Food Photography Tip
02/16/06 - 17:27 Filed in: Photography
I recently relearned a technique that has helped improve some recent food pictures I’ve taken, I figured I’d pass it along in case some of your were in the same boat as me.
A few years passed between putting my film SLR on the shelf, and buying my new digital camera. I opted for a Canon G5 which was a Prosumer point and shoot digital camera. One of the features I wanted on my digital camera was a hotshoe for an add on flash. I used to take lots of product or model shots in prior years and the ability to aim the flash or even move it off camera is often the key in tricky lighting. The Canon Speedlight flash I bought, had a long range and a fully swiveling and tilting flash head. So where does this come into play in your food pictures?
Well if you try to take a picture with a lot of metal, or foil in it, you will often get a lot of glare in your pictures. I also had the problem with the white dinnerware we use. If I tried to get a nice close-up of the food on the white plate, the flash glare would blow out the highlights in the image. Trying to shoot the metal measuring cups in the picture above was giving me fits, until I switched to Bounce Flash. By swiveling and tilting the flash head so that the light is bounced off a large white area you gain several advantages.
First since the light is not hitting the subject in a straight line of sight from the camera, you eliminate a lot of the glare from bright or shiny objects. Two the light is more diffuse because it is coming off a larger area on the ceiling as opposed to the flash lens. It makes for a softer less harsh light . Three-assuming you aim the bounced light correctly you get a much more even light across the entire picture. The white ceiling is much less of a point source than the flash lens.
I’m quite impressed by the through the lens flash metering capabilities of my G5. If I get the lighting on the subject correctly, the exposure is usually right on. My flash and camera can also be set to automatically add exposure compensation in to increase or decrease the amount of light. Next time I use this technique I will use this exposure bracketing technique to fine tune the lighting even more.
The only remotely tricky part of this whole thing is getting the flash to bounce the light correctly of a white wall or ceiling. It you think of aiming the light as making a bounce shot off the rail in billiards you will do alright aiming the flash head. Also try to bounce off of something that is as pure a white as possible. Otherwise the surface color of the wall or ceiling will lend your photo a similar color cast.
Below you will find some examples illustrating the results of direct flash versus on camera flash. You can click on the photo to open a larger version. The first photo is sliced Matambre using direct flash. Note the overexposed light areas glare and lack of detail. The second photo shows the same plate of sliced Matambre, but this time the light was bounced off the Dining Room ceiling. I don’t have a plate of food close up photo using both techniques. But look at the photo of the turkey dinner. The details of the plate are blown out with too much light. No details of the pattern on the plate are visible. The silverware has some bright glare and the cranberry is showing some glare too. Contrast that to the photo of the Matambre plate. Even lighting, no glare and the texture of the food can be clearly seen. If you have a bounce flash for your camera, start putting it to good use for your food photos.
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