Saturday, July 26, 2008

Clear stuff 2

When you are a food photographer, you need to know how to shoot many other things because the companies who hire you to shoot their food will also hire you to shoot supporting images that help sell their food.
Here is a case in point:
This is one of a series of images that I captured for Pinnacle Food Corporation. I have done food packaging photography for this company, but also shoot actual products for coupons and web sites. It's all part of keeping your clients happy.
These shots involved just me. The clients ship me the products and I usually can shoot them at my leisure (within reason). I like these jobs because they help keep me busy between the larger food jobs.
Ah - the lonely life. These jobs need no assistants, no food stylist and no prop stylists. Like I said, it was just me. I have a small studio in my home so I can even shoot on weekends.
This image differs from the last one because we couldn't blow out the lid like we did the topping on the gelatin. This time I had a small bank light high and to the left to light the details on the front of the bottle. I just look at the product and move the light around until I like the reflections on the front. Next, I lit a white card that was placed behind the bottle and tilted to one side. I lit the card with an optical spot so that I would just hit the card and not the bottle. Finally, it's just a matter of balancing the front light and the back light. That's it. Two zones of light, each controlled individually until perfection is reached.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Clear stuff 1

The "trick" to shooting transparent or translucent drinks is finding a lighting balance between the light hitting the front (for detail) and the light coming through the back to accentuate the clear nature of the subject.
The usual suspects on this one. There was an art director who understood that limited focus and blown out highlights can actually make food look more appetizing. There was a food stylist to make and garnish the gelatin, a photo assistant to keep everyone happy and a photographer who knows how to light clear stuff.
I'm not positive but Vicky Hayes or Kate Jackette
probably styled this one. I like it. It takes an artist to suspend fruit in gelatin for photography. You probably never noticed, but most times the fruit just settles to the bottom. So careful attention was paid to the suspended fruit, making the two layers stay separate, treating the bananas so they wouldn't turn brown, and the beautiful happy mint. Many food stylists have their own pots of mint so they always have adorable cutting available for garnish.
Because red gelatin is translucent and not transparent, we sprayed the back half of the glasses with dulling spray and used one optical spot strobe high up and back to light throught the gelatin, blow out the highlights on the top and light the fill cards. We finished the lighting by bringing in white cards on either side of the camera lens, and moving them in and out until the balance was just right. Digital once again, helps alot because we can instantly see the lighting and adjust it as needed for perfection. It's a lot faster than shooting, waiting for a poloroid, making changes and shooting another test. That's it. One light, two fill cards, limited focus, great food and you end up with a cool shot that can sell gelatin.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Grill 2

This is a shot of a piece of grilled salmon sitting in foil on a really hot grill. NOT!
Yes there is a piece of salmon on foil, but the truth ends right there. This was an image for the back panel of a steak sauce bottle.
This was a fun time for me. We rented Doug FInley's studio so he was there and helped me a lot. I had an assistant named Steve Berg who was responsible for the nice flames. We had a food stylist, Eline the hand model, a client and me.
Alyssa worked on this shot. We did both salmon and a big chicken leg, both with and without a model brushing on steak sauce. While the food is almost always cold when we are shooting, things like water on vegetables and oil on fish and meat make them look hot and yummy.
The top grill grate is about 3x4 feet in size, and is sitting on saw horses. Below that is a smaller grill which is covered with charcoal briquettes which have been lightly sprayed with white paint to look charred. Below that is a few layers of gel and a strobe head pointing up. But what about the flames?
Here is how we did them:
It was all about Steve Berg. As Steve and I were driving to the studio, we were discussing the shot. Steve, who is a photographer now but was my assistant back then said; "stop at Kmart. I need to pick up some rubber cement. This will blow your mind." He was right. After we had the whole shot, food and all, set up, Steve painted rubber cement on a few of the
briquettes and lit them up with a cigarette lighter! The flame was limited and very controlled, and we played around until the flames were just where we needed them for the shot. That was a new one for me and I stored it away so I could look smart at a later date. So that's it. A fresnel spot overhead for sunshine, and you have a hot looking grill including flames, in the studio!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Grill 1

This image was created in a studio for a mustard company. We kept our camera close so that we didn't have to build a whole yard (but we've done that).
On this day we had our favorite hand model Eline, we had a food stylist to make the chicken, a prop stylist to find the grill'in props, an assistant to help build the set, an art director to represent the client and me, the photographer.
The food stylist for this shot had to cook the chicken so that it looked great to the camera. This often includes using a small torch to perfectly brown the chicken. Once it looked right, the stylist took a skewer and heated it until red hot over a stove flame. She then presses the skewer onto the chicken in a regimented manner to create (fake) the grill marks. She would actually measure the distance between the real grill bars, and copy those onto the chicken. Add a little light oil and it looks hot and yummy.
Here is how we light a grill shot. The sunlight which lights the hand, grill and background is one of the fresnel spots dialed down to a softer, yet directional light. Under the charcoal on the bottom of the grill is a bare strobe tube. The cord for the light snakes up and out the right side of the grill which is outside the crop. Above the strobe tube is layered red and yellow gel sheets until the proper color glows up from the bottom of the grill. A few large fill cards coming in from the left, some appropriate props, some astroturf on the floor and you have an outdoor grill shot inside a studio.