Adventures in Food Photography: Pears and Light – 1 of 4
Since I have started doing a considerable amount of food photography for our blog, I recently registered for an online food photography class at The Picture Perfect School of Photography. It is a 4 week course and I have decided to blog my homework assignment so our readers can benefit from what I am learning.
I had almost all the required camera equipment, a digital SLR camera, three lenses of varying focal lengths, a tripod and a remote shutter release. Click here for a list of my camera equipment. The only thing I needed was a reflector. Sure I could have used a white foam core board but the pleasure I get from going to B&H Photo on 34th Street in Manhattan and browsing had to be had. I dragged Talia with me to buy the 32“ reflector and ended up spending much more than I had anticipated on various other accessories.
I had never used a reflector before but after the first lesson, I can’t imagine not using a reflector for photographing food ever again. Life Saving Tip: By the way, I learnt this the hard way, but hold the collapsable reflector away from your face while opening it.. that’s all I have to say!
The first lesson was about natural light and the importance of it in food photography. Whenever I have photographed food in the past it has always been in natural light and never with the use of a flash. This lesson confirmed that that was the right approach although flash can be used selectively if you really know what you are doing.
The lesson discussed shooting with one ‘keylight’ or a main source of light and rotating around the subject to shoot from various angles with the reflector parallel to the light source. I did that but what was most surprising to me was how much difference the reflector made.
My Shooting Setup
I set up my subject (pears borrowed from Talia and not to be returned) near a full glass door on the morning of an overcast and rainy day. Not the ideal day for shooting indoor with only natural light, but that was the only time I had. I set up the camera on a tripod, and set up focus using the auto focus feature. After the composition focused was locked, I changed the focus to manual to keep it from changing again. Then I framed the composition so it fit well within the frame. Then I walked around to where I wanted the reflector to be and held the reflector in the desired position. With my remote shutter release, I fired the shot. I repeated this for all the pictures I took.
I used the 28mm 1:1.8 lens for these photographs. I would have liked to use my 100mm 1:2.8 lens but the space I was shooting in was limited and I couldn’t stand back far enough if I wanted my object to be as close as possible to the already dim light. The diagram below illustrates that angles I shot from, the position of the keylight and the reflector.
This is the most common method of shooting. Pictures below illustrate the results with the reflector at varying distances from the object. It is interesting to note how the shadow of the pear on the surface changes with different placement of the reflector.
This too is a good angle for shooting but the shadows are getting darker and harder to work with since the light is coming from a bit behind the subject.
This is a very difficult angle to shoot from since the keylight is directly in front of the camera. You have to tilt your camera down so you don’t get lens flare. This is also more dramatic and I think I will use it very selectively.
For my assignment I submitted the following two photographs.
Lens: Canon 100mm Macro
Shutter Speed: 1/5s
Note to self: don’t use a macro zoom lens when fruit is not fresh as I did!!
Lens: Canon 100mm Macro
Shutter Speed: 1s
See the second lesson Adventures in Food Photography: Salsa and Lenses – 2 of 4.
See the third lesson Adventures in Food Photography: Lemon and Textures – 3 of 4
See the fourth lesson Adventures in Food Photography: Pepper and Macro – 4 of 4
See a list of my photography equipment.