Orange you glad about fruit?

Over the weekend, I had a two bushels of oranges to eat, drink, make pictures of and went on a street food walk around east Passyunk ave in Philadelphia.  Check out the story here

Having sliced and squeezed some oranges after work one day, I thought to myself to make some test images of the oranges on the weekend.  Using my one flash, some natural light, and bounce v flats, I set up these shots in the middle of my living room. For these images, what I think could have been better is that I could have added some more variations of citrus fruit- blood oranges, grapefruit, maybe a lemon.  And at the last image with the juiced set, some food associated with breakfast.. waffles, eggs, maybe some hash browns and bacon.  Probably will need to find more things to use as my base to shoot on. 

Food Styling

I wrote this post and forgot to save.  Guess what, Firefox was like.. NOPE!

I was reading a post on Petapixel about food styling.  Maybe from the 90s to early 2000s.  In the photo series are images that described with what stylists used to "enhance" the food for the photographs, e.g., items like motor oil, shaving cream. 

Bagels and cream cheese from  Philly Style Bagels .  Coffee from  ReAnimator Coffee .  No other added things to style this.

Bagels and cream cheese from Philly Style Bagels.  Coffee from ReAnimator Coffee.  No other added things to style this.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, food stylists did use motor oil to make meat more brown, shaving cream to make cake icing, mashed potatoes and food coloring to make ice cream.  I am sure that you can google the rest to find out yourself on what food stylists used to "enhance" the food.  Now I can understand why, preparing to photograph the food back then took much longer and with food photography, time really is of the essence.  But today? 

First, let me put this out there, all my food photographs are all natural.  You can eat the food and drink the drinks after I photograph them.  Well my fingers do get in there.. For myself, it is prepare the scene first then plate the food. 

Food magazines have gone completely all natural since 2004(?) for their food photographs.  Bon Appetit had a story on their staff photograph, Alex Lau.  It's a fun read.  But helps show what I am writing about.  Food publications food photographs are all natural.  Commercial?  That I am not so sure, but I am hoping that it is all natural too. 

So I hope this helps elaborate how food used to be stylized and how I work with making food photographs.

How I light.

Continuing on my "how I shot this" series of blog posts, I will write on how I light and control my light.  

In simple terms- all natural light.

But more complex...

I use natural light from the window as my main light source.  Then use diffusers to help soften the light and white/black foam core to modify the light.  I use the white side to reflect the light to soften the shadows and vice versa use the black if I want to deepen the shadows.  Every now and then I take out my studio lights to make an even lighting.  But that is only when I am making a dish and it is really gloomy outside.  

Harkening back to the days when I photographed weddings, I had two Canon flashes.  These days I just have one flash.  Attached is a magmod to modify the light.  I actually don't use this that often, mostly when I am doing portraits.  For food itself, it's when I want to make a strongly directed light.  

The next up are my lights that I bought on  These have a color temp that is very close to natural light.  I only take these out when there is hardly any light because of a coming storm.  Or a fill light.  On location, there are some places that just lack a good source of natural light.  So these come in handy!

I made a large 6 x 6 ft light diffuser.  What it is a 6 x 6 square with translucent cloth to diffuse the light.  I also have portable diffusers too. 

But for all my lighting gear that I have bought, the ones I use the most are these $2 pieces of foam core.  I use the white side to bounce the light so to soften the shadows.  And the black side to deepen the shadows if I wanted to.  

These are the items that I use to to enhance and manipulate the lighting of my work.  While mostly natural light, I modify it to give depth to my food photographs!

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned a thing or two about lighting for food photography.

Sourcing props and building sets

Trying to continue my "How I shot this" series here.

While food itself can be amazing, it can also look drab.  You know the food- oatmeal for example.  This is where set design, props, and dishes come in to help build the story.  Added with the right light or mood, you can make some really gorgeous and delicious food photographs!

this wood was just a 4x4 piece of thin plywood that I found and then painted.

this wood was just a 4x4 piece of thin plywood that I found and then painted.

I source my props- dishes and utensils, mostly from antique and 2nd hand shops.  Every now and then I would buy a new dish, board, or utensil.  For the most part, the items from antique and 2nd hand shops have a character to them that really adds to the photograph.  Plus I personally can't resist .50 cent utensils!  But if you are trying for the super modern look, those dishes and utensils might not work.  So having a great selection from 2nd hand items to brand spanking new will be awesome for your photograph ideas.  Only, you will now need more space to store them.  Even if you decide to use them on a daily basis.

Sometimes common kitchen items come in handy, like wax paper to hand napkins.  Look around your kitchen and you might find something you want to use. 

red textured dish bought from a 2nd hand shop for...... $1.

red textured dish bought from a 2nd hand shop for...... $1.

Not just dishes, utensils, and minor props should be on your set.  The set itself, wood table, semi-gloss laminate plank of something you put the plate of food on is also important.  In the photograph above, I found a 1/4 in thick piece of plywood that was about 4 x 4 in its dimension.  Using a satin paint, in my case Blue Ocean from Behr paint, I pained the wood with one coat of paint.  Then used a rag to create both texture and light fade of paint. 

A lot of the sets are DIYs, that you can do yourself.  Sometimes the type of wood you are looking for you might have to buy.  Especially if you are looking for the rustic look.  You just can't buy that kind of wood at home depot.

I bought this wood table (no legs) for $15 at a 2nd hand shop

I bought this wood table (no legs) for $15 at a 2nd hand shop

If you are creating a food photograph in the 3/4 view as opposed to the top down, you will have to consider how the background will add to the image.  If you are on location, additional set pieces such as people (haha people are now set pieces!  I kid I kid!), glassware, condiments, and motion, can be added which make for a stronger food narrative in the image.  But if you are working in a studio, you might not have the people in the photograph.  So not only are you thinking about the glassware, condiments, but also what kind of color or texture in the background needs to be in the photograph. 

Depending on the look and feel of the food imagery you are trying to make how you design the set is something to think deeply on.  Of course on location you might not have this choice and that's where being creative to problem solve comes in. 

I'll get to lighting in a different blog post.