Saturday, March 31, 2012

For the Love of Plates

This post is for fellow food photographer Em Thomas, who confessed on Twitter that she is a "food prop junky."

Oh yes. I know exactly what she means. I never used to give two cents about the 'kitchenware' aisle until I started doing food photography. Now I can't pass up a Crate and Barrel or Williams-Sonoma without dropping a chunk of cash on some interesting glasses or some fancy flatware.

Unfortunately, dinnerware can be very expensive if you buy it at such places. That's why I try to check out places like Ross and TJ Maxx for some good bargains. I can usually score a set of plates for $3-4 a piece. CostPlus World Market usually has a sale bin, and I've gotten great deals on napkins and platemats that way.

I also check out the local thrift stores for funky or interesting items. Though that's a bit more of a crap shoot - and a lot of the stuff you see is just junk - if you are persistent, you can make some great finds. I found the black rectangular plate (below) for $0.99 at the local Salvation Army. Antique stores are another way to find 'vintage' items.

One down side of all this that you have to store all of these plates and glasses. I have an entire closet in my house devoted to nothing but dishes. And I have several drawers filled with silverware and napkins just for food photography. The photo below shows just a small portion of my 'collection'.

It can be a real problem. Ultimately going to have to move everything out to the garage just so that we have room to hang our clothes.

There is no end to the interesting colors, shapes, and sizes of plates and dishes and salt shakers and forks and sauce bowls and...

I guess that's part of the collecting 'problem'. There's always something new and different that would work just perfectly with this dish or that. One of the addicting things about collecting this stuff is that each item you get gives a different feel to the food that is placed in it.

Doing food photography has given me a real appreciation for the things we serve food in, and has made me a certified food prop junkie.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shrimp Shoot

This weekend I had an assignment to shoot a variety of shrimp. I was given quite a bit of latitude as to the styling and presentation. The main direction was to focus on the product. "Viewers must know that this is a prawn image, not just an image of a recipe that uses prawns. We want simple, graphic, colorful and mouthwatering images."

I have a very simple and graphic style when it comes to food (mostly because I'm just not a good enough food stylist to successfully pull off a busy presentation), so I decided to play to my strengths and not try to get too far out of my comfort zone, particularly with the number of setups I was going to be doing.

I did eight different setups and platings.  Some of the shrimp were boiled, some were sauteed, some were grilled. Here are some of the more successful images.

The lighting was straightforward: two strobes; one placed to the left and the other placed behind the food. I used Pocketwizards to fire the flashes and control the power. I was able to easily switch the key light from the rear to the side with the turn of a dial on my camera.

I used each 'hero' shrimp for about a half and hour before 'retiring' it to the refrigerator, where it waited for dinner. When I was done with the shoot, we cooked the shrimp that were left, reheated the cooked shrimp and ate them all with a nice sauvignon blanc. They were delicious!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Almond Blossoms Under Studio Lights

Every year I go out and photograph the almond bloom, as you can see in these posts.

This year, I decided to try something a bit different. Instead of shooting the flowers under natural light, I took some lights in the field with me and set them up to capture the flowers under studio-like lighting.

Here are some of the results:

These images were mostly shot in full daylight. However, setting the lights to a high enough power essentially eliminated the ambient light, leaving the strobes I brought as the only light source.

And finally, when it was getting dark, I set up the lights to light an entire tree for a fun and unusual effect.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Home Interiors

This post is more images from the 52 week workshop I'm taking to help hone some of my skills.

Last November my wife and I bought a house. After years of watching the market go insane with mediocre homes selling for $350,000 and up, we've been patiently waiting for prices to come back down to earth.

Last spring we realized that we might actually be able to afford something, and began a house search that took us all of the summer and fall. But finally we found a wonderful house in the woods.

I've wanted to take some nice images of the house since we moved in, but just haven't had the time. This assignment was a good opportunity to do that.

However, it really didn't turn out quite the way I had originally thought. For the assignment, I had to meet a very high standard of image quality, such as you would find in Home and Garden or Architectural Digest. Well, we really don't have that kind of house, so instead of sweeping images showing of the house's interior, I focused on a more intimate view of the living room that didn't require buying all new furniture, dozens of pillows (we did buy four), and massive cleaning and rearranging.

However, we did end up rearranging the living room furniture for the shoot, since we needed to let more light into the space.

The shoot ended up taking two days - one for the set up,checking the lighting throughout the day, buying pillows and flowers, cleaning, hiding the TV, etc., and another for the shoot itself. I had flashes and reflectors all over the place.

In the end, the images came out fine, but don't really show off our living space, but that's okay.


For the most part, these images use natural lighting. However, for the first and last photos, I added some light to fill in some of the darker shadows. I set up two boom stands by the entryway and hallway and draped white sheets from them. This pretty much blocked the hallway, but it allowed me to create a very large white light source.

Behind the sheets, I set up two strobes, one bounced off a 48" umbrella and through the sheet, and the other shot through a softbox and then bounced off the wall and ceiling.

These lights added a very soft fill that kept the shadows from being too dark and added a sense of warmth to the images.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Truffles for Valentines Day

I know this post is a bit late for Valentine's Day, but I thought I'd post these images anyway.

They were shot as part of a 52 week long workshop to hone my skills shooting a variety of subjects. You'll probably be seeing a variety of images as I work my way through the year.

The truffles are from LeGrand Confectionary in Sacramento, and I have to admit that they are as tasty as they look!