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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Food Photography Talk
Thread started 28 Jan 2015 (Wednesday) 23:44
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First Commercial Food Shoot

 
wcameron
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Joined Mar 2006
Canmore, AB, Canada - The Heart of the Rockies
Jan 28, 2015 23:44 |  #1

I've got my first opportunity to shoot the menu for a new restaurant. I've managed to talk them into using an award winning food stylist to assist and have scaled back their expectations for the shoot. Originally they were looking at an assembly line shoot of almost 20 menu items in a day and we seem to be looking at a more manageable 8-10 items now.

I've shot some food but nothing like this. I don't have studio strobes but do have a large collection of speedlites. I use the pocketwizard flex system with the zone controller AC3 so I can control light output from the camera position.

They are looking at very tight shots for the menus but we are thinking of doing some slightly wider images to give them the opportunity to use the shots in other publications.

I'm planning on shooting tethered so the stylist, myself and the designer can view the images in real time.

Looking at the sample images provided by the designer, they are looking at a fairly standard setup. The main light is fairly soft and comes from the rear with accent and fill lights from the front. These are just standard stock images though so I'm hoping that this is the look they are expecting. If I didn't have a designer I would have turned down the shoot. The designer is very supportive but I'd love any other general advice on working my first formal food shoot.

The designer has the styling covered

I have a fairly diverse set of lights. I'm thinking of starting with a large shoot through umbrella behind the food and then adding accents and fill from the front. Perhaps a snoot for items that need texture from the side. Any other suggestions I should keep in mind prior to the shoot?


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sspellman
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Jan 29, 2015 01:01 |  #2

My approach is shooting restaurant food is radically different. I don't use stylists because I want the food to be very similar to the chefs regular presentation to customers. I use natural light and reflectors to bring the most vibrant soft light to the dish. I do shoot tethered with DSLR Remote SW and a laptop to get all the details right and maximize positive client interaction. I would also recommend carefully reviewing color balance, dishware, table decor, and backgrounds.

Good Luck-
Scott


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Alveric
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Post has been last edited over 2 years ago by Alveric. 2 edits done in total.
Jan 29, 2015 01:13 |  #3

Stick with your plan and do yourself a big favour by not asking for extra advice. The many and different opinions you'll get here will either confuse you or make you reconsider the good decisions you've already made. Browse off, go ready your gear, have an ale and come back here to share –if you want– the final images.

Now, if you really must have advice... the brolly is fine as long as there are no glossy surfaces that will reflect its spider-like shape, such as glasses, bottles and/or very polished dinnerware. I've found brollies create strange looking reflections on plates. Softboxes rule here, but if you only have a brolly, well, use it, just mind your angles.

The accents should be created with hard light, and snoots come into their own here. Get yourself a pair of mirrors: they're useful to fill in shadows and/or to fire the snoot into them to create the accents.

Practice at home with the setup you intend to use so that you can nail or narrow things down. The shoot itself is not the time nor the place to be experimenting or trying out different setups to see which one could work: you're expected to show up already with a clear idea of the setup you'll use.


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sagray
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Jan 30, 2015 08:29 |  #4

+1 on the mirrors. Or if nothing else, some small cards with aluminum foil (shiny side out). You want to create some interesting reflection on the sides, but you probably don't want to the overkill that an entire speedlite could introduce.

And count me in as well on the "just do it" approach. It sounds like you know what you're doing, so stop second guessing, and start looking forward to the challenge.


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wcameron
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Feb 02, 2015 22:59 |  #5

Thanks everyone for the advice. I have been experimenting over the last few days with dishes I've created. With my shots, I've focused more on lighting and not worried about my staging as that will be handled separately. Scott the stylist I'm using works extensively with restaurants. She'll work with the chef to take his components and plate them under his direction so they will accurately reflect his vision but with her styling. I do have a variety of reflectors to bring light onto small areas of the meal when necessary. I'll check back after the shoot. I'm definitely trying to keep it simple. I do appreciate the comments on umbrellas Alveric. I'm looking at some softboxes. Any suggestions for good ones to be used with speedlites? I do have a small one that I use for accents but likely not large enough for my main light...or can speedlites power a softbox as they do an umbrella? I'll be in close with the lights.


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urizzm
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Mar 07, 2015 10:05 as a reply to wcameron's post |  #6

Very cool, good luck !!




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tcphoto1
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Madison, Ga
Mar 08, 2015 11:31 |  #7

I specialize in food and do not remember using lights but for once or twice. I utilize natural light and a talented Stylist. After years of shooting fashion, I understand the obsession with lights but if you look at magazines like Donna Hay, Bon Apetit or any of Martha Stewarts publications you will see that natural light is and has been in vogue for quite awhile. Yes, some light their subjects but my clients are looking for more natural looks.

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chexjc
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Mar 09, 2015 09:26 |  #8

tcphoto1 wrote in post #17465871external link
I specialize in food and do not remember using lights but for once or twice. I utilize natural light and a talented Stylist. After years of shooting fashion, I understand the obsession with lights but if you look at magazines like Donna Hay, Bon Apetit or any of Martha Stewarts publications you will see that natural light is and has been in vogue for quite awhile. Yes, some light their subjects but my clients are looking for more natural looks.

Hey man, your work is beautiful! I love the way you use the surrounding colors to complement the dishes.


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Foodguy
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Mar 26, 2015 20:32 |  #9

OP- How'd it go?


My answer for most photography questions: "it depends...'

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the ­ flying ­ moose
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Jun 28, 2015 23:49 |  #10

tcphoto1 wrote in post #17465871 (external link)
I specialize in food and do not remember using lights but for once or twice. I utilize natural light and a talented Stylist. After years of shooting fashion, I understand the obsession with lights but if you look at magazines like Donna Hay, Bon Apetit or any of Martha Stewarts publications you will see that natural light is and has been in vogue for quite awhile. Yes, some light their subjects but my clients are looking for more natural looks.

Very nice. I was able to do my first ever food shoots for a few restaurants in town. I was so nervous but once I got started I was hooked. The best part about shooting food is being able to eat it afterwards.




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fotopaul
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Jul 10, 2015 05:57 |  #11
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Lightning for food is crucial, and while the "natural" light has been in fashion for quite sometime in magazines, it doesn't mean it is natural light! Not every studio offers bountiful natural light year round. So many of the shots you see as " natural" lights uses artificial light modified to mimic natural.

Also just as with portraits the are plenty of different styles to food photography, one the reason the "natural" light is often used in food magazines is that you don't want it to look to commercial. The very point is to make it approachable so everything looking to perfect is less then ideal. This is taken into account when it comes to the styling as well.

In contrast a comercial shot for an ad or a menu for say a steak house rarely uses "natural" light does it ? They need to be bold, contrasty and colourful.

So as with most subjects in photography, the lighting very much depend on what you want to convey.

With that said backlighting, reflectors are often used. For me one of the main challenges when shooting food is to get specularity and highlight reflections right. Very little food look appetizing without it.

Would love to hear how the OP did btw. :-D


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wcameron
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Canmore, AB, Canada - The Heart of the Rockies
Oct 05, 2015 16:55 |  #12

I apologize for the delay in following up on this post. Not only did that shoot go very well but so did a subsequent one with a second restaurant. In both cases, we used a large softbox as a main light from behind left. I used a smaller softbox as a fill from the front right. I used a combination of speedlite mounted snoots, mirrors and reflectors for the accent lights to bring in detail light where necessary. I appreciate all the advice on this thread, especially Alveric's advice to stick to my plan. That was a good way to go as the 11th hour is a poor time to change your focus. We stuck with our plan, although we DID replace the unbrella with a 24 x 24 inch softbox. My stylist has been a dream to work with. Sspellman, using a stylist does not mean the food does NOT look like the chef will produce. We work as a team combined of chef, producer, stylist and photographer. We all play a role in the food shoot. The producer (ideally) provides the vision and storyboard. The chef and the stylist work together to produce food that is faithful to the restaurant's normal fare. Nobody wants to overpromise in a photograph and leave a customer in a situation where their meal does not meet expectations.

fotopaul, I also agree that it is critical to be able to create whatever light you want - even a soft window light. That is what I've been looking to create with many of my images. When shooting a restaurant, you don't always have the option of shooting IN the restaurant during open hours. The first shoot was done in a basement kitchen so we needed (or I would argue, had the opportunity) to create all the light on the food. Window light is not always consistent but strobe light is. I actually prefer to have control over the light. When I'm working in a slow methodical way, I just feel better controlling every variable that plays a role in the images.

Part of this is simply the fact that I'm developing my skills and for me the food shoot is a slow evolution. Every shot gets scrutiinized by at least 4 people. Tiny adjustments are made until we all feel that we have confidence that the image we're all there to capture has been caught. Only then do we move onto the next food item.

As a landscape shooter I'm used to working slowly and deliberately. I hope to keep learning. The next step is doing more prop styling to complement the food we're showcasing. I appreciate any feedback. You can see some of the recent food work on my flickr page: https://www.flickr.com ...8160451/with/153573​06533/ (external link)


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Ward
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Foodguy
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Oct 05, 2015 18:34 |  #13

Glad it worked out to everyone's satisfaction.

Food photography (at least imo) is all about details. People looking at your work have one opportunity to draw a conclusion about it's appetite appeal and the details add up to either a positive or negative impression.

And fwiw, my work is a little different than some of the other posters in this thread. I can count on one hand the number of times that I've used natural light as a light source. If you were to look at some of my pictures though you might not guess that as I can easily mimic natural daylight with total control 365 days a year regardless of time of day. For me anyway it's all about controlling all of the elements that go into the image to create the picture that I have in my mind before even starting the project.

I also wouldn't consider working on a food photograph without a talented stylist. In my experience, most chef's don't have an eye for the photographic aspects of the food and are primarily concerned with other things.


My answer for most photography questions: "it depends...'

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sagray
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Oct 06, 2015 11:00 |  #14

Dangit...I shouldn't have looked at those photos when I was hungry. Cruel and unusual punishment!

(And nice work!)


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the ­ flying ­ moose
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Oct 06, 2015 16:03 |  #15

When you folks do natural light, are you doing this in a restaurant or studio? I have had to do a few food shoots, some being in the evening where natural light is not an option and I had no choice but to fire up the speedlites. I hope you don't mind me sharing but here is one of my latest from a few months back. I wish this was a larger segment in my area. It seems every restaurant in town but a couple are chains, and get their marketing material from head office.

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