Saturday, March 21, 2009

Food for Thought

I do quite a bit of food photography. I take pictures for a food column on the Viking website and I also shoot food for Journal Communications.

When shooting food, I try to keep it as simple as I can. 

For most of my shoots, I'm pressed for time. I'm shooting in between lunch and dinner at a restaurant, sandwiched between two assignments and I have five or six items to photograph. I don't have the time to be fiddling with a multitude of lights, reflectors and mirrors.

And, in the end, it's all about the food anyway, not the number of lights I can endlessly pull out of my bag. That's why my standard lighting kit for food photography is a tripod, several cardboard reflectors (with white on one side and silver on the other) and the nearest and biggest window with indirect sunlight.

This first shoot is a classic Viking shoot. I've got two big windows on my left and a fill card on the right, just out of the frame. I'm shooting a pretty long exposure (over a second) so I definitely need the tripod. The indirect sunlight gives me a really soft light that wraps around the food when I use a fill card. I also need to note that I turned off the lights in the dining room so I didn't mix my daylight from the window with the tungsten from the overhead lights.

For the next shoot, I mixed my light sources; using window light and a flash on a shoot through umbrella. The flash is about three stops under the main light (the window) and is just filling in the shadows on the left side. Again I've got a fairly long exposure so I'm using a tripod. I was shooting between lunch and dinner and was able to turn off the tungsten lights in the dining room. I was shooting with a daylight balance so with a long exposure, the lights would have given a color cast to the picture.

For the final shoot, I was set up in the middle of the restaurant and away from any window light. So I just mimicked my window light setup but with two flash units.

I've got two lights on shoot-through umbrellas. The main light in the back is at half power and the fill light is roughly three stops under at 1/16 power. Again, I'm trying to fill in the shadows and not overpower the main light. I also didn't use my tripod because I was shooting at 1/200 of second and wanted to overpower the ambient light in the restaurant. (They were open for breakfast and I couldn't turn off the lights like I could in the previous shoots.)