Lighting Class Demo: Food

Wednesday I did a demo for the lighting class on shooting food.  A preliminary lecture on Monday let me talk about the differences in shooting “studio” and “plated” food and the aesthetic differences often seen between “editorial” and “advertising” shots.  I provided several handouts I’d created on food photography and then it was time to do something real and showed some examples of top notch food photographs.

So Wednesday I brought in a Fish and Chips mean from the restaurant where I had lunch and a student brought in a dessert pastry so we had two items to shoot.  In setting up the entrée I discussed the role of a food stylist (HIGHLY recommended) for example in carefully arranging the fries in the basket and then the pieces of fish.  (A quick disclaimer here, I am NOT a stylist so my arrangements will not match those of a good food stylist but there were none available for the demo.)

Once the food was arranged and a composition determined, it was time to set the lighting.  For this shot I used two lights and two reflectors.  The shots are taken with my Canon 5DSr and a Canon 90mm Tilt/Shift lens tilted forward to angle the depth of field plane to cover the whole dish.  Final shot is at f9.

The main light was a large softbox positioned directly overhead and slightly to the rear.  This created a soft, saturated light with just enough directionality to show up the texture and cast a slight shadow forward.  This replicates how food would look to you seated at a table where you were blocking off the light coming from the front of the plate.

I then used a gridded light from screen right to skim across the food and add some dimension and separation of the items in the meal.

However that made the front of the product a little two dark so two reflectors: a large silver one just in front and slightly to the left and then a small white card close and to the right.

Here is the light plot…


blog on food lighting-diagram-for fish and chip

Do note that in the actual shoot, the large softbox is placed overhead and aiming straight down on the product.

And here is the initial shot cropped and with preliminary settings in ACR.

 blog on food demo fish 01

And here is the final processed shot.

blog on food demo fish 02

For the dessert shot, brought in by a student, Christopher, we arranged the individual pieces on a silver serving dish then since they were spicy, added the peppers for color and some of the seeds around the platter.  Once the arrangement was tweaked and ready and a composition chosen he added the dollops of frosting and we set the lights in place.

As before, the main light was an overhead large softbox placed slightly to the rear.  This time we used two accent lights, one from each side to provide element separation and show off the texture of the product.

Here is the light plot for this shot.

lighting-diagram-for napoleon dessert 

I was still shooting with a 90mm Tilt Shift Lens so wanted to show the class how to also use its functions to create very shallow depth of field.  The first shot below is with the lens tilted forward to increase depth of field as might be done in an advertising shot and the second is with it tilted to the rear to decrease depth of field for selective focus typical of editorial shots.  Here are the final shots.


blog on food dessert focus

For this shot the tilt of the lens was adjusted so at the shooting aperture, f8 (a sweet spot of this lens) the leading edge of the product is sharp and the trailing edge is just slightly going soft.  This shows the whole assembly but lets the viewer concentrate on the texture of the product.



blog on food dessert soft

In this version, the lens is tilted slightly backwards so that the plane of depth of field is tilted backwards and runs through the product in a narrow slice.  Focus is on the front edge of the nearest piece of product.  Aperture is f8 just like the shot above.


Well, so that was our demo.  I hope this was helpful.









About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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