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Author Topic: Food pics - help required  (Read 4714 times)

scotty512

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Food pics - help required
« on: December 14, 2012, 07:07:33 AM »
Hi All

help required, a friend is opening a restuarant soon and has asked me to take some shots not only of the place and the staff but also of the dishes.

now never having taken foodstuff pictures (other than on my iphone went out eating) I havent a clue what would be the best equipment to use, i currently own

5D Mk3
24-105 f4 lens
430 II flash

50mm F1.4
70-200mm f2.8 II
100mm macro L f2.8
manfotto tripod

what would you recommend from a equipment perspective and any assistance with techniques would be great..

time to go home make lasagne and practice I think !

Cheers
scott
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Food pics - help required
« on: December 14, 2012, 07:07:33 AM »

RLPhoto

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 09:49:33 AM »
It depends on the food. I done a lot of food before and I always use novatron strobes for the power output they have. If you cannot acquire some strobes, you can make due with your 430EX with some creative use of reflectors and bounce cards. The only issue is you will have to keep your Aperture Small and shutter-speed high to get lots of DOF and to prevent ambient adding color casts. This means with a tiny 430EX, you will have to raise your ISOs.

Your question is too broad, we really need to know the genre of food you will be doing.

TrumpetPower!

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 10:47:37 AM »
Food photography is a specialized art form, and it's as much sculpture as it is photography. Lots of things that taste great on food just don't look at all right on camera -- and that's before you get into things that melt, wilt, or discolor after just a minute or so.

I think the best advice I could offer to you would be to do a lot of experimentation to get the shot staged just the way you want it, then throw away that dish (or hand it to your starving assistant to more properly dispose of) and have the chef plop down a freshly-prepared replacement and immediately press the shutter.

Aside from that, all the usual photographic stuff applies.

As always, it's all about the light, and you're likely going to want something big and directional, like a softbox or a parabolic umbrella, and probably something smaller (bare reflector or reflector with honeycomb grid or snoot or barn doors) for some specular interest. Maybe some rim lighting, too. You can fake a lot with an off-camera hotshoe flash and a reflector if you have to and you're patient and you can tolerate higher ISO settings.

And, of course, pay attention to perspective and depth of field and what's in your background and all the rest. Ideal would be either the 45 or 90 TS-E, but you should be good with what you've got. Reach first for the macro and only go to the others if it doesn't cut the mustard.

Good luck!

Cheers,

b&

scotty512

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2012, 10:52:20 AM »
Hi RL

at the moment I dont know the exact menu, I have asked the chef for a dining menu and I will gauge from that the types of dishes he will be producing...he has offered to pay for me to do them however i would rather use the cash to acquire the equipment required such as reflector, cards etc

i imagine the food will the typical french cuisine as he trained at the savoy,  I will post menu when I have it
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scotty512

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2012, 10:53:26 AM »
Food photography is a specialized art form, and it's as much sculpture as it is photography. Lots of things that taste great on food just don't look at all right on camera -- and that's before you get into things that melt, wilt, or discolor after just a minute or so.

I think the best advice I could offer to you would be to do a lot of experimentation to get the shot staged just the way you want it, then throw away that dish (or hand it to your starving assistant to more properly dispose of) and have the chef plop down a freshly-prepared replacement and immediately press the shutter.

Aside from that, all the usual photographic stuff applies.

As always, it's all about the light, and you're likely going to want something big and directional, like a softbox or a parabolic umbrella, and probably something smaller (bare reflector or reflector with honeycomb grid or snoot or barn doors) for some specular interest. Maybe some rim lighting, too. You can fake a lot with an off-camera hotshoe flash and a reflector if you have to and you're patient and you can tolerate higher ISO settings.

And, of course, pay attention to perspective and depth of field and what's in your background and all the rest. Ideal would be either the 45 or 90 TS-E, but you should be good with what you've got. Reach first for the macro and only go to the others if it doesn't cut the mustard.

Good luck!

Cheers,

b&

thanks
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distant.star

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 11:00:00 AM »
.
Food photography is one of the most challenging forms. I've tried and never done well at it. I've talked with people who do it professionally, and the range of things that are done are startling.

One thing I surely agree with is RL's DOF comment. I see a lot of food pictures with narrow DOFs, and to me it looks awful to see the front of the food look great and the rest of a beautiful entree turn to unfocused mush. However, I think that may be a current style so it may be acceptable.

Just as an example (you can see a lighting setup) here's an interesting video of professionally photographing a burger:

Behind The Scenes McDonald's Burger Photo Shoot


Walter: Were you listening to The Dude's story? Donny: I was bowling. Walter: So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know...

sandymandy

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2012, 05:32:32 AM »
I think a common setup is this one:



2 Lights on the side, some nice background and the food in the middle. You dont have to take umbrellas in fact there is on video from digitalrev showing u how to get a nice "morning mood" effect with really simple acessoires.

This one: Home Studio Setup for 100 Pounds Challenge

Check 7:40 for the effect i described. Nevertheless fun to watch the whole video :P They also have another "how to do product photography" video.





Id go with your 100mm L macro lens but try to not only take "macro style" photos with it.

Id also fake it and prepare the food myself or with help perhaps throw in food coloring to enhance things. For example for ketchup i wouldnt take ketchup only but mix red food coloring with some ketchup to make the color pop more.
Its definitly a very hard task. Ive taken food photos on ocassion on holidays or such for example and they hardly represented "the food i had and wanted to caputre on camera" anytime i looked at the photos again.
And even less it made people think "wow i wanna try that food" *chuckle*
Getting the right color for the food photographed is already very hard imho since our brains have a really detailed food memory. Im quite sure its like that so we can detect unhealthy food easily and dont get sick.

Nevertheless just try your best. Customers usually arent pickey about the food photos in my experience.

Just dont forget to write somwhere in the menu the photo is just an example and the real food may look different. Some people are just assholes and try to make trouble if the food they get doesnt look exactly like in the menu lol. Yes iv experienced that more than once before sadly.




« Last Edit: December 15, 2012, 05:37:58 AM by sandymandy »

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2012, 05:32:32 AM »

scotty512

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 04:08:15 AM »
thanks Sandymandy
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PeterJ

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 06:18:35 AM »
Just dont forget to write somwhere in the menu the photo is just an example and the real food may look different. Some people are just assholes and try to make trouble if the food they get doesnt look exactly like in the menu lol. Yes iv experienced that more than once before sadly.
True, but also make sure you don't go showing 10 jumbo shrimp to make things looks good when you really only get 5 medium with a typical order, not that it's probably your problem directly if they want you to go that direction.

Haydn1971

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2012, 08:14:17 AM »
Re the DOF problem, rather than a costly tilt-shift lens, you might want to explore the cheaper options for tilt shift, either through second hand 70's relics with a EF convertor or via a Lensbaby solution - go read up and see if that fits your problems
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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2012, 08:58:38 AM »
Hi All

help required, a friend is opening a restuarant soon and has asked me to take some shots not only of the place and the staff but also of the dishes.

now never having taken foodstuff pictures (other than on my iphone went out eating) I havent a clue what would be the best equipment to use, i currently own

5D Mk3
24-105 f4 lens
430 II flash

50mm F1.4
70-200mm f2.8 II
100mm macro L f2.8
manfotto tripod

what would you recommend from a equipment perspective and any assistance with techniques would be great..
time to go home make lasagne and practice I think !

Cheers
scott

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2012, 10:11:03 AM »
Most food photographers use a 50 mm lens with f/1.2, f/1.4 or f/1.8.

Put the camera on a tripod and use a cable release.

Dial in ISO 100 and a aperture from f/2.0 up to f/5.6. Use the exposure compensation to get the best result. Save the files in RAW and use a grey card for the white balance.

Shoot in natural light (maybe now a little bit to cold) or use a studio setup. You can use speedlites in a softbox instead.

Most food photographers shoot in an angle from 45 degree down to the subject.

Use complementary colors in you composition.



dafrank

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 04:15:38 PM »
I have often done all the things you are tasked to do as a working professional, so I do know quite a bit about it. Other than advising your friend to hire a really competent professional and then being at the shoot yourself to observe and learn for a possible second opportunity, there is very little you can do to help create consistently first class pictures for your friend, unless you spend about six months practicing first. As others have suggested, your request covers such a broad range of subject matter - interiors, people and/or people with food, and food itself - that giving you any specific advice is really either a "fool's errand" or a full-time job.

As to cameras and lenses, you already have whatever you need if you would be just as creative as you need to be. Hey, just look through that little viewfinder thingy in the back of the camera and observe. Does it look right? Then it is. Lighting is what you need most and need to, above all, learn.

Instead, in an effort to be helpful, I will give you the same advice which served me so well over 30 years ago when the very talented pro I occasionally assisted for gave it to me. Buy, or preferably rent, yourself some very cheap "hot lights" - two or three tungsten halogen powered focusing floods or broad lights (i.e., TotaLights or Mole or Arri true focusing floods or "nook" or broadlights) in the 500 watt range and a couple of small (200 watts) Fresnel lensed focusing spots (sometimes called "midgets" in the industry). You'll need some barndoors for the true floods and perhaps a snoot or two for the spots. For most non-quick-melting food subjects, these lights, plus some B&W foamcore, some c stands, arms with gripheads, a mini boom, clothespins, A-clamps and Mafer clamps and some gaffer tape, a sheet or two of diffusion plastic, maybe a few colored lighting gels, plus 5 or 6 sandbags, will be all you need to do such a job properly. Generally, use reflected (off foamcores or ceilings/walls) or diffused (through plastic sheeting) light for soft lighting effects, the harder direct lighting mostly with the small Fresnel's. Most inexperienced amateurs would wonder if my suggestion sounds so "old school" as to be stupid. Why hotlights when you can also do such a job with flash which seems so much more "modern" and high-tech? Well, there are lots of reasons:
1) The ambient lighting in most quality restaurants is primarily tungsten (for now - until the EPA succeeds in ruining even our nights out to dinner), so that you will have a near color-match balance between your photo lights and the ambient background lighting. Life is simpler this way.
2) You can see exactly what your picture will look like (except for contrast/DR issues) with your own eyes and very quickly adjust and change your lighting until it simply looks good; flash modeling lights are never as effective at previewing your actual pictures for many technical reasons. This concept is true for both the food and the restaurant interiors.
3) Flash (except for truly ridiculously expensive - and not quite as "accurate" - Fresnel-lensed flash units)  and other economically feasible lighting sources, like controlled photo fluorescents, just can't duplicate the control and effectiveness of a simple, cheap 200 watt Mole midget Fresnel spot, which makes it possible to make your food go from OK to great looking when you learn how to use it with precision and subtlety.
4) If, when taking your people shots, you don't have enough "shutter speed" with your tungsten, you can add a little supplemental pop to the people with a simple tungsten gelled potable flash unit, which, along with today's higher ISO possibilities, makes this use quite effective.
5) Once you know how best to light things with your tungsten experience, you can later use that knowledge with the harder to use (for this subject matter) flash lighting that you see so often. Or maybe just stick with tungsten. Whatever suits you best.

Last, per what you said in your OP, you don't always need very great depth of field in your shots, especially in your food shots, as, for the past 15 years or so, very narrow depth of field has been the more usual approach, perhaps even originally created out of necessity, but nonetheless still the current norm. Think small. Think mainly out-of-focus.

I hope all this advice helps, but I still think you ought to have your friend hire an experienced and talented pro the first time.

Regards,
David

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 04:15:38 PM »

RLPhoto

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 04:34:26 PM »
Or.... Just rent some PCB Eisenstein's for their fantastic color mode.

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2012, 11:48:00 PM »
I have often done all the things you are tasked to do as a working professional, so I do know quite a bit about it. Other than advising your friend to hire a really competent professional and then being at the shoot yourself to observe and learn for a possible second opportunity, there is very little you can do to help create consistently first class pictures for your friend, unless you spend about six months practicing first. As others have suggested, your request covers such a broad range of subject matter - interiors, people and/or people with food, and food itself - that giving you any specific advice is really either a "fool's errand" or a full-time job.

As to cameras and lenses, you already have whatever you need if you would be just as creative as you need to be. Hey, just look through that little viewfinder thingy in the back of the camera and observe. Does it look right? Then it is. Lighting is what you need most and need to, above all, learn.

Instead, in an effort to be helpful, I will give you the same advice which served me so well over 30 years ago when the very talented pro I occasionally assisted for gave it to me. Buy, or preferably rent, yourself some very cheap "hot lights" - two or three tungsten halogen powered focusing floods or broad lights (i.e., TotaLights or Mole or Arri true focusing floods or "nook" or broadlights) in the 500 watt range and a couple of small (200 watts) Fresnel lensed focusing spots (sometimes called "midgets" in the industry). You'll need some barndoors for the true floods and perhaps a snoot or two for the spots. For most non-quick-melting food subjects, these lights, plus some B&W foamcore, some c stands, arms with gripheads, a mini boom, clothespins, A-clamps and Mafer clamps and some gaffer tape, a sheet or two of diffusion plastic, maybe a few colored lighting gels, plus 5 or 6 sandbags, will be all you need to do such a job properly. Generally, use reflected (off foamcores or ceilings/walls) or diffused (through plastic sheeting) light for soft lighting effects, the harder direct lighting mostly with the small Fresnel's. Most inexperienced amateurs would wonder if my suggestion sounds so "old school" as to be stupid. Why hotlights when you can also do such a job with flash which seems so much more "modern" and high-tech? Well, there are lots of reasons:
1) The ambient lighting in most quality restaurants is primarily tungsten (for now - until the EPA succeeds in ruining even our nights out to dinner), so that you will have a near color-match balance between your photo lights and the ambient background lighting. Life is simpler this way.
2) You can see exactly what your picture will look like (except for contrast/DR issues) with your own eyes and very quickly adjust and change your lighting until it simply looks good; flash modeling lights are never as effective at previewing your actual pictures for many technical reasons. This concept is true for both the food and the restaurant interiors.
3) Flash (except for truly ridiculously expensive - and not quite as "accurate" - Fresnel-lensed flash units)  and other economically feasible lighting sources, like controlled photo fluorescents, just can't duplicate the control and effectiveness of a simple, cheap 200 watt Mole midget Fresnel spot, which makes it possible to make your food go from OK to great looking when you learn how to use it with precision and subtlety.
4) If, when taking your people shots, you don't have enough "shutter speed" with your tungsten, you can add a little supplemental pop to the people with a simple tungsten gelled potable flash unit, which, along with today's higher ISO possibilities, makes this use quite effective.
5) Once you know how best to light things with your tungsten experience, you can later use that knowledge with the harder to use (for this subject matter) flash lighting that you see so often. Or maybe just stick with tungsten. Whatever suits you best.

Last, per what you said in your OP, you don't always need very great depth of field in your shots, especially in your food shots, as, for the past 15 years or so, very narrow depth of field has been the more usual approach, perhaps even originally created out of necessity, but nonetheless still the current norm. Think small. Think mainly out-of-focus.

I hope all this advice helps, but I still think you ought to have your friend hire an experienced and talented pro the first time.

Regards,
David

David, just like the OP I also happened to be looking for advice for food and product photography and specially for lighting when I stumbled on this thread and saw your post. Really helpful stuff. Thanks!

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Re: Food pics - help required
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2012, 11:48:00 PM »