Meet Ashir Cherkezov, Our Art Dept. Photographer Who Makes TechMikeNY Servers Look Gorgeous!
Over the years, we've received compliments from our customers (and indirectly from our competitors when they steal our images!) on how impressive our product photos are. We thought it would be nice to give credit where credit is due and showcase our in-house photographer, Ashir Cherkezov. Ashir has been our exclusive photographer for TechMikeNY servers and parts for the past three years.
We thought it would be fun to take you behind our tech curtain, talk to Ashir, and find out how he makes our refurbished servers look better than new.
How long have you been taking product photos for TechMikeNY? Approximately how many shots of products do you think you've taken?
I've been at it for about three years. Initially, I was only in charge of retouching product photos, but over time, I was asked to take the photos too! I have taken tens of thousands of product photos for the brand – at this point, it may even be over one-hundred thousand. The thing is, when a product needs a new image, it's not just one photo per server or even one photo per angle – you have to take multiple shots of the product to create the options you need for retouching. It is incredible how one poor-quality image of just one section of a server, such as a blurry internal component, can ruin the quality of the entire image. Also, we have recently implemented a 360 view of some of our products. Those 360 interfaces, depending on the frame rate or quality you want to achieve, can require hundreds of photos.
What is your process like in taking the server photographs? What is the greatest challenge in creating them?
When taking photographs of a server, I begin by carefully positioning the server I’m working on and finding its best angles. I then start taking shots from different focal distances, sometimes getting over one hundred pictures of an object from just one point of view. At the end of the whole photo session, I come to my workstation with around fifteen hundred shots. Then I sort the entire batch, delete the unnecessary ones, and stack sets of images from one point of view. After that process is complete, I’m left with only 5-10 pictures for the retouching process.
The greatest challenge is that since Enterprise rack servers are not stand-alone products, you often have to take photos of their accessories. For example, a server SKU can have bezels, rails, power supply units, etc., as part of the build. As a result, I have to get images of all these components separately before combining them in post into one seamless composite image.
It’s very satisfying when you see the finished product come together. We live in a visual society, and people want to see quality pictures of what they are buying!
What is the most interesting or most fun product you've photographed?
The micro SD card. When I first received the request to take the photo, the only information I had about the product from our inventory tool was its volume and the fact that it was a storage product. I was expecting to get a standard 3.5" or 2.5" hard drive, but instead, I received a tiny SD card!
Fortunately, I had been looking for an excuse to use my macro 1:1 lens, and this was the perfect opportunity for it. Getting a photo in focus of that tiny SD card wasn't an issue.
What are the tools you use? The camera? What software applications do you use?
The primary tool is, obviously, a high-quality DSLR camera. I prefer the Nikon brand. As for software: Helicon Focus (stacking software), GIMP for photo editing (YES, it's GIMP, not Photoshop), and sometimes even Cinema 4D (3d computer graphics application).
Do you have any photography work that isn't of servers and server-related products?
Yes, of course!
My hobby is 3D design, which encompasses several visual discipline design mediums (including photography) and software tools. I use a lot of available graphic design resources to transform into reality the ideas that come into my mind. I never consider any of my hobby projects complete – they are continually growing and changing! My hobby has stayed the same for over 17 years and I can’t image switching to anything else.
Do you have any questions for Ashir? Are there any other “behind the scenes” people or processes that you would like to see us cover in our blog? Leave a comment below, and we’ll put it in the queue!