. If it's for an artistic purpose, like an advertisement or social media marketing, creativity and composition also become important. You must focus on the composition and the feeling of the photo, which will grab people's attention and make them investigate further. An artistic photo needs to be different from what you usually see -- it needs to catch the eye and make you stop scrolling.
No joking with clarity with Nomad's pictures - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
In my opinion, a good photographer has to understand and properly capture the purpose of that picture in the finished photo. Understanding this goes beyond technical skills.
Another thing that is quite difficult to master when photographing gemstones is distinguishing tiny differences in color shades and saturation. These small details can make a significant difference in the price and desirability of the stone. The type of lighting can change the coloration of the stone, so time and practice are needed to see and render an accurate color in the finished photo. To me, these are the main differences that set good photographers apart.
A very "A propos" picture showcasing the differences in colours in gems - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: Further to the last question, we often hear people complaining online that the biggest difference between a pro and a beginner is the equipment. What do you think? Is equipment truly paramount to excellence or is it unrelated?
Nook Prangpak: Being a professional is more than just one factor. Of course, fancy equipment is great and can certainly make your life easier if you know how to use it to its full capacity. Top-quality equipment can help the picture's quality, such as sharpness or color accuracy. But I think what matters more than anything is understanding your gear and knowing how to use it. It's crucial to learn and understand its limitations. Once you know that, you can usually work around the limits and adapt your setup and post-production to get the result you want.
I think it's natural to blame the results on the equipment, but skill and practice have a much more significant effect on the overall result.
Here is Nook studying her gear to get the perfect shot - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: For the last few years, ethic, transparency and traceability have been the master words of the trade without ever really being defined by anyone. In your opinion, and of course in your field of work, how do these notion come into play and what do they mean to you? Are they relevant to your everyday work?
Nook Prangpak: I am not involved in the trading of stones itself; I just photograph them and try to display them to the world in the best way I can, so these concerns are probably less relevant to my everyday work than those who directly buy or sell them. As a human being, though, it's essential to know that the stones I work with come in a clean and fair-trade way. I would not want to have anything to do with a product that has bad karma.
Honey colored Topaz - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: We are slowly reaching the end of this interview and, as per usual, I would like to ask you three advices for new generations trying to follow in your footsteps as well as three books that you believe that any gem geek or photography enthusiast should have in their library?
Nook Prangpak: The most important piece of advice is to have fun with your work. You have to try and enjoy the whole process of setting up, organizing, and editing. Focusing less on the result and more on each step will make a lot of difference. Try to separate and enjoy each step -- this includes coming up with ideas and inspiration, choosing the background and props, setting up the light and camera, trying different combinations, and finally the editing process. If you can spend the time necessary to focus and enjoy each step, you will improve.
Always try to keep learning. That includes listening to constructive criticism from others, especially negative feedback. As humans, we all make mistakes that we don’t see, but others do. I wouldn’t have come this far if I didn’t listen to people criticizing my work.
Focus on yourself and don’t compare your work with others. Your only competition is you; always try to be better than you were yesterday.
As for books, I’ve never read any specific to gem photography, but I have learned a lot on YouTube relating to product photography. There is so much great content available online, especially for technical aspects of photography, which can then be applied to gemstone photography.
Here's Nook enjoying her art both in front and behind the camera - Photo Credits: Nomad's Co., Ltd
AsiaLounges: Thank you very much Nook for being with us today, I am convinced that our readers, the Loungers, have enjoyed this interview as much as we did enjoy writing these lines.
As for us, we will meet you again soon in the Lounges with more exciting content! If you have enjoyed this interview please let us know by liking, commenting and sharing our work with your family and friends on your favourite social media platform. Don't forget that you can also support A Gem Dealer's Journal through our Patreon's Page. It helps us a lot and takes but a second!
Should you have any questions or topic that you’d like us to research for a future interviews and articles, feel free to let us know by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, it is always a pleasure to dig further into the world of gems and gemmology!
For all the rest, feel free to take a look at our gem and jewellery collection as well as to contact us should you be interested in getting one of our famed bespoke pieces of AsiaLounges Jewellery.
See you again in the Lounges,