Food Photography, A Different Perspective

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Michael A. Sewell
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All my food photography is client driven. Whether that's restaurants, hotels, recipe books or Getty Images, the brief and styling is usually someone else's decision.
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This particular image came about due to a couple of factors. Primarily, I noticed most of my food imagery was quite light and airy. A style my clients rather liked, and a style which particularly suited their websites. Don't get me wrong, I like shooting in any particular style that does the food justice, and best suits the client's needs. That said, I really quite fancied shooting a much darker food scene. A scene that would focus the attention purely on the food, rather than the ambience of the setting which tends to be the better look for a restaurant or hotel.

Oh, and there was a food imagery competition running on the Micro Four Thirds forum.

Anyway, I raided the home fridge and nicked the wedge of Wensleydale Creamery's cheese with cranberries, as you do. (It's actually part of their rather good cheese box). The bottle was liberated from my wife (empty, I might add!). The contents of the glass? Undiluted blackcurrant cordial. The grapes came from a local supermarket on my way into the studio. Knife, board and bowl are from the studio prop cupboard.

My intention was to use a single light source with a large rectangular modifier to light the scene from one side. The reflection of the softbox in anything such as the bottle or glass would take on the appearance of a window. I would need to bring in some light from the other side of the table, but only enough to bring up the shadows and stop the dark edges of the bottle etc. disappearing into the background.

I had a black paper backdrop in place approximately ten feet beyond the back of the table top. The distance would ensure the light source wouldn't illuminate the background. I initially used a honeycomb on the softbox as well, which of course narrows the field of light and reduces light contamination beyond the subject area. However, on close examination of the test image, I found the honeycomb was quite visible in the reflection on the wine glass. So off it came.

The light source is an Elinchrom BRX500Ri frame left, firing through a large softbox (40x53 inches). Output was at 4.0.
Rather than use another light source to fill frame right, I used a large polystyrene board to bounce the light back towards the subject area.

A very simple one light setup.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 mkII 1/250th sec ISO200 40-150mm f2.8 @f8

A few behind the scene images to better explain the setup. (taken with the original E-M1).

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Wensleydale Creamery can be found at www.wensleydale.co.uk
 

retiredfromlife

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Very nice, I like the lighting style more than what you call "light and airy" but as you say that is client requested. Both styles nice but like this better.
 

retiredfromlife

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The more I look at lighting I can see the art of getting the light right for the subject at hand. Like the light for the recent Truck shoot you posted, fitted that subject just right. While this food shoot had a more darker theme that suited it better at least for me. Getting the mood right for the target audience must be a real art.

But I must admit I have a bias for what I think of as the old "National Geographic Magazine" style, sort of dark and gritty, but they seem to be leaving this style a bit now as their articles are moving more from exploration and third world to a bit more modern, at least that is what I perceive.
 
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@retiredfromlife
Yes, I too like the old school imagery, and it's something I would like to do more of. Almost akin to the old Rennaissance paintings which had a warm light to them.
I'm thinking of creating a series of similar "moody" images as a set portfolio piece, as it's crossed my mind a few times that clients are drawn to us by what they've seen we have done. If I have an awful lot of "light and Airy" style imagery, then I will get requests for more of the same.
 

aKilter

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First, thank you for your informative posts, Michael.

As for the photo here, it looks like a fine example of chiaroscuro technique, which was originally developed by renaissance painters.
 
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Michael A. Sewell
First, thank you for your informative posts, Michael.

As for the photo here, it looks like a fine example of chiaroscuro technique, which was originally developed by renaissance painters.
Well spotted, and well linked. It was indeed developed by the renaissance painters, of which Rembrandt was of course a pioneer.

Present day implementation for portraiture:
Chiaroscuro lighting for portraiture
 
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Michael A. Sewell
Did you gel the light or just tweak the WB in post?
It was a slight increase in the red channel in curves. A lot easier than trying to gel a fat softbox ;)

I'll gel where it's needed, or if the scene needs targeted gel'ing, but where the whole scene needs an overall shift in colour, then it tends to be easier and quicker in post.
 

dh202

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@MichaelSewell
I agree with the others on the Rembrandt style. Curious as to what your using to trigger the flash?
BTW: I luv Wensleydale Creamery's cheese with cranberries... when I can get it at my local market ;-)
 
Joined
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Michael A. Sewell
@MichaelSewell
I agree with the others on the Rembrandt style. Curious as to what your using to trigger the flash?
BTW: I luv Wensleydale Creamery's cheese with cranberries... when I can get it at my local market ;-)
The Elinchrom BRX500 is an older head. However, it has a built in receiver for their Skyport system. I was using the new(ish) Skyport Plus transmitter.

That said, any transmitter could be utilised.
 
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