Gauntlet: Flat Looking Pie

by Gary Fong
Photographer: Andrew Smith,

Shoofly Pie 

How can anyone have two planes of focus in one image? What is physically impossible opens up speculation that Photoshop imagineers applied their creative layers to a simple pie shoot.
At first glace, Andrew Smith’s Shoofly Pie (top), looks odd. We don’t exactly know why it looks odd…but it does. Maybe it’s that green fly spec on the crust…but it just looks odd.
Ah…why are their two areas of sharpness? Usually one plane of focus would produce one area of sharpness. But Smith’s (no relation to Mrs. Smith’s Pies) has two areas that draw attention, with a focus mush causing my eyes to strain.
The optical illusion is cause by a very shallow plane of focus on a deep undulating piecrust. The divot in the crust falls out of focus in the background, while maintain the sharpness at the crest (not to be confused with “crust”).


Now for the Nit Picking

There’s nothing worse than flat light on an undulating piecrust. An on camera flash produces two-dimensional flat looking images. In the case of the undulating piecrust, it created a distracting selective focus mush that raised more questions, rather than illuminating the texture in the subject.
Food photos are all about making it look good enough to eat off the page. Without texture, one has a flat pie lacking a salivation quality. Chocolate CakeBaker's TartNoted extraordinary food photographer Craig Lee, loves “raking” light across his morsels subjects (two photos on right). He produces textures with light coming from behind or at extreme angles to the food.
Try off camera lighting. Take the strobe off the camera and fire it by remote. Look for other light sources that may provide an interesting sidelight. You may also try adjusting the aperture to provide a greater depth of field.
If you’re lost in suggestions, forget what I mentioned above and read on.
Two photographers were talking about Algebra as a foreign language. One guy says to the other, “say something in Algebra.” The other photog thought for a moment, then says, “Pi R squared”. “Ah ha…wrong wrong wrong!!,” said the other. “Pie are ROUND….cornbread are square.”