The past two nights have been spent doing a series of shots of cookware packaging, and I thought it might be useful to explain what exactly the process is like. The first thing is to spend some actual time with the product so that I can figure out just what to cook that will showcase the product without taking over the whole scene. The first night’s work was to take photograph for a new series of traditional French ceramics; some deep-browned beans and french onion soup would be in order.
Since I bought the Sekonic 758DR light meter working with my Profoto lights has been a dream. I would say that until this session I have never taken a proper exposure before. As you can see from my beautiful hand-holding test, the shutter speed is 1/125th of a second at f.16 (it only reads 0 until after the photo is taken). I am also working much faster with the Hasselblad lenses, which I have to stop down and focus manually. For this series I am using my new 50mm CFI FLE lens, and I think that it really hold saturation and depth in a much more pleasing way than any of my other lenses. It may or may not be as sharp as the Canon 24-70mm L, but it is hard to tell.
Next up, I spend about thirty minutes figuring out the shot angles because the soup will be hot and I will only have about five minutes to complete the shot before my food starts to look less appetizing. The cheese gives me a sense of how accurate my colour is, and the I have to check things like the tablecloth for wrinkles. I hate all of the ironing involved.
The bean pot came after the soup, and I really had a hard time arranging everything so that the entire pot is featured while still making it clear that it is a bean pot. I try to make sure to find the best looking produce that I can, but I do not want to do anything too strange or the client will struggle to identify with what is in the frame; doing a Southwestern chili with five exotic peppers and mango just will not work. After I put away all of my gear I realized that I had forgotten to include the lid in the shot, so had to re-assemble everything and do it again. The good thing was that since I was using the light meter I did not have to guess at what exposure values I needed.
For tonight’s shoot I thought that I would try to do something different from the previous night. Fortunately, on my way home from work I found a fabulous cherrywood table top leaf that someone was tossing in the trash. It weighed about twenty pounds and I had to carry it home on the subway/streetcar like an idiot, but it really adds a nice warmth to my palette of backgrounds. In this shot I am playing with some French beans that I will steam and then finish in the oven with pearl onions, but first I needed to get a sense of the framing and whether the tabletop would work.
The real challenge, of course, is producing real food that looks better than other commercial photographers who might use Scotch-guarded pancakes or fake milks. Since I am my own food stylist, I have to make sure that I can do both without getting bacon grease on my camera equipment. Ahhh to quote my old friend, the Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”