The Hidden Elements of A Food Shot
Updated: May 28, 2019
Enjoy some behind the scenes production photos and read all about how this highly
graphic food shot was "built"using everyday items made for other purposes, including using some of that squishy food as glue to hold the other pieces together.
Highly styled food shots like this, where some of the elements seem to miraculously stand up by themselves while teetering on their thinest of thin edges as they pose for the camera aren't always what they appears to be. In fact, this shot, as all of my work is, was planned in detail to make it appear like it simply "came together", while at the same time entertain visually using the food as graphic elements in the composition. This meant I had to "engineer" everything to capture what I had in my imagination and the first step began with thinking about ways to keep everything standing up-right, not to mention remain that way while I did the photography. Almost immediately tooth pickscame to mind as the way to support every-thing, especially because they could easily be hidden behind the onion, and I could also stick one through the center of it to help keep the stack of celery together.
This, however, took more than a few tries...and onions...to get right. Also, part of the problem became that the more toothpicks that were added meant that there was the tendency for small sections of the onion to fall out, as you can see in the photo to the right. However, what you can also see is one of the tricks-of-the trade I used to solve that, which is to use "squishy/sticky" food items like peanut butter and Cheese-Whiz that comes in a tube, to "glue" those pieces back together.
In fact, peanut butter was not only used, along with a couple of tooth picks, to keep the stalks of celery stuck together, but as you can see in these photos below, cream cheese was also used to glue the slice of Jalapeño pepper to a cracker, as well as the crackers to each other and finally, it was also used to glue the crackers to the celery.
Finally, after everything was together as one piece, I set it upright on a piece of opaque Plexiglas, (so as to get a reflective image) with the toothpicks behind the onion supporting everything. As you can see, this was all sitting on a few elevated pieces of white foam core board that I'd placed on a saw horses against the wall of my studio, surrounded on three sides by more white foam core, which were positioned intentionally a little far away to simply act as fill light. (I don't shoot products in those "generic" little, white, transparent tents that lots of amateurs use to shoot products for eBay and Amazon, because I shoot at a higher level of quality and this allows me to control the light and reflections much better, including adding things around the perimeter, if need be, to define reflective edges, etc.. better.) Anyway, I then positioned a smaller piece of FC down in front of, and underneath of, the camera lens to bounce more light back into the front of the food from the single, bare-bulb, strobe head placed high above the set, positioned like that so that the specular highlights wouldn't be too blown-out, along with the light from a window behind the camera that worked really well as fill light, since the strobes are already daylight balanced. I then took an incident meter reading of the set, using my Minolta III Daylight/ Strobe/Color meter pointed towards the camera, but, when I made the actual exposure with my Nikon D5300 at f11 and 1/5th sec using an ISO of 100, I actually over-exposed the image about a half-stop to bring out the detail in the food.