Sunday, February 28, 2010

Food Photography

Food No. 5

Since Jenn and I have bought our new house, we've been working almost non-stop on making improvements.  We've had a contractor do quite a bit of work, such as replacing windows and plumbing, but we've also been painting, decorating, organizing, landscaping... pretty much everything.  Home Depot loves us!

One of things we've wanted to focus on in the decorating department is displaying our own work around the house.  Jenn is a very talented artist and photographer, and I have a gi-normous collection of prints that I've taken over the years, so rather than go to some trendy art studio we decided to save ourselves some money and decorate our house with our own works.

For our kitchen, we decided we'd like to have some nice prints of food so we set about creating our own.  One nice thing about doing your own work is, you can shoot exactly what you want to see, with the colors, subjects and composition of your choosing.  Another nice thing for me is, I've been able to use all of these shots in my stock photography gallery on iStock ...double bonus!

One thing I've learned about food photography, is that its almost always best to backlight your subject and fill from the front.  This creates wonderful texture and shadows that you can easily manage, giving a more three dimensional look.

All of these photos were lit with a single Nikon SB-800 in a Lastolite Ezybox softbox from behind and I used white copy paper as reflectors up front for fill.  This is a surprisingly easy setup and yields really nice results.  I really like using the softbox for food photography as opposed to say an umbrella or bare light, because it creates a nice, directional, soft, wrapping light which pretty closely emulates window light.  I found I get the best effect by moving the softbox in as close to my subject as I can, then I place my reflectors directly across from the softbox.  In this example where I was shooting chocolate chip cookies, you can see how easy this setup is.

These shots are only a few that we have done so far, and we've had so much fun doing this that we are planning on shooting more.  We still haven't decided which photos to use as prints because now we have even more ideas on subject matter.

Its a fun project though, and is a very cheap way to add nice artwork to your own home.  Plus, it gives you a little sense of pride knowing that its your own creation, and you get the added bonus of being able to advertise your work when friends stop by.

So if you're a photographer and need some art prints for your own home, be sure to consider doing your own work.  Its fun, fulfilling, can be profitable and a cheap way to decorate your home.

Check out more of my food photography HERE!

For more inspiration, tips and tricks on shooting food photography, check out these links:

Joe Glyda
Lou Manna
Food Photography - Strobist


Monday, February 15, 2010

Speedlight Studio!

I was recently approached by a friend to do a portrait session for a young lady hoping to appear in a Hooters Swimsuit calendar.  I have to say, this didn't take much convincing, but regardless of the subject matter, I'm always up for a portrait session, especially with friends involved.

The model needed a series of full body and headshots in various solid colored bikinis.  I thought the best solution would be to set up a clean, white background and nice even lighting to photograph the model in.  This lighting isn't very artistic in my opinion, but its appropriate to the subject and will help draw attention to the model, and not the lighting.  "Subject driven lighting ...always remember that."

So I met with my friend (who is also a very talented photographer)  and began to setup our studio in her basement.  My preference over the past recent years was to use speedlights, for two reasons::

1.  I only own one monobloc (studio light)
2.  I like working with speedlights due to their small size and easy portability

Also, since we are shooting indoors, I will have no problems with power or recycle times.  I shot with a 200 second shutter speed so I didn't have to worry about any ambient light contaminating my scene either.

The first thing I did was to decide on my key light.  I knew I wanted a soft-ish light source on my model but also fully even and frontally lit.  I want to show my model in the best possible light.  So I opted with a boomed over head Lastolite Ezybox as my key source, and a Lumiquest SBIII as my fill.  I set these up in an 'over-and-under' fashion (also called clamshell) with my fill light about 1.5 stops lower than my key.  I wanted some shadow on the model but not much.

Then to light my background, I decided to use two bare SB-600s with Honl gobo's (flags) to prevent them from flaring my lens and also to keep them from rimming the model.  I had to dial these up to 1/2 power which is generally more powerful than I typically have them set to, but I needed the power to get a good, evenly lit white background.  These don't recycle nearly as fast at 1/2 power, but plenty fast enough for this session.

I used an SB-800 for the master on my camera to trigger all of the speedlights used in this set.  This light was not contributing to the overall exposure and was only producing enough light to signal the other lights.  I really enjoy this method (the Nikon CLS system) as it lets me dial in all of the individual flash powers right from the camera.  This solution always works well indoors.

Here is my setup for this session:

As you can see, these little lights take up almost no room, and there are no power chords or sync cables lying around to trip over.  The other nice thing about this setup is, except for the white seamless roll of paper, I can bag all of these lights, stands and modifiers up in one bag, and haul them anywhere.  Nice, portable light!

Below are a few more shots from the session.  Shanna was a great model and a beautiful young woman so this was a very easy portrait session for me.



This was a fun shoot and if you ever need to set up a studio quickly, and have the speedlights available, then don't forget to consider them as a viable option.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Its a Snow Day!

As it seems that about 60% of the United States is covered with snow, I thought it would be a good day to share a few links of interest since so many are 'snowed in' at home with nothing to do.  Of course the worrying of the stock levels of milk and bread may be keeping some folks quite busy.

Kickin' it off...

The guys at D-Town TV (Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski) are back with a new season, and unlike the previous season which was Nikon specific, this time around the shows are about all dSLR's in general.  So any of you Canon, Pentax or Sony folks who felt left out with the first season, now is the time to check out the new one.  They cover everything photography related, including tons of cool gear tips.

Ever wonder why some people almost always take great shots?  Check out this article over at Light!

Curious to see how the past decade has grown in digital photography?  Then check out this link over at Photo District News. just put out their list of the 10 Most Collectible Photography Books of All Time.  Keep in mind, these may not be the most popular as of today, but definitely worth having in your collection ...that is if you can afford them!

This one's not necessarily photography related, but definitely art related and very cool!  Check out Leonardo Da Vinci's resume!  See?  Times were just as tough (if not tougher) in 1482.

If you're in to wedding photography, or just spectacular images in general, then you can now pre-order David Ziser's new book, "Captured by the Light:  The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography" over at Amazon.  Even if you're not a wedding photographer, David Ziser is an amazing portrait photographer and master of lighting, be sure to take a look.

Want some cool tips and inspiration on HDR photography, then check out this link!

Last but not least, one of my favorite artists just did an awesome interview of one of my favorite photographers, Scott Slusher.  You can check out the article right HERE. ...(possibly NSFW images).

That's it for now!  Hope this gives you plenty of stuff to occupy your time today, and will keep your mind off all of that snow shoveling you're eventually going to have to do.  Keep warm!