Food photography part one.

Food photography. Make it. Style it. Shoot it. Eat it. As a younger man I worked as a chef and while it was satisfying to witness people derive great pleasure from something you had spent all day creating, there was a slight tinge of sadness watching it being devoured and destroyed before your eyes. I think that’s why I love food photography so much, you create the exciting and delicious food and get to save a record of it in a styled image. Ok so that makes it sound simple, there is a bit more to it than that. You first have to create the food yourself or have someone do it for you. People viewing the final image can't physically taste the food so you need to think about which set, props and lighting will make it look the most delicious and desirable. It has to look appealing so what things might hinder this? For example - if it includes ingredients that may wilt or separate or generally look bad as they lose their freshness how long will you have to get the shot before they stop looking their best? Whether we like it or not we live in an aspirational society and we are inundated with imagery every day so it’s now more important than ever to have your images look as good as possible so they stand out. There’s no point in baking a visually outstanding cake and then throwing it on a plastic tray under a desk lamp or allowing it to sit for a long time until it is stale. It has to grab the viewer’s attention from the first glance and make them lust after it. Anything other than flawless isn’t really good enough. 

With other types of photography, you are at the mercy of the elements or need certain events to take place to create the image, but with food photography you are in complete control over the input and output. If you aren’t happy or something doesn’t look right you can change it there and then - a lighting adjustment, a prop change, placing more in the frame or taking something out - whatever you have to do to make it possible for the viewer to be able to taste that food in their mind. it’s really only limited by how far your imagination can stretch. I’d like to say I’m sorry if any of these images make you hungry but well.. that’s kind of the point of them so here’s a look at some shots and what went into making them.

the burger with everything

Nikon 50mm 1.8D. f6.3 O.4 ISO100. Light comes from one soft box on 2/5ths power positioned to the right. I used two white bounce cards, one in front and the other on the left side to lift the shadows and I have one black card positioned toward the back to darken down the rear of the set and pull the eye forward. If I was to be picky the highlight on the right side of the bun is a tad strong but otherwise I’m happy with how this shot came out. 

Nikon 50mm 1.8D. f6.3 O.4 ISO100. Light comes from one soft box on 2/5ths power positioned to the right. I used two white bounce cards, one in front and the other on the left side to lift the shadows and I have one black card positioned toward the back to darken down the rear of the set and pull the eye forward. If I was to be picky the highlight on the right side of the bun is a tad strong but otherwise I’m happy with how this shot came out. 

salmon on rye crackers

Sigma 105mm macro. f4.0 1/50 ISO100. Light comes from two softboxes, one at 3/5ths power to the right and the other positioned above and to the left at around 1/5th power. I positioned one white bounce card at the front. This was actually quite a difficult shot to get. I didn’t want to have too much contrast on the salmon so I needed a lot of light but with all of the white used in the set it was hard not to burn out the highlights. It took a few attempts to get it to where I was happy with it.

Sigma 105mm macro. f4.0 1/50 ISO100. Light comes from two softboxes, one at 3/5ths power to the right and the other positioned above and to the left at around 1/5th power. I positioned one white bounce card at the front. This was actually quite a difficult shot to get. I didn’t want to have too much contrast on the salmon so I needed a lot of light but with all of the white used in the set it was hard not to burn out the highlights. It took a few attempts to get it to where I was happy with it.

spices & spoons

Nikon 50mm 1.8D. f5.0 1/6 ISO100. Light comes from one soft box on 2/5ths power positioned low and to the left to create good contrast. A single white bounce card is positioned high on the right to throw some light back down and soften the shadows a little. I used a gold reflector at the back just to add a little warmth to the scene. The grey fabric was reflecting light too much so this was rectified by first soaking it then scrunching it to break up the surface area and create interest. 

Nikon 50mm 1.8D. f5.0 1/6 ISO100. Light comes from one soft box on 2/5ths power positioned low and to the left to create good contrast. A single white bounce card is positioned high on the right to throw some light back down and soften the shadows a little. I used a gold reflector at the back just to add a little warmth to the scene. The grey fabric was reflecting light too much so this was rectified by first soaking it then scrunching it to break up the surface area and create interest. 

cherries

Sigma 105mm macro. f3.2 1/40 ISO100. Light comes from two soft boxes positioned at 45° either side of the subject. A single white bounce card is positioned in front. I used a plant sprayer to mist the cherries prior to shooting. It helps to portray coolness and freshness. You have to remember to shield the mug when spraying and wipe off any rogue droplets. 

Sigma 105mm macro. f3.2 1/40 ISO100. Light comes from two soft boxes positioned at 45° either side of the subject. A single white bounce card is positioned in front. I used a plant sprayer to mist the cherries prior to shooting. It helps to portray coolness and freshness. You have to remember to shield the mug when spraying and wipe off any rogue droplets. 

forbidden strawberries

Sigma 105mm macro. f3.5 1/4 ISO100. For this shot I wanted there to be very little light, to create a sense of the strawberries being a forbidden secret stash hidden away somewhere. I tried a lot of different lighting set-ups to try and achieve this. Eventually I found that using a single soft box on its lowest setting with two large black bounce cards positioned on either side got me the effect I was looking for. I also underexposed the shot a hair just to give better contrast.

Sigma 105mm macro. f3.5 1/4 ISO100. For this shot I wanted there to be very little light, to create a sense of the strawberries being a forbidden secret stash hidden away somewhere. I tried a lot of different lighting set-ups to try and achieve this. Eventually I found that using a single soft box on its lowest setting with two large black bounce cards positioned on either side got me the effect I was looking for. I also underexposed the shot a hair just to give better contrast.

aubergine

Nikon 50mm 1.8D. f4.0 1/13 ISO100. Originally this was going to be a shot of a few aubergines with some cut into slices but the nigh on perfectness of this individual merited a change of plan, I mean come on...look at that hairdo! I decided black on black was best. Light comes from a single soft box on 2/5ths power positioned to the right with a white bounce card a good distance away on the left. A simple set up but very effective and I like how it came out.

Nikon 50mm 1.8D. f4.0 1/13 ISO100. Originally this was going to be a shot of a few aubergines with some cut into slices but the nigh on perfectness of this individual merited a change of plan, I mean come on...look at that hairdo! I decided black on black was best. Light comes from a single soft box on 2/5ths power positioned to the right with a white bounce card a good distance away on the left. A simple set up but very effective and I like how it came out.

tiramisu affogato

IMG_2045.JPG

Sigma 105mm macro. f4.0 1/10 ISO100. This one took patience. Getting the timing right for all the elements was tricky. Making sure the coffee was brewed, the cream was shaped properly and wasn’t separating or sliding off the spoon, the ice cream wasn’t melting or the sponge hadn’t dissolved into the coffee liqueur while at the same time getting the position of the coffee pot and the speed of the pour right meant there was a lot of trial and error to go through before getting this final shot. To add to the difficulty I was shooting this on my own and using the 105mm meant the camera was positioned too far away for me to trigger the shutter manually so I had to use the 10 second timer. To prevent motion blur in the coffee pot I had a tripod set up that I could lean on to keep my hand steady. I had the camera set to burst mode shooting ten frames for each run. Eventually after three practice and two abandoned runs I managed to get this one perfect shot. For the lighting I used a mixture of natural and studio lighting. The left side of the image is lit by a soft box and a little natural light from the window. On the right rear side I had a soft box set to minimum to light up the background. This not only helped to fill out the frame better but also added light to the back of the coffee stream so it had more presence. I’m glad I put in the effort, I like this one. The affogato was bloody delicious too!

Part two in next week's blog where I'll show some of the sets, props and equipment I used to get these shots.