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Thread: Food Photography Tips?

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Food Photography Tips?

    I'm interested to try some food photography and I'd welcome any tips on getting best results. I will be shooting with G1, GH1, GF1 cameras and I have the kit lenses, the 20mm f1.7 and 45mm macro as well as Voigtländer 50mm f1.5, 75mm f2.5 and 90mm f3.5 lenses.

    My strategy is to use the 45mm macro for the most part to get the crispness but also a good OOF in the images. I would probably use a single, off-camera flash (Oly FL-36R) with a Gary Fong "toilet" diffuser, for just some fill. I would do a custom white balance.

    I will be shooting an in-progress cooking class, so I will need to get a mixture of both the action as well as the results. This will mean that I may not have the ability to control the background. Hopefully a shallow DOF will help with this.

    If any fellow members have some tips they would be generous enough to share, I'd be very grateful.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by simonclivehughes; 27th February 2010 at 12:51.

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Mods, if there is a better forum for this, please feel free to move it.

    Thanks,

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    Member RGoldman's Avatar
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Hi Simon. The most critical part of food photography is the lighting. The biggest mistake I see made over and over is key light placement. Keep your light BEHIND your subject rather than in front of it. Think of it like this, if you laid a clock down on a table and set your camera at 6:00, you will want to keep your key light at 10-11:00 or 1-2:00 about 80% of the time. A single flash might be tough to get enough light out of all of the time. If you have a grid you can place on it, it might work better as long as the subject is realtively small. A single reflector 180 degrees from your key light will usually be all you need as long as you can get enough power out of your flash. I don't know what a "toilet" diffuser is but a diffused off camera flash will be tough to use as your main light source.
    Watch out for mixed light sources (fluorescent, tungsten, etc) and also watch for competing light sources. Multiple shadows in different directions are not good!

    Food photography is quite a challenge but also a lot of fun. I currently teach 2 classes on it at ppsop.com and they are very popular courses at the school. Once people get past the fear of moving their lights around from the front of the subject to behind it, the results improve dramatically.

    Have fun and post some images after your shoot!

    Ron

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    Senior Member simonclivehughes's Avatar
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Rich,

    Thanks so much for the tips. As this is a cooking class, I'm not sure how much latitude I'll have for lighting during the prep. I may be able to get more creative once the dish is complete. Appreciate you reply.

    Ciao,

  5. #5
    aprillove20
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Thanks for sharing the tips. Well, food photography is quite a challenge.

  6. #6
    Shani Clinton
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Might be its good time to do food photography.

    Shani.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    This is probably the best forum for this post since good food imagery is firstly about the lighting and next about the food preparation itself. If you were shooting in a studio, you'd have lots of accessory items -- basically equivalent to food makeup -- on hand to make the food look more appealing. In your situation you won't have that luxury, so it really boils down to your putting the ambient light to best use with your portable lighting. I

    The only suggestion I'd add is if you can shoot the final dish on a neutral colored surface with a large enough softbox to cover the shooting area, softbox placed overhead/behind and at an incident angle to the camera, that would be good...
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    I do the same kind of thing. I have setup bare bulb flash on stands at strategic points with large diffuser screens in front of them.
    I use 2 of those and with rotating the screens somewhat now and than I can set different lighting.

    This I use for the preparation shots but also for the dishes (more on that later). This way I can move around and be free enough to get very close.

    The advantage of bare bulb and screens is that you have a lot of different modifiers at hand while still being low profile (it doesn't take a lot of room). You can use the screen up close and have very soft even light, further away for harder and directional, turn the screen so part of the bare bulb will hit your background, etc.. lots of possibilities. I will also often gel a screen (pale gold or 1/3CTO)

    For the food when it is ready. Normally it will get served and eaten. In most cases there is a 'prep' station where dishes get the final touch right before being served. In most cases this will be something like a 'long table' where people can get to the dishes from both sides easily. This place I have set another bare bulb with screen at the end of the table on one side. The placement of flash makes the light directional (towards me from an angle) the large screen makes sure the light is soft and big enough to be able to wrap around and be its own fill (together with the other screen set further away in the room). You have to discuss with the people where you will be and where they can work. This will work, occassionally they will be in front of your light but their movement supplies you with your lighting variety. The other advantage to work at the prep station is that you can photograph the dishes when they are ready without disturbing the process too much. Make sure you ask the chefs to point you to the plate they have prepped most beautifully so you can make their work stand out

    I do with 2 flashes and screens. The screens will smell after an evening
    Last edited by Dustbak; 24th August 2010 at 23:24.

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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Hi,
    The lighting will be the key as all ways, their is a bunch techniques and ways. A few years ago I found a good book with tricks and ways to prep.

    Food Photography and Styling by John F. Carafoli.
    from Amphoto an Imprint of Watson-Guptill Publications , New-York

    It might help you and give some ideas.

    Michel

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    Member Y Sol's Avatar
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Hi,

    I would say: keep the light as simple as possible. Most chefs create complex
    dishes and the photo has to be done in less than one minute.
    For these pictures I used one dedolight spot from the left side and white paper to bounce the daylight from the right side.
    The plate was set on a table close to a window, so I could use the reflection of the daylight in the plate.

    Y Sol
    Last edited by Y Sol; 16th November 2013 at 14:16.

  11. #11
    kieran45
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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Whenever possible, try to shoot using natural lighting. Shoot during the day near a window where you can get lots of natural sunlight. When it is require to shoot at night, try avoid using flash directly on the food as it’s too harsh. It is good to use use a flash diffuser.

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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    In practice you will probably want to forget the 'out of focus' idea as one usually does not have enough depth of field most of the time.

    Try looking at the large format sites as they often have pro food exponents.

    Also, take a look at the work of veteran pro still life photographer Mr Christopher Broadbent here;

    https://picasaweb.google.com/cjbroadbent

    Mr Broadbent has a food gallery there but also look at his 'tech' gallery as there are some of his lighting set-ups about half way down and they are very interesting to examine. Mr Broadbent is British but lives and works in Milan for VERY high class clients.

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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    i would suggest two things, think of the lighting needs of the food preparer, and back light, as in a hair-light type of set up, plus a good soft fill. Then think of the product and back light that in order to cut it away from the back ground, with again a good soft fill and even a soft directional key light. You have two essentially different situations in one picture. However, in looking at your approach, I think you are attempting to do the best you can in a situation you cannot control, and with a small amount of equipment. I'm sure you will do fine, just do not expect it to look like a high level food photograph which is amazing in its complexity. Joe

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    Re: Food Photography Tips?

    Not sure if this topic is dead, but I wanted to chime in with some encouragement. There are certain times when food needs to be lit with 'crisp' or 'hard' light, but if you're looking to mimic the style of cookbooks and cooking magazines, soft, reflected light is the way to go. I used to assist in a studio that did work for Kraft, and we would light the curved walls of our cyclorama behind the tabletop set to create a huge soft backlight, and then work with (usually) a single piece of foamcore for fill because the large studio space gave deep shadows.

    You can mimic this sort of lighting with a single lightsource bounced off a wall/ceiling behind your food setup. Here are a couple very simple examples with a single flash head bounced behind and slightly to the right of the plate, with no fill:





    Having more light sources will allow you to create a more even spread, or mimic a more natural window light effect - just remember to use backlighting as the base for your shot.

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