Approve the Cookies
This website uses cookies to improve your user experience. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.
OK
Index  •   • New posts  •   • RTAT  •   • 'Best of'  •   • Gallery  •   • Gear  •   • Reviews
Guest
New posts  •   • RTAT  •   • 'Best of'  •   • Gallery  •   • Gear  •   • Reviews
Register to forums    Log in

 
FORUMS Photo Sharing & Visual Enjoyment Still Life, B/W & Experimental 
Thread started 03 Jan 2011 (Monday) 13:09
Search threadPrev/next
sponsored links
(this ad will go away when you log in as a registered member)

Low Light Food Pictures

 
tino27
Mostly Lurking
18 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: Northeast Ohio
     
Jan 03, 2011 13:09 |  #1

Hello all -- this would be my first post to this forum. I've been lurking for a couple of weeks after finding it and finally decided to join because I've found some valuable threads and think you all might be able to help me out.

I write a food blog where about 95% of my content are local restaurant reviews. I photodocument my meals and use the resulting images to walk my readers from beginning to end. While I started out using my cellphone camera (mostly because it was convenient and I always had it on me), I realized fairly soon that given the extreme low lighting in some restaurants, I was limited in what I could do with it.

I recently upgraded to a Canon Powershot G12 and have been working very hard at composing the best shot possible given the ten seconds or so that I have when the plate is set down in front of me. I tend to avoid flash photography if at all possible, mostly to avoid annoying other patrons. I think my photographs have improved dramatically.

My dilemma stems from the fact that even with a "properly" exposed photograph, because the ambient lighting is so low, the pictures come out dark. I have no problem lightening them slightly in post, but I am questioning whether to leave them darker so that they are a more accurate representation of my dining experience or go ahead and lighten them to the point where they really pop, but no longer reflect what the food looked like in the restaurant.

I've included three photos from a recent restaurant opening here in Cleveland. I like each of the photos, and have lightened each just slightly, but I am torn which way to proceed. I custom white balanced against the white cloth napkin.

Softened Butter in a Glass Ramekin

IMAGE: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_MYRNDMf_IWo/TRqyefO8WAI/AAAAAAAAIiU/Qt2zMkidZHo/s1600/Softened_Butter.JPG

Seared Scallops over Celery Root Puree with Apple Salad
IMAGE: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_MYRNDMf_IWo/TRqyDWrzxWI/AAAAAAAAIhk/ybkPPPQCYVM/s1600/Seared_Scallops.JPG

Dark Chocolate Mouse with Dried Cherries and Parmesan Tuilles
IMAGE: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_MYRNDMf_IWo/TRqyCp2cL7I/AAAAAAAAIhM/gWxkJC-JCws/s1600/Dark_Chocolate_Mousse.JPG

Any feedback on either the light issue or anything else you notice about my photos would definitely be appreciated.

My Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving (external link)
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G12, 28-140mm zoom, 430EX II

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
sponsored links
(this ad will go away when you log in as a registered member)
kraaazymike
Goldmember
1,231 posts
Likes: 2
Joined Jun 2006
     
Jan 03, 2011 16:46 |  #2

I see what you are getting at regarding representing what is actually given vs. what might be a more appealing photograph. I would lean towards a more appealing shot but that's just my subjective opinion.

Personally as the "photographer" without a tripod, I would find 3-5 second shutter times to be a huge hassle and a big risk for an OOF shot. I would suggest for you to look into anything that would cut down on shutter time while keeping it reasonable for a properly exposed image.

Since you're shooting in manual, Increase your ISO and open the aperture to let more light in. Of course, you'll have the side effects of more noise and a narrower DOF, but it's a balancing game and you could use those to your own artistic advantage.




  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
gonzogolf
dumb remark memorialized
29,196 posts
Gallery: 28 photos
Likes: 1328
Joined Dec 2006
     
Jan 03, 2011 16:51 |  #3

In the case of the first two, what you call properly exposed is not. Its fairly clear from the first that the whites arent white at all but an eggshell gray at best. Start using your histogram, learn to push the right side of the curve to the edge. Do a search for ettr here to see the benefits. Basically you need to get your whites white, and let the other parts of the exposure fall into place.




  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
tino27
THREAD ­ STARTER
Mostly Lurking
18 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: Northeast Ohio
     
Jan 03, 2011 20:58 |  #4

@kraaazymike: I should've specified the settings I used for the above pictures. I was using a tabletop tripod and had opened my aperture to its maximum setting (f/2.8). Shutter speeds were quite lengthy, about 5-10 seconds, and I had the ISO set at 100. I suppose I could've set the ISO to 200 or 400, but I know at 800, I start to get noticeable noise in the photograph.

@gonzogolf: I am definitely still learning and appreciate the advice. Up until this point, I guess even though I was shooting completely in manual mode, I was trusting what the camera told me was a "properly" exposed picture (I was using both the histogram and the exposure meter on the LCD on the back of the camera). I'm beginning to understand that I need to set the various parameters to settings where the camera doesn't say it should look good, but I think it does. I'll check out "ettr" and see what I can learn from those threads.

Thanks again for the help.


My Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving (external link)
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G12, 28-140mm zoom, 430EX II

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
kraaazymike
Goldmember
1,231 posts
Likes: 2
Joined Jun 2006
     
Jan 03, 2011 21:17 |  #5

I've been looking at your EXIF info. All pictures were shot with 3.2 and not 2.8.

Care to change your permissions to edit your pictures? In PS, it's really easy to bump the exposures looking at the histogram in "curves". Though I see you're using Gimp; a program I'm unfamiliar with.




  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
tino27
THREAD ­ STARTER
Mostly Lurking
18 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: Northeast Ohio
     
Jan 03, 2011 21:52 |  #6

@kraaazymike: You're right. 2.8 is the largest aperture my camera will do and if I zoom in, the aperture will decrease the more I zoom. I remember setting the aperture to 2.8 and then zooming in slightly, to better frame the food, which is why you see 3.2 instead. Good catch.

GIMP is an open source alternative to PS. It supports a lot of the same features, and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux (which is the operating system I am running).

I will change my permissions so that you can play with the images. That being said, my question still remains ... whether I overexpose the image when taking the picture or "fix" the image in post-processing ... the pictures I embedded in this thread represent the way the food actually looked to my eye sitting at the table with the ambient light. I agree if I was simply posting the pictures on Flickr with no context, yeah, they could definitely look better. But given that the photos are intended to back up the review that I am posting, I feel like lightening them feels "false" in a way.

I suppose this is my own personal battle I have to resolve. (Of course, I do value all the other feedback, too -- which is why I asked the question in the first place). I suppose it comes down to the question of whether I penalize dark, intimate restaurants because they are trying to set a "mood" over some place like a lunchtime sandwich joint where the lighting might not be optimal, but it's a heck of a lot brighter, and thus the pictures would come out more "properly" exposed.


My Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving (external link)
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G12, 28-140mm zoom, 430EX II

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
lauderdalems
Senior Member
759 posts
Likes: 9
Joined Jun 2006
     
Jan 03, 2011 23:33 |  #7

I'm not very good but here is my 3 minute PP on one of your pictures.

PHOTOBUCKET EMBEDDING IS DISABLED BY THIS MEMBER.
Photobucket sends ads instead of embedding photos from their free galleries.
Click the link (if available) below to see the image in a gallery page.

http://i180.photobucke​t.com …alems/Softened_​Butter.jpg (external link)
HTTP response: 404 | MIME changed to 'image/gif' | Byte size: ZERO

http://gamedayphotos.u​wa.edu/ (external link)

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
gonzogolf
dumb remark memorialized
29,196 posts
Gallery: 28 photos
Likes: 1328
Joined Dec 2006
     
Jan 04, 2011 09:22 |  #8

tino27 wrote in post #11568393 (external link)
I will change my permissions so that you can play with the images. That being said, my question still remains ... whether I overexpose the image when taking the picture or "fix" the image in post-processing ... the pictures I embedded in this thread represent the way the food actually looked to my eye sitting at the table with the ambient light. I agree if I was simply posting the pictures on Flickr with no context, yeah, they could definitely look better. But given that the photos are intended to back up the review that I am posting, I feel like lightening them feels "false" in a way.

I suppose this is my own personal battle I have to resolve. (Of course, I do value all the other feedback, too -- which is why I asked the question in the first place). I suppose it comes down to the question of whether I penalize dark, intimate restaurants because they are trying to set a "mood" over some place like a lunchtime sandwich joint where the lighting might not be optimal, but it's a heck of a lot brighter, and thus the pictures would come out more "properly" exposed.

This argument fails on a couple of levels. Your eye works differently than your camera, even in low light your eye and mind work together to identify white as white, essentially the worlds best PP system. But when you take a photo you are subject to the technical requirements of creating a photo. Meaning you need a certain amount of light to accurately record the image and the choices you make to capture that light alter the image in different ways (DOF, contrast, white balance etc). So unless you bring in a portable studio its unlikely that you can capture that same mood you have in your mind with a photo.

But secondly it fails in that while you think you are presenting what you see, the viewer is seeing something different. They dont carry any preconceived notion of ambiance of the item in its context because they have never been there. Instead when they see your images they are seeing muddy whites, low contrast, unexciting and honestly less appealing versions of the item.




  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
BrandonSi
Nevermind.. I'm silly.
Avatar
5,306 posts
Gallery: 62 photos
Best ofs: 1
Likes: 143
Joined Sep 2004
Location: Chicago
     
Jan 04, 2011 09:47 |  #9

Don't take this the wrong way, because I understand the constraints under which you are working, and I have been there myself.. but.. if I were the restaurant owner, I would contact you and ask you to take those photos down. They make the food look unappetizing at best.

As others have said, what you consider a properly exposed photograph, is underexposed, to say nothing of white balance.

It's a tough situation you find yourself in. Even if you do use a flash, an on-camera flash isn't going to make the photos look that much better. They'll be close to a correct exposure, but you'll get blown highlights and terrible reflections.

Maybe try using the flash, with the camera on a tripod, and using something else (white napkin, perhaps?) held behind the dish, to serve as a reflector? That might help even out the shadows you're bound to get with a direct, on-camera flash.


[ www (external link)ยท flickr (external link)]

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
tino27
THREAD ­ STARTER
Mostly Lurking
18 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: Northeast Ohio
     
Jan 04, 2011 14:49 |  #10

@BrandonSi: Here is where my two worlds have now collided, the food writing side and the photography side. Originally, the photographs were meant to simply supplement my prose. And to a large degree, that is true even today. Since I do almost all of my reviews unannounced (to try and retain some sense of anonymity), sometimes I have a choice at which table to sit and other times (more often than not) whatever is available. On the chance that I get a table with decent lighting, the pictures come out much better than what I posted above. I decided to use flash (on camera or external) as little as is humanly possible in a restaurant setting because I realize that other people not as food obsessed as I am go to restaurants to eat, not to be blinded every five minutes because the next course came out of the kitchen. I'll be the first to admit that this is a self-imposed limitation, but it's one I firmly believe in and am teaching myself how to work around it. And as you yourself indicated, a flash brings with it all sorts of other headaches from blown out spots to nasty reflections.

While I originally thought these photos were properly exposed (because that's what the camera indicated at the time), I now understand what you and everyone has been saying and will stop using the metered reading on the LCD screen as my sole criteria for when to snap the picture.


My Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving (external link)
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G12, 28-140mm zoom, 430EX II

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
kraaazymike
Goldmember
1,231 posts
Likes: 2
Joined Jun 2006
     
Jan 04, 2011 21:05 |  #11

gonzogolf wrote in post #11570716 (external link)
But secondly it fails in that while you think you are presenting what you see, the viewer is seeing something different. They dont carry any preconceived notion of ambiance of the item in its context because they have never been there. Instead when they see your images they are seeing muddy whites, low contrast, unexciting and honestly less appealing versions of the item.

BrandonSi wrote in post #11570866 (external link)
.... They make the food look unappetizing at best.

As others have said, what you consider a properly exposed photograph, is underexposed, to say nothing of white balance....


I think these guys said it well. I asked my wife what her opinion was given the same situation.

Her thoughts: as a viewer who has no exposure to the ambiance of the resteraunt, the lighting, the mood, they are sitting at a computer at home and all they see is a bland picture of food who's colors aren't rich. The viewer doesn't have the other senses of the human body to elicit a full awareness of what you would feel at the location. So to say you are trying to provide dark photos of food that was taken at a dark location, doesn't really do anything for the viewer. This kind of correlates with Gonzogolf's idea of a portable studio, which really isn't much of an option.

Take a good photo. If the food is good, your good photo will show it. If the food looks horrible, your good photo will show it.

tino27 wrote in post #11572706 (external link)
While I originally thought these photos were properly exposed (because that's what the camera indicated at the time), I now understand what you and everyone has been saying and will stop using the metered reading on the LCD screen as my sole criteria for when to snap the picture.

This might be a function of a few things. An incorrect metering mode and the fact that cameras meter whites for a neutral gray. Either could make your light meter read darker than you really want. I would still listen to your light meter, but make sure it's set properly and understand how it works.


HOSTED PHOTO
please log in to view hosted photos in full size.



HOSTED PHOTO
please log in to view hosted photos in full size.




  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
tino27
THREAD ­ STARTER
Mostly Lurking
18 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: Northeast Ohio
     
Jan 04, 2011 22:29 |  #12

@kraaazymike: I appreciate the feedback from both you and your wife. Would you care to share what you did in PP to doctor the two photos above?

I reviewed another restaurant tonight that had a similar low light issue, but not quite as bad the the restaurant where I shot the original photos I posted. I shot tonight's photos between 2/3 and 1 full stop above where the meter said that they were "properly" exposed based on the feedback I've received so far, but found that I ended up playing with the brightness and contrast even more in PP. I've attached several of the shots to this post.

I'm learning, which is why I proposed the thread in the first place. Please continue to help me get better at this.

Dinner Rolls with Butter

IMAGE: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_MYRNDMf_IWo/TSPqECB2dLI/AAAAAAAAImk/RYC-iHZJ4L0/s1600/Dinner_Rolls_Butter.JPG

Chicken Perfetto
IMAGE: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_MYRNDMf_IWo/TSPpwURQyXI/AAAAAAAAImM/LwAbudpcDIY/s1600/Chicken_Perfetto.JPG

Gnocchi with Meat Sauce
IMAGE: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_MYRNDMf_IWo/TSPpwG03lVI/AAAAAAAAImE/RVpQVcpGszE/s1600/Side_Gnocchi_Meat_Sauce.JPG

My Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving (external link)
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G12, 28-140mm zoom, 430EX II

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
tino27
THREAD ­ STARTER
Mostly Lurking
18 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: Northeast Ohio
     
Jan 04, 2011 22:37 |  #13

Sorry, I should've said that these latest images were taken with a tabletop tripod, ISO at 100 and an f-stop of 2.8 (where I didn't zoom in, of course). Shutter speeds ranged from about a second to several seconds. Custom white balancing was from the tablecloth.


My Food Blog: Exploring Food My Way: Satisfying The Craving (external link)
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G12, 28-140mm zoom, 430EX II

  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
kraaazymike
Goldmember
1,231 posts
Likes: 2
Joined Jun 2006
     
Jan 04, 2011 23:32 |  #14

These look a lot more like fair representations of what a viewer might expect. I can thank your well exposed photograph to tell me that the Chicken Perfetto and Gnocchi dishes (while probably really tasty) aren't presented well on the plate without much bias from a bad photograph to begin with.

I edited the brightness by bringing in the lights and darks in "levels" and played with RGB in shadows, mids and highlights and increased the saturation on the scallops. Though the color balancing might use a bit more work, you get the idea.




  
  LOG IN TO REPLY
sponsored links
(this ad will go away when you log in as a registered member)

4,581 views & 0 likes for this thread
Low Light Food Pictures
FORUMS Photo Sharing & Visual Enjoyment Still Life, B/W & Experimental 
AAA
x 1600
y 1600

Jump to forum...   •  Rules   •  Index   •  New posts   •  RTAT   •  'Best of'   •  Gallery   •  Gear   •  Reviews   •  Member list   •  Polls   •  Image rules   •  Search   •  Password reset

Not a member yet?
Register to forums
Registered members may log in to forums and access all the features: full search, image upload, follow forums, own gear list and ratings, likes, more forums, private messaging, thread follow, notifications, own gallery, all settings, view hosted photos, own reviews, see more and do more... and all is free. Don't be a stranger - register now and start posting!


COOKIES DISCLAIMER: This website uses cookies to improve your user experience. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies and to our privacy policy.
Privacy policy and cookie usage info.


POWERED BY AMASS forum software 2.1forum software
version 2.1 /
code and design
by Pekka Saarinen ©
for photography-on-the.net

Latest registered member is CoryM
880 guests, 224 members online
Simultaneous users record so far is 15144, that happened on Nov 22, 2018

Photography-on-the.net Digital Photography Forums is the website for photographers and all who love great photos, camera and post processing techniques, gear talk, discussion and sharing. Professionals, hobbyists, newbies and those who don't even own a camera -- all are welcome regardless of skill, favourite brand, gear, gender or age. Registering and usage is free.