Food Photo 101 – Lesson 2 Review

Here we have Nika’s review of my work for Food Photo 101 Lesson 2, along with several others that are following along…

This week we had quite a few people contribute their results to the Food Photo 101 flickr pool.

I am going to go through Curt’s results as well as those of the other participants, which include:

  • LaRecetteDuJour
  • Vegan Noodle
  • Big Mill BB

Lets start with Curt’s work

In the series of images below you can see his set up and bounces on the bottom row and a series of shots on a tabletop with various permutations of bounce and mirror/foil.

FP101-2: week in review
I have put a blue circle over the shot with his set up and a red circle over the shot with no bounce.

This next series of shots shows, at the bottom, the conditions which Curt liked the most out of the first batch. I have put an orange circle over those.

FP101-2: week in review
You can see how he was experimenting with using the foil to focus some sharp light on different parts of the subject across those two shots.

I think that I would like to see two separate foils aiming on the two different regions that he was aiming at, all in one photo. Also, he could move the background back so that there is not the slightly distracting silhouette in the background. One other nitpicky thing, he could avoid the sharp shadows on the right by buffering or screening his light source on the left.

In this same series we see his on-black shots. Once again, I have put a blue circle over the starting conditions, no bounce. I have put a green circle over the shot that Curt liked the most.

This is a tough subject to light on a black background because it’s black jacket disappears. This likely won’t be the case with foods (how many foods are deep velvet black?) but a rim light (some sharp light from the back) would separate the subject from the black. He found that moving the foil in closer gave him a greater amount of light.

This is a nice illustration of something called the inverse square law (see glossary).

In short it is:

“The intensity (or illuminance or irradiance) of light or other linear waves radiating from a point source (energy per unit of area perpendicular to the source) is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source; so an object (of the same size) twice as far away, receives only 1/4 the energy (in the same time period).

Photographers and theatrical lighting professionals use the inverse-square law to determine optimal location of the light source for proper illumination of the subject.” (learn more)

Thus, he was able to gain some intensity by bringing it in closer. When you use lighting, as you move it about, its not a 1:1 ratio between 2 feet away and 4 feet away. At 2 feet you have, say, 1 unit of illumination. When you move it to 4 feet you do not have 0.5 units of illumination, you have 0.25 units.

In the last set, shown below, Curt uses an all white background to further explore light bouncing.

FP101-2: week in review
In this series, the shot that Curt liked the most (with the orange circle) is one where he used no foil or mirror and just the foam core. I agree with him.

It looks like it gave him more fill on the front right parts of the face and eggs with none of the silhouetting he was getting with the foil and mirror.

I thought that Curt did a tremendous job of going through the various combinations. I cant wait to see how he uses this on food!


Lets move on now to the work submitted by LaRecetteDuJour, our faithful classmate from France!

She too did an excellent job of going through various combinations of bounce and background. We can see a series of her images below.

FP101-2 results: LaRecetteDuJour
A green circle is over her kit of bouncers, a lot of work there, great job!

The upper set is of the subjects on a white background. I have put a blue circle over the photo where no bouncing was done.

I think I would suggest two things: combine the two images in the orange circle and also make the primary light less harsh, perhaps a sheet of thin cotton. We will talk more about those sorts of things later.

Next, she worked on the on-black background. I put a blue circle over the starting conditions. She next used a foil bounce and then varied the exposure to -2 (orange circle).

I think that was a good idea because we were seeing so much detail of the black cloth. It made the background fall away and isolate the subjects but did decrease the brightness of the subject. She could go in with photoshop and selectively lighten up the subjects.

Vegan Noodle

Vegan Noodle, hailing from the sunny land of ground control (AKA Houston, TX), gave us a series of shots of meyer lemons. You can see her discussion on this work at her blog post “Lemon Light” on her blog – walking the vegan line.

I show this series below.

FP101-2: week 2 in review
Blue circle over starting conditions, yellow over my preference of the lemons on the wood, and green for the one that VN liked the best. If you go to that blog post you will see that she preferred the black background the most. It definitely has some great qualities. I would suggest that she re-work this lighting where there is no direct overhead lighting but a key (main) light to one side and bounce on the other.

Great work!

Big Mill BB

Chloe, who runs a Bread & Breakfast called Big Mill B&B in North Carolina, also has a blog, Chloe’s Blog from Big Mill, where you can see what she is cooking up for her guests!

She submitted some photos of this fantastic wine glass that I would ban from our house because the kids would trash it in a second, I just know it!

FP101-2: week 2 in review
She chose a hard subject because glass on different backgrounds and with different bouncers can behave very differently than non-glass items.

You can look at the various photos and decide for yourself on your favorite but I am really liking the one that I put an orange circle over. It has great reflections. There is something about the black background that really brings out so many details over the white background.

Amazing work!

I think that each of you have done a great job showing how you experimented with the conditions and the bounce. I look forward to seeing what this does for some of the food photos you have in your pipeline. Always feel free to put those photos in the flickr Food Photo 101 group pool!

Finally, I wanted to show something I did this week that used some of these techniques.

Since I live up north (like Curt), I lose the light really early and the light all day comes in at an oblique angle (until the summer when it is more perpendicular). The oblique angle makes for some really harsh light.

So, to make a long story short, some time ago I invested in a daylight balanced strobe (Alien Bees AB800) with a “giant” softbox.

I had been less than happy with my results with this strobe but with the lack of light I have decided to beat my lighting demons and try to find a set up that works with this light source that I can use any time of day.

Below you can see some eggs. They are lit by the strobe in the upper left corner. I am bouncing with a styrofoam block on the bottom right. I used my tripod and also my Canon 30D. I was working so fast that I didn’t take the time to shoot with my P&S, sorry!

egg still life
Here is the set-up shot where you can see my light source on the left and the styrofoam bounce on the right. Don’t look at the mess please! I took these with my fujifilm with the flash and it hard a HARD time focusing. Sorry about that.

scary fuji shot of set up scary fuji shot of set up

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About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

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