Aug 5, 2015

Revelations at a Food Shoot

Decadent Hot Chocolate

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a food shoot at a local (and my usual) restaurant and coffee shop. There were a number of requirements, including speciality menu items. There were also a number of challenges so I thought I'd post a blog about some of them and how I worked around the challenges.

The foremost challenge was that the shoot needed to be done on location and during normal working hours. This meant working around customers, the kitchen and the staff. Like most restaurants space is at a premium so there was no back section to occupy or set up out of the way. Personally I would have liked the seclusion, preferring to work out of the public eye but not having that option didn't necessarily have to be viewed as a bad thing. For one it meant that a systematic approach (a preferred method for most of my commercial shoots) was required and would need to be clear cut.

I wanted to, in a sense, brand some of the images by incorporating the restaurants colours (black and red). Doing this too often would have taken the images back towards being visually repetitious so I chose to only photograph the hot drinks in this way, incorporating a red wall in the back ground.
Lasagne. The orange of the peri-peri bottle picks up on the roasted cheese of the lasagne and the plate's dominant colours (reds and yellows) is echoed in the plate at the back.

Guacomole BLT and The Works Salad. The green bottle of the salad dressing both matches the food type as well as connects with both plates through the colour of the cucumber/parsley and the avocado.
One of the problems of adopting a studio layout and setting it up for something like this where a variety of dishes and drinks are to be photographed, is that just a few dishes in everything starts to look the same, formulaic. Sure the light can be adjusted a little here and there, perhaps the 'props' can be altered but the danger remains. By shooting with what I call "assisted ambient light", meaning that the ambient light is prioritised first and foremost with external flash being used to accent or punctuate, not populate or pollute, it means that some level of variation is automatically achieved. In fact the majority of these images were achieved almost entirely with ambient light, at times reflected. When flash was used it was handheld, adjusted manually and diffused using a variety of accessories.

Chicken and Blue Cheese Salad. By simply pulling up a wickerwork chair towards the back of this plate I was able to create a different background to compliment the meal and could also disguise some distracting highlights in the background.
So as to further add variety 'table-turning' was adopted. This meant that careful background selection was needed for particular dishes without loosing the overall aesthetic thread of the shoot. By simply switching tables or turning round and shooting from the opposite direction with a new dish, different lighting could be utilised and backgrounds subtly incorporated. At times this involved matching colour with ambient light or colour of the food, or simply incorporating textures that compliment what is plated.

Beef Curry. This was taken facing in the opposite direction to the Chicken and Blue Cheese  Salad above. Strong backlighting meant that fairly direct flash was diffused and de-powered to 1/16th, and flashed twice from slightly above and left and then the same from the right. This shot was stifled earlier by a dark car the pulled up in the background. Reserving the table then waiting for a white car to park, about an hour later, meant I could get on with other shots.

A location of this sort also requires a good measure of humility and professionalism since the last thing you want to do is impinge on the experience of the diners. Careful angles and perspective selection meant that people could be subtly left out without the need to interrupt and ask them to move, shift position or look somewhere else.

Breakfast Special

Bacon and Banana Breakfast Waffle. Warm hues in the background brickwork complimented this breakfast shot, bringing in the warmth of the honey, cinnamon and banana.

If you are ever in Grahamstown swing by Revelations. Its where it all comes together, especially food, photographs and tummies!

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