Shooting Food On All White Background

Started Jul 3, 2013 | Discussions
Tino27
Regular MemberPosts: 138Gear list
Like?
Shooting Food On All White Background
Jul 3, 2013

I've been tasked with the assignment of shooting fair food on a white background ... essentially, foods on a stick (think corndogs, candy apples, chicken skewers, etc.). The wrinkle is that the shooting has to be done on location at the actual fair and not in a studio.

At the moment, I've got two Canon 600EX-RT speedlites and a ST-E3 to control them both off-camera. I thought about simply laying the food in question on top of a white foam core board, lighting from the side via a 16" softbox, another white foam core card on the opposite side to provide fill light, and then shooting from straight above. The problem I predict, however, would be that the entire background wouldn't be white; it would gradually fall off.

I could light the foam core board from both sides to ensure that the board is evenly lit (and thus white), but then of course, I'd lose some of the dimensionality that the shadows would bring.

Any thoughts?

 Tino27's gear list:Tino27's gear list
Canon EOS 60D Canon EOS 5D Mark III Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM +3 more
24Peter
Veteran MemberPosts: 3,001
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to Tino27, Jul 3, 2013

Tino27 wrote:

I've been tasked with the assignment of shooting fair food on a white background ... essentially, foods on a stick (think corndogs, candy apples, chicken skewers, etc.). The wrinkle is that the shooting has to be done on location at the actual fair and not in a studio.

At the moment, I've got two Canon 600EX-RT speedlites and a ST-E3 to control them both off-camera. I thought about simply laying the food in question on top of a white foam core board, lighting from the side via a 16" softbox, another white foam core card on the opposite side to provide fill light, and then shooting from straight above. The problem I predict, however, would be that the entire background wouldn't be white; it would gradually fall off.

I could light the foam core board from both sides to ensure that the board is evenly lit (and thus white), but then of course, I'd lose some of the dimensionality that the shadows would bring.

Any thoughts?

Bit of a challenge to be sure. First though, I'd get clear on what the client is expecting. "Fair food on a white background" doesn't tell much of their expectations. Ask them to provide photos similar to what they want. If they're leaving it totally up to you, then do what you feel works best, but if they're paying you I bet they have some preconceived notions on what they're getting.

I have to say, laying food down on any kind of porous surface (including foam core) is a recipe (pun intended) for disaster. The surface will be soiled by the second item creating all kinds of unattractive additions to your photos. The good news is, sticks stand up. Find a way to shoot these upright.

In terms of lighting, these items are small enough that your concerns about even lighting on the background are not really an issue. You have two powerful flashes and can devote one to the product and one to the background if necessary. Do what you want stylistically on the food item  (e.g., side light) and then light the background separately with the other.

Finally make sure the food is delivered warm/fresh prior to your shots (you may want to bring a water spritzer). Nothing looks worse than cold, dried out chicken skewers - no matter how good your lighting is.

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
sam photo
Contributing MemberPosts: 765
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to 24Peter, Jul 5, 2013

24Peter wrote:

Tino27 wrote:

I've been tasked with the assignment of shooting fair food on a white background ... essentially, foods on a stick (think corndogs, candy apples, chicken skewers, etc.). The wrinkle is that the shooting has to be done on location at the actual fair and not in a studio.

At the moment, I've got two Canon 600EX-RT speedlites and a ST-E3 to control them both off-camera. I thought about simply laying the food in question on top of a white foam core board, lighting from the side via a 16" softbox, another white foam core card on the opposite side to provide fill light, and then shooting from straight above. The problem I predict, however, would be that the entire background wouldn't be white; it would gradually fall off.

I could light the foam core board from both sides to ensure that the board is evenly lit (and thus white), but then of course, I'd lose some of the dimensionality that the shadows would bring.

Any thoughts?

Bit of a challenge to be sure. First though, I'd get clear on what the client is expecting. "Fair food on a white background" doesn't tell much of their expectations. Ask them to provide photos similar to what they want. If they're leaving it totally up to you, then do what you feel works best, but if they're paying you I bet they have some preconceived notions on what they're getting.

I have to say, laying food down on any kind of porous surface (including foam core) is a recipe (pun intended) for disaster. The surface will be soiled by the second item creating all kinds of unattractive additions to your photos. The good news is, sticks stand up. Find a way to shoot these upright.

In terms of lighting, these items are small enough that your concerns about even lighting on the background are not really an issue. You have two powerful flashes and can devote one to the product and one to the background if necessary. Do what you want stylistically on the food item (e.g., side light) and then light the background separately with the other.

Finally make sure the food is delivered warm/fresh prior to your shots (you may want to bring a water spritzer). Nothing looks worse than cold, dried out chicken skewers - no matter how good your lighting is.

...Home Depot sells matte white formica sheets in small portable sizes...that should eliminate any staining and cleanup...

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Lawrence Keeney
Veteran MemberPosts: 6,000Gear list
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to sam photo, Jul 5, 2013

I agree with what 24Peter says about the whole concept of the shoot.

However, if this is what the client wants, I suggest you set up a test shoot outside at your home, and practice with the lighting until you get what you want. This can save you a lot of time and embarrassment when doing the shoot in front of the client.

-- hide signature --
 Lawrence Keeney's gear list:Lawrence Keeney's gear list
Olympus E-10 Olympus E-1 Olympus E-3 Olympus E-5 Olympus E-M1
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Sailor Blue
Senior MemberPosts: 6,093Gear list
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to Tino27, Jul 6, 2013

One big problem with lighting both the subject and the background with the same lights is that the white background always comes out light gray, not white. To get seamless white you generally need to light the background separately and overexpose it to some extent.

Try this instead. Set up a white background and stand up or suspend the food on a thin thread or monofilament line. Space the food away from the background so that you can aim your softboxes more at the background than at the subject - basically light the subject with the edge of the softboxes. This should send more light to the background so that it is overexposed. Just don't overexpose it too much or you will get light reflecting from the background onto the food and causing the edges of the food to be overexposed and blend into the background.

As Lawrence Keeney wisely said, set it up and learn how to use your setup before you have to use it for the real deal.

-- hide signature --

Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.

 Sailor Blue's gear list:Sailor Blue's gear list
Canon EOS 7D +10 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
photolando
Senior MemberPosts: 1,691
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to Tino27, Jul 7, 2013

You have options.  Just depends on how YOU want or need to go about it.

If your shooting straight down on the food, using  frosted plexi may be another consideration.  You can take a light from underneath and the make the frosted plexi appear white.

Depending how "deep" the food is, getting white formica is not as hard to make white as say someone standing a few feet away from a white wall or seamless.  I mean, we're talking inches here so you have to think in terms of "depth of light".  And perhaps it doesn't have to be "pure" white.  Sometimes a "shade" of white works just as well.

Also, don't be afraid to clean it up in post.  I'm sure most of the food will have pretty hard edges so selecting the background area in PS and increasing the brightness with Curves or Levels is a real simple fix.

-- hide signature --

Mike Collins

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Tino27
Regular MemberPosts: 138Gear list
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to photolando, Jul 11, 2013

Thank you all for your suggestions. I truly appreciate the feedback.

Fortunately, I had some time on my hands to consider this problem and a friend who has his own woodworking  shop and built me a wooden "stick holder", which holds the food vertically. My "mobile studio" is actually the hatch area of my Kia Soul, which is nicely recessed, the glass on the windows tinted (to help manage the ambient light from the sun), and the floor completely flat. I ended up using three pieces of 20" x 30" white foam core, one on the left, one on the right, and one behind against the back of the rear seats. I then put the corn dog stick into the holder and placed it equally distant from the sides of the car and about 6" in front of the rear wall.

Speedlite #1 was on-camera acting both as a master as well as being bounced off the left foam core. Speedlite #2 was off-camera on the little stand it came with bouncing off the right piece of foam core. Both speedlites were zoomed to 20mm to maximize spread and the left speedlite was set to 1 stop brighter than the right one.

To properly expose for the corn dog, the background didn't end up being completely white (which someone earlier in this thread had suggested would be an issue). However, it was pretty darn close and a few minutes in Lightroom playing with the Highlight slider control as well as painting in some additional exposure using the adjustment brush and I was good to go.

I sent the image to the art director in charge of the assignment and it was exactly the look he wanted. This was just a trial run and the actual shooting of the food begins this weekend.

I've attached the image that I sent to the editor. Camera settings were 1/200", f/8, ISO 200.

 Tino27's gear list:Tino27's gear list
Canon EOS 60D Canon EOS 5D Mark III Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM +3 more
Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
24Peter
Veteran MemberPosts: 3,001
Like?
Re: Shooting Food On All White Background
In reply to Tino27, Jul 11, 2013

Mmmmm, yummy looking. And your car will smell like corn-dogs for weeks to boot

Seriously, good job on your problem solving and mobile setup. And I think it was quite wise to present an image to the client for preapproval. You may want to add plastic sheeting to cover the hatch floor of the vehicle, and like I said, make sure the chicken skewers are fresh.

Good luck!

Reply   Reply with quote   Complain
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads