A Photographer Who Understands Coffee

Daniel Thompson's photography business is Buttondown Photography.

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to look through the latest issue of Barista Magazine, June+July 2013 (and if you don’t have a subscription, you can read it for free online by clicking HERE.). We’re proud of this issue for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the awesome story, “Latte Art Lessons From the Pros” written by Erin Meister and featuring photography by Daniel Thompson. (The article also includes stellar little sidebars with troubleshooting tips from latte art champion Ryan Soeder.)

The three people who put together the article, "Latte Art Lessons From the Pros," are all coffee professionals as well as writers and photographers: Erin Meister (of Counter Culture) wrote the story; Ryan Soeder (also of Counter Culture) compiled the troubleshooting sidebars; and Daniel Thompson—profiled here—of Batdorf & Bronson, did the main photography.

The three people who put together the article, “Latte Art Lessons From the Pros,” are all coffee professionals as well as writers and photographers: Erin Meister (of Counter Culture) wrote the story; Ryan Soeder (also of Counter Culture) compiled the troubleshooting sidebars; and Daniel Thompson—profiled here—of Batdorf & Bronson, did the main photography.

Daniel lives and works in Olympia, Wash.—he actually works with coffee on a regular basis at Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters. But no doubt he’s a professional photographer; just look at the images he gave us to use for the article…

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You can—and should—check out Daniel’s work online. His outfit is Buttondown Photography, and he shoots all sorts of things. He’s really good. (I just asked him to shoot portraits of me and my sister, as a matter of fact.)

Daniel Thompson's photography business is Buttondown Photography.

Daniel Thompson’s photography business is Buttondown Photography.

But due to his line of work, he knows coffee. He gets it. He knows how it photographs and moves. He knows what light is best on it, and how to work with the physicality of the barista to show the connection between coffee and person.

In a rare moment out from behind the camera, this is Daniel.

In a rare moment out from behind the camera, this is Daniel.

I’ve gotten loads of raves about Daniel’s photos since this issue came out, so I thought I’d tell you more about him. And keep him in mind if you ever need to shoot your cafe. Like I said, he knows his stuff.
Sarah: When did you first get into photography? What attracted you to it?
Daniel: A picture is worth 1000 words. I think that pretty much sums it up. It’s the stories that I’m attracted to most, and that attraction came early on. I’ve always maintained an interest in photography but it wasn’t until after high school that I really dove into it. I ended up putting photos aside for the most part for a while until I had a friend say to me, after seeing some random shots, “Have you ever considered doing photography for a living?” “Well, yes,” I replied. I haven’t looked back.

Sarah: Where are you from originally, and what brought you to the Northwest?
Daniel: I’m originally from Atlanta, and the surrounding area. I’ve always had an infatuation with the Pacific Northwest from as early on as I can remember. Nature is my sanctuary and in the Northwest you have mountains meeting the ocean. It’s a no-brainer. As for how it came to be… my lady and I were ready for a change. Working for Batdorf [& Bronson] in Atlanta, I simply made the transfer. That makes it sound really simple I guess, but to let you know what that was like, we drove 3,000 miles in a Subaru packed full of shit with two cats. It was an adventure!

Sarah: What’s your coffee background?
Daniel: In a nutshell, I’ve been in coffee for a while, but that knowledge and passion didn’t really begin to blossom until I lived in Athens, Georgia. I worked for a local roastery there for a few years, and also made my way around to other great coffee locations tasting and cupping all that I could get my hands on. I came even more into it after moving back to Atlanta where I began working with Batdorf. They’re a solid company and absolutely encourage the education of their employees. Not just the baristas, but all. I was repping the Southeast for the Barista Guild of America at the time, and through B&B [Batdorf & Bronson] was able to attend the first Barista Camp, which is one of the most memorable experiences I have. I’m sad to have missed the last one.

Sarah: What attracts you to coffee, and when and in what context did you start shooting photos of coffee, brewing, etc.?
Daniel: I suppose it’s the craft of it. It’s the same things that attract me to beer, spirits, woodworking, photography, food, etc. You get as much out of it as you put into it. It’s not something that you can just pick up and do, you have to work at it. I guess it’s the up and down sense of accomplishment and disappointment that drives it. Just always striving to do it better the next time. As far as photographing coffee… It’s just a natural overlap. I almost always have a camera with me, and I’m almost always around coffee and coffee people. it just makes sense.

Sarah: What do you love about photographing coffee and coffee people?
Daniel:
First of all, most anyone that has devoted themselves to a craft is interesting in some way or another. Coffee folks are no different. Interesting people are the ones I want in front of my lens. I want their stories, and their true expressions. Even when I’m photographing non-coffee people, I would bet that we had a cup of coffee together before we did the photo shoot.

For more information, contact Daniel at Buttondown Photography at buttondownphotography@gmail.com.

 

 

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.