Lessons from the Shot: Easier Eating Than Shooting


By Craig Lee
Photographer: Craig Lee, www.craigleephoto.com
Bread ProjectSipping News
Eating food is a lot easier than shooting it. To be a successful food shoot, the image must to look good enough to lick off the photographic paper. The following are a few tips from an extraordinary Bay Area photographer, Craig Lee.
1. Try to think of soft backlight, but not as a silhouette. Think of it more as skimming light across the surface of the food to enhance the texture. It's the opposite of photographing a person, where you might want the soft light in a position to help smooth the texture on the skin or to make a person look their best. Position that same soft light on the angle of incidence from the food to camera position. Look for the highlights in the food. 
After that’s figure out, use a fill light to control the contrast. Look for the shadows detail your eye can see, but the digital camera can't pick up. Use a fill card reflector or another light through a scrim if the reflector card is not strong enough. Making the exposure two stops under for the fill is a good place to start. White foam core, aluminum foil, or mirrors are useful as well.
Point Reyes CheesePoint Reyes Cheese Lighting 
2. Natural light is a good way to go if available. There’s a difference between diffused sunlight coming through window shades and a deep overcast day. One is warm directional light, the other is cold flat light. The preference is warm directional light, but it can be done with cold flat light.
3. Get close, intimate in the framing, but that’s goes for photography in general. 
Baker's TartBaker's Tart Lighting
4. Food has a limited life before it starts to wilt. Plan ahead for the limited shelf life characteristic of each food item. Is it dark like a beef stew, flat like a pizza? Is the food stacked high with vanilla ice cream on angel food cake? Will it melt fast or will it last a while under the lights like a piece of cheese? Different foods don’t photograph the same under the one lighting set up. Try a practice set up before the real dish comes out.
5. Cocktail drinks are especially colorful under translucent lights. The same soft backlight works nice to make the drink glow. Put a fill light in the front if needed. Sometimes the backlight glow is enough. Darker drinks, like a Cabernet wine, are not translucent. Use a reflection of light across the surface with dark drinks.
Shoot well and eat well.