Monday, July 6, 2009

Peanut Butter & Chocolate

Peanut Butter & Chocolate

You know you wanna take a bite...

So the second assignment for the Strobist Boot Camp II has been handed out and this time it was food (lit with off camera flash of course). The goal was to produce a shot taken of food (or drink) that looked professional and could appear as an advertisement.

It was suggested that you should/could approach your favorite restaurant or chef and volunteer to take photos of their prepared dishes. That way, you have subject matter and get to help someone out too. However, due to the time constraints, and me being busy at my job and preparing to move to a new house, I decided to find something around the house I could shoot.

The first thing I considered was to think of something that everybody likes, that nobody can resist and something easy to setup and light.

BINGO ....who doesn't like chocolate AND PEANUT BUTTER???

So I went to the store and picked up a few Hershey bars (I grabbed two just in case I destroyed one somehow) and picked up an extra jar of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter just can't have enough of this stuff around! Then I set about my lighting.

I decided to use a DIY macro box to light the Hershey Bar and PB since this would give me easy control of my light and not spill all over the place. The macro box is simply an empty copy paper box I swiped borrowed from work, cut holes out of the front and back and one out of the top. Over the top hole I placed two pieces of white copy paper which diffused the light.

My key light was a Nikon SB-800 camera left with a white paper snoot (again to prevent spill) aimed at the top of the box. This light was set to TTL and worked like a charm every single time. Normally I set my flash settings manually, but I thought this time around I would let my camera and flash do the math stuff.

For the background, I setup my Botero collapsible background with the darker side showing (this is just like the one David Hobby uses in the Strobist DVDs) and lit that with another snooted SB-800 camera right with a full CTO gel. I wanted sort of a brownish hue to go with the subject and this combination worked perfectly. This flash was also set to TTL. The reason I used the snoot is because I wanted more of a spot of light behind my subject to draw the eye in more. I had to position this several times before I got one that looked the way I wanted. Both flashes were triggered using the pop-up flash in commander mode on my D300.

The last thing I had to do was get my subject matter situated. I wanted the candy bar standing up and slightly angled with a big glob of peanut butter on it, so I used an A Clamp to hold the candy bar upright. This worked like a charm and acted sorta like a little tripod. I will definitely keep this mind for other small projects.

I took a few test shots, now that I had my lighting and subject matter set, and just positioned the candy bar until I had the light hitting it the way I wanted. Specifically I wanted just a few highlights on the edges of the candy bar and peanut butter and nice shadows so that you could see the texture.

I set my ISO to 200, my shutter speed to my fastest flash sync speed - 1/250 of a second and my aperture to f/5.6. I wanted a reasonable depth of field but wanted the background to be nice and soft and the focus to fall off as it reached the candy bar wrapper.

This was a fun and pretty quick setup. I think I spent about 45 mins setting everything up, taking the shots and then tearing back down. The other nice thing was this was done with small, portable lighting and could have been done anywhere.

I don't know if my shot will win the contest, but I sure had fun doing it, and learned a few things in the process.

For more info on Assignment #2 of the Strobist Boot Camp II, click HERE