Thursday, May 24, 2012

Food Photography Assignment



I was asked by one of my friends to shoot a couple of dishes for his cousin's restaurant, and since I wanted to experiment with shooting food, I readily agreed. Click through for the details.


It's no secret that I never shot a paid assignment before. Although 95% of my photos are of people (mainly family and friends), I never warmed up to the idea of shooting other people for money, whether it's portraiture, weddings, etc... However, I am fine with shooting non-animate objects, I shoot some female dresses & accessories for a project run by family members, and very recently one of my friends convinced me to start a business out of food photography, fine by me, so I used this opportunity as a test to see how the experience and the photos turn out.



Before going, I asked my friend (who went there before) about the location, the lighting used there, the colors of the walls (for bounce flash), and what did the client want to shoot and for what reason. Turns out the client was offering a very competitive price on one of their cheese burgers, and he wanted a close up of the sandwich to show its size and components for the ad. I was also told that the restaurant walls were beige, and the lighting there is very dim.



Being my first assignment in front of a client I don't know, I was worried I'd miss some piece of equipment that I left at home, originally, I knew I'd be using the 100mm Macro and bounce flash, but I brought along the lightstands and umbrellas, just in case. My equipment included the 5D Mark II, the 100 Macro L, the 24-105 in case I needed some wide angle shots and a couple of 580EX speedlites.





This was the main course I came to take photos of, but as you see, it was not very well presented, especially the bread, but that's what I had to photograph, in the next photo you will see a closeup where I tried to hide the bread's defects.





Simple as it is, taste wise, I certify that this is one delicious burger, the restaurant makes their own beef burgers, they don't buy frozen burgers and just fry it. Lighting wise, I was using on camera flash, usually bounced upwards and to my right in most of the shots, I varied the FEC based on what the histogram told me, I was working between +2 2/3 and +3 FEC, for some reason the camera decided that the correct exposure was way less than what I wanted. Before I shot any dishes, I used a grey card to adjust my white balance.





Next dish was a vegetarian pizza, using the same setup I took the obligatory full dish photo, and then I started trying to get more interesting angles (to hide the fact the pizza's edges are not a perfect circle like the dish) and imagining how they would look in the menu. Since I was shooting close, with a long lens and a full frame sensor, sometimes the DoF was plain shallow, so I varied my aperture based on the look I wanted, I was working between f/4 and f/8.





I think the photo above works better than the full dish. The last dish to shoot was a Fettucini pasta, this was the best prepared dish and easily looked good in photos without trying to get different angles to hide defects.







When I finished shooting, I uploaded the pictures from the camera to the iPad using the camera connection kit (iPad displays RAW photos) as a backup and to show them to the client, then we went through the pictures (~ 70) quickly, then we selected the photos the client wanted and deleted the rejected ones. This way when I got home, I plugged the iPad to my PC, and imported the photos directly into lightroom, no need for selecting or rating photos.



I learned a lot from that day, and we all agreed (me, my friend and the client) that the dishes needed better presentation next time we do a shoot. I am also looking online for more tips on how to make the dishes look better (using oil, etc...), so if you have any advice, please tell me in the comments.