Food photography part two.

As a photographer, it goes with out saying that you are always aiming to recreate a scene as you see it, but a lot of the time you have some leeway. If you take a picture of a tree and the leaves are a tad more yellow than they are in reality does it ruin the final image? Will anyone ever pick you up on it? Would they actually notice or even care? As long as the final image is beautiful and not unrealistic then it’s very unlikely they would. However, if you are shooting a sandwich and the lettuce is an unappetising shade of yellow then people will definitely notice. You, as the viewer can’t physically taste the strawberries in the image below but you know the taste of strawberries, your subconscious mind has that flavour profile stored away so all I have to do as the photographer is capture the image accurately and your mind will fill in the blanks. If there is anything, even the slightest mistake in the colour of the strawberries, your mind will pick it out and the spell will be broken. Now obviously there is a lot more to it than just lighting. Sets and props are equally as important in making the food look as desirable as possible but if you don't properly light the scene you will already be off to a bad start. Listed below are some of the tools and techniques I used to capture this strawberries image. 

Strawberries. Sigma 105mm macro. f/3.0 1/50s ISO100

Strawberries. Sigma 105mm macro. f/3.0 1/50s ISO100

Lighting

When it comes to lighting I mostly favour studio lighting over natural. One reason for this is time. I like to take my time with shots and with natural lighting you are at the mercy of the Earth's rotation, the weather and the seasons. It’s really frustrating  getting excited for the day's shoot only to find the conditions outside are not favourable for what I want to achieve that day. The decision to invest in soft boxes and 5500 kelvin daylight bulbs has meant that I can shoot at any time. Certainly, it can take a bit more work to achieve natural looking results with studio lighting but it comes with far less disappointment. The second reason is flexibility. I find there is much more scope for experimentation with studio lighting over natural. I must add that this is just my way of working and I'm not claiming it is better than using natural light, I just find that I get better results this way. Also, because I am not limited by the availability of daylight it means I can shoot at any time of the day. The strawberries shot was taken at 8.30pm, in December. Because of my schedule the day it was shot I would have had to wait until the following day to get this shot if I was using natural light but thanks to studio lights I was able to set up there and then and achieve a pretty realistic daylight looking shot whilst working at night in midwinter. 

BTS of the strawberries shot above. I positioned a single soft box on the left hand side on 4/5ths power. The base card is semi gloss which reflects some of the light onto the underside of the strawberries and the bowl. On the right hand side I have a white semi gloss bounce card, folded to create two 45° angles. This bounces the light from the soft box back onto the front and back of the subject. I find this set up helps to create a more natural outdoor look with less shadow and contrast. The backboard is a soft grey bounce card, I edited this in post to have a bluer hue reminiscent of the sky. The small piece of hessian sack is used to create interest and I added a spoon to give the final image an anchor. I often find that the more simple the set up the stronger the final image is and this shot is definitely a good example of that philosophy.    Soft Boxes

BTS of the strawberries shot above. I positioned a single soft box on the left hand side on 4/5ths power. The base card is semi gloss which reflects some of the light onto the underside of the strawberries and the bowl. On the right hand side I have a white semi gloss bounce card, folded to create two 45° angles. This bounces the light from the soft box back onto the front and back of the subject. I find this set up helps to create a more natural outdoor look with less shadow and contrast. The backboard is a soft grey bounce card, I edited this in post to have a bluer hue reminiscent of the sky. The small piece of hessian sack is used to create interest and I added a spoon to give the final image an anchor. I often find that the more simple the set up the stronger the final image is and this shot is definitely a good example of that philosophy. 

Soft Boxes

Soft boxes. There are five 5500 kelvin daylight bulbs in each of my two soft boxes. Each bulb has its own switch which allows you to customise the light for each scene. For the strawberries shot I used four of the five bulbs or 4/5ths power. I didn't spend a great deal of money on these lights but I have found them invaluable and couldn't shoot the images I do without them now.    Speedlight

Soft boxes. There are five 5500 kelvin daylight bulbs in each of my two soft boxes. Each bulb has its own switch which allows you to customise the light for each scene. For the strawberries shot I used four of the five bulbs or 4/5ths power. I didn't spend a great deal of money on these lights but I have found them invaluable and couldn't shoot the images I do without them now. 

Speedlight

Speedlight. I didn't use them for the strawberries image but I do own a speed light and umbrella and use them often. I find they are fantastic for flooding a specific section of the image with light and great for creating shadows and depth. Again I didn't spend a whole lot on this Neewer 750II but it it's a great speedlight and has done everything I’ve needed it to do perfectly every time.   Backdrops

Speedlight. I didn't use them for the strawberries image but I do own a speed light and umbrella and use them often. I find they are fantastic for flooding a specific section of the image with light and great for creating shadows and depth. Again I didn't spend a whole lot on this Neewer 750II but it it's a great speedlight and has done everything I’ve needed it to do perfectly every time.

Backdrops

Backdrops. I have been increasingly moving away form natural to studio lighting for food shots. By using a frame and backdrops I can block out ambient light from the scene and use the soft boxes and speedlight as the sole light sources. Different scenes require different lighting so I use black, grey or white canvas backdrops to further control the light. I recommend spending the extra to get a good quality stand. The canvas backdrops are very heavy so the stand needs to be sturdy.   Bounce Cards

Backdrops. I have been increasingly moving away form natural to studio lighting for food shots. By using a frame and backdrops I can block out ambient light from the scene and use the soft boxes and speedlight as the sole light sources. Different scenes require different lighting so I use black, grey or white canvas backdrops to further control the light. I recommend spending the extra to get a good quality stand. The canvas backdrops are very heavy so the stand needs to be sturdy.

Bounce Cards

Bounce cards. The bashed and worn appearance of my bounce cards is a testament to just how often I use them. You wouldn't think that a piece of foam core card could have that much of an effect but they are invaluable. White and grey to bounce the light, black to dull. I also use them as backdrops and surfaces. I've even used one outside when I wanted a bit more light on a flower I was photographing. Cheap but ridiculously useful.   Reflectors

Bounce cards. The bashed and worn appearance of my bounce cards is a testament to just how often I use them. You wouldn't think that a piece of foam core card could have that much of an effect but they are invaluable. White and grey to bounce the light, black to dull. I also use them as backdrops and surfaces. I've even used one outside when I wanted a bit more light on a flower I was photographing. Cheap but ridiculously useful.

Reflectors

Reflectors. Used in the same way as bounce cards but a lot more effective. The white reflector also doubles as a diffuser if you are using natural light from a window. You can see how effective it is at smoothing out and softening the light in the image below.

Reflectors. Used in the same way as bounce cards but a lot more effective. The white reflector also doubles as a diffuser if you are using natural light from a window. You can see how effective it is at smoothing out and softening the light in the image below.

The light on the bottom left of the image is a lot softer and more even in its distribution. This effect is even more pronounced when using a diffuser on a sunny day making it an invaluable tool if you are using natural light.     Props & Sets

The light on the bottom left of the image is a lot softer and more even in its distribution. This effect is even more pronounced when using a diffuser on a sunny day making it an invaluable tool if you are using natural light. 

Props & Sets

Props and sets. I find this to be one of the hardest parts of photographing food. It's so important to select items that will compliment the food and make it look fantastic but won't steal too much focus. I usually have an idea in my mind how I'm going to dress a scene before hand but it quite often - for any number of reasons - doesn't quite work out so you have to have a large store of items available and be flexible and open to change.  If you have any questions or would like to know more about how I shoot my food photography images please feel free to drop me a message in the comments section below.

Props and sets. I find this to be one of the hardest parts of photographing food. It's so important to select items that will compliment the food and make it look fantastic but won't steal too much focus. I usually have an idea in my mind how I'm going to dress a scene before hand but it quite often - for any number of reasons - doesn't quite work out so you have to have a large store of items available and be flexible and open to change.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about how I shoot my food photography images please feel free to drop me a message in the comments section below.