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Things CritiqueUsing lighting for the first time

Images of inanimate objects; furniture, food & beverage, appliances, gadgets, electronics, apparel, jewelry
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Jade Walker
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Using lighting for the first time

Post by Jade Walker »

Hi all,

This is my first time here, I am a friend of John's. I currently write recipes for my own website jadewalker.com.au and have just been employed to write recipes for another website. I want to take my photos to the next level (and not always have to depend on natural light) so here is my first shot (without John by my side) with a softbox and harder light.

In my practice run today I had a little frustration avoiding some dark vignetting with the shutter speed and aperture I wanted. I soon rectified this.
My own critiques would be
- The lighting doesn't quite have the sunny beachy feel I was going for.
- The highlights are a little hot to the top left
- Focus isn't quite right in a couple of images
- I'm unure on the white balance after staring at them for so long
- Need to be careful of the reflection in sunglasses

Your CC is so warmly welcomed!

_MG_9938 small.jpg
_MG_9938 small.jpg (243.75 KiB) Viewed 1124 times
_MG_9931 small.jpg
_MG_9931 small.jpg (149.37 KiB) Viewed 1124 times
_MG_9928 small.jpg
_MG_9928 small.jpg (258.57 KiB) Viewed 1124 times

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Post by TomCofer »

Welcome Jade!
Colorful shots.
Redneck Enthusiast Photographer on a shoestring budget.


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Post by Duck »

Hi Jade, nice images overall but I can see why you are looking to up the ante. Being able to provide images with your recipes increases your salability, specially in a tightly competitive market.

Of the three images presented the second has the most going for it. It showcases the product nicely and gives it a sense of location. For me, I like the angle of view of the third one as it showcases the product better, giving a more complete view from the higher elevation. Here is a crop I did that takes the better angle but keeps the look of the second image.

Ice pops recropped
Ice pops recropped
IMG_9928_cropped.jpg (175.36 KiB) Viewed 1109 times

What is missing are those small little things that take it from good to great.

When it comes to food, styling is key. Food stylists get paid big bucks because they deliver results. It's not just about good lighting. Angle of view, as mentioned, is only a part of it. Arrangement of the product in the scene, the choice of presentation (plates, silverware, glassware) and the set dressing are key to building a feel, an emotion, that will make people drool over your creations. You have some of that going here but it's a bit too much. For example; the tennis ball is a distraction as it reflects too much light back and takes away from the scene. In this scene your set choices should target who you are targeting; crafty moms with small children. The beach towel is great as is the hat. The dish, on the other hand, does not look like it belongs at the beach. A plastic one that matches the plastic of the molds would fit in better. I like the idea of sun tan lotion but you have to be careful with brands showing as they will disqualify your images for publication. Be aware of that in the future.

You are already to a good start by having identified problem areas in your photos. This tells me that you have a discerning eye for identifying what doesn't work. This is a learned skill and over time you will hone this skill. the trick is to be able to identify problems before you trip the shutter. One simple trick that helps with this is using some kind of large live view screen tethered to your camera. Being able to see the scene from your camera's point of view will help you see the arrangement and potentially avoid problem areas in composition. With practice and experience you will also be able to also have a solution for the problem you identify. For now, the best advice I can give you is this, "if it doesn't work, remove it." Many times you will find that simple is best.

Up to this point I've been carrying on about overall technique and haven't really addressed your particular images (other than crop). Here are some tips I would offer up if I was standing next to you. For one, the product should be pristine. When working with frozen foods you have to pay close attention to melting. Use a stand in up to the point you are ready to shoot. This means all your styling and light setup should be done without the actual product. In this case, use some empty molds as a stand in to get your lighting and exposure correct as they resemble the product the closest. Then when the actual product comes out you simply place it into the scene and take the shot. No melting.

The product should also be top notch. No major holes and gaps as I can see in your shots. Yes, they happen and yes, it's a normal expectation but not for a shot like this. Small air holes are acceptable but those large holes (and that mushed tip) are not. If you don't have multiple products to choose from for the setup then perhaps more discerning placement can help. If not, there is always photo editing to fill in the gaps.

Natural sunlight (or any kind of lighting) can be reproduced in a studio with the right kind of lights. The trick is understanding the qualities of a particular type of light you are trying to reproduce. In your case it is natural daytime sun. Obviously in a controlled situation we want to reproduce the best aspects of direct sun light while minimizing the bad aspects of it. So for this we would need the hard shadows but not the extreme exposure range or blown out highlights. This is usually done by introducing some form of a hard light (bare bulb, no diffusion) to create the shadow lines but not strong enough to ruin the overall exposure.

You are off to a great start and, as I mentioned earlier, it's a matter of finessing the scene. Looking at other similar photos can help provide guidance and ideas to dress and light your own work. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to seeing more.
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Post by Ed Shapiro »

Duck has provided a very comprehensive critique for you so I only have a few points to ad on expound on.

No matter what you are “selling” or illustrating in a commercial photograph, that item or product should become the motif, theme or simply stated the main subject of the images. Props should be secondary in that they can reinforce the theme, add mood or atmosphere but not visually compete with the main subject. I think you have, to a point, created the summer kinda beach atmosphere but the overabundance of props and high chroma colors in those props have turned out to become distractions. The viewer’s eyes will begin to scan all the items that are on the set and cause confusion as to what you are “selling” or emphasizing; is it hats, sunglasses, food??? One trick is to put all of your props on the set and then eliminate the ones that interfere with the visual impact of the product and retain the ones that create more interest in the product and lead the viewer’s eyes to the main subject. Secondary items on the set should appear more by innuendo or suggestion rather than sharp literal interpretations. Selective focus, goboed lighting and compositional placement are some of the techniques that can be used to add or subtract attention to or from various elements of your composition.

I do quite a bit of food work and frozen products and be difficult to capture and made to look appetizing. Some of the methods used can be painstaking. With frozen and gelled recipes, oftentimes I use a tweezers to place fruits, nut, berries to better define their shape and position. When certain frozen products are formed in molds, sometimes it is difficult to come up with a nice uniform surface when the food stuffs are taken from the molds. Sometimes I add stabilizers or thickeners to the mix such as carrageenen, alginic acid, gelatin, pectin or other food stabilizers. Theses additives can help create better surface appearances with less holes and inconsistencies. The may also act as release agents to make the frozen items dislodge more easily. Some testing and experimentation is needed to find the type and amount of theses ingredients to obtain the cosmetic effect you are looking for. Most of theses things should not alter the color of the actual recipe. Sometimes it is just a matter of s brief exposure to hot water jus before removing the frozen liquid fro the mould or moistening the extracted item or allowing it to melt slightly and the standing it up in the freezer briefly to smoothly resurface- like a Zamboni at the skating rink. A bit of steam and re-freezing may work as well.

Color and tonal harmony concepts: If you are looking for an “airy” mood a high key approach to lighting and color harmony is probably your best bet. If the product is white, light in color or pastel and you use a light or white background color and lighting that brings up the texture of the product you will achieve an airy or ethereal effect. Problem is, as soon as you add a dark prop or a high in chroma (vivid) color the viewer’s eyes will take the path of least resistance and go directly to the darker item or the “hotter” color. This theory is oftentimes applied to portraiture and can apply to commercial work as well when the creation of certain moods is required. In may seem that a low key approach in commercial work whereby a box of dark chocolates is shot against a black or dark background might cause too much blending or lack of contrast between the subject and the background but the right level of specular highlights a very lush and elegant mood can be established.

I hope this helps you zero in on what you want to achieve.

Ed :thumbup:

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