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Things CritiquePractice in styling

Images of inanimate objects; furniture, food & beverage, appliances, gadgets, electronics, apparel, jewelry
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Onslow
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Practice in styling

Postby Onslow » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:06 pm

A friend of mine visited tonight for some practice at lighting for food photography. She is sharing recipes and wants to be able to light and style the photos for her blog. Any help or critique is appreciated. :) One softbox as close as I could get as Jade shoots food at f4 but due to too much power we ended up at f8 in the overhead slightly to the rear. On 7" reflector at 90 degrees camera left for some hard lighting. This final is the result of 54 images to finesse the fianl product.

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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Duck » Tue Feb 10, 2015 3:52 pm

My first, and strongest suggestion, is to bring your computer over to the table and do the styling tethered while looking at the screen. I notice that your layout is spread out with the plate taking on a smaller percentage of the overall frame. A tighter composition would have served this image better.

By styling live you can see the relationships of plate to cups, plate to silverware, accessories to overall composition, etc. You can also look out for unusual or distracting overlaps like the background rose to the plate, or balance, like all the silver on the left and china on the right.

Overall it isn't bad. I'd like to see a little more light on the plate. Also, you have to consider the psychology of placement. The plate has two pieces missing but from the other side of the dish. That alludes that someone else took those pieces (and left one unfinished on the table) rather than the viewer taking the pieces. That creates a subtle disconnect. It is also reinforced by the empty chair on the other side of the table. Subconsciously the image says, "while it looks good it wasn't tasty. See, I didn't even finish and I walked away from it."

I can see the romantic feeling you were going for (sweets, roses, cozy seting...) but between the wide open spaces, empty chair and turned dish it doesn't come across like that. I would suggest uping the ante and place a female in the chair. You don't need to show much, just an indication of a feminine body as the target of the viewer's affections at this cozy setting.

Just my two bits. Hope it helps.
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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Steven G Webb » Tue Feb 10, 2015 5:58 pm

I'm not qualified to make commentary on the technical elements but I think this is a pretty picture. Thank you for the pull-back view it is very helpful in seeing how the image was brought together.
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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Onslow » Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:38 am

Duck wrote:My first, and strongest suggestion, is to bring your computer over to the table and do the styling tethered while looking at the screen. I notice that your layout is spread out with the plate taking on a smaller percentage of the overall frame. A tighter composition would have served this image better.

By styling live you can see the relationships of plate to cups, plate to silverware, accessories to overall composition, etc. You can also look out for unusual or distracting overlaps like the background rose to the plate, or balance, like all the silver on the left and china on the right.

Overall it isn't bad. I'd like to see a little more light on the plate. Also, you have to consider the psychology of placement. The plate has two pieces missing but from the other side of the dish. That alludes that someone else took those pieces (and left one unfinished on the table) rather than the viewer taking the pieces. That creates a subtle disconnect. It is also reinforced by the empty chair on the other side of the table. Subconsciously the image says, "while it looks good it wasn't tasty. See, I didn't even finish and I walked away from it."

I can see the romantic feeling you were going for (sweets, roses, cozy seting...) but between the wide open spaces, empty chair and turned dish it doesn't come across like that. I would suggest uping the ante and place a female in the chair. You don't need to show much, just an indication of a feminine body as the target of the viewer's affections at this cozy setting.

Just my two bits. Hope it helps.


Cheers for that Duck. :)
The computer was tethered just out of site on the table. We were using that for evaluation of each image. Jade will be given your critique so she has some feedback. I like the psychological imagery you are conjuring up. We were also trying to consider that sort of thing although the exercise was primarily in lighting for Jade. She has bought herself a cheap 3 head ebay unit to do some work with and the session was more showing the effects of the modifiers and the combinations of modifiers.
Your suggesting of a person in the chair is excellent and I shall consider that next time I do this sort of exercise.

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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Duck » Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:47 am

I hear ya. I am guilty of getting caught up in the technical stuff as well and tend to forget that I'm creating an image that is supposed to instill emotion.
Alas, so many things to keep in mind all at the same time... 8~
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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Onslow » Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:48 am

Steven G Webb wrote:I'm not qualified to make commentary on the technical elements but I think this is a pretty picture. Thank you for the pull-back view it is very helpful in seeing how the image was brought together.

Thanks Steve. Food is definitely not a case of plonking it down on the table and blazing away. :)

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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Ed Shapiro » Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:31 am

There are many approaches to take in food photography but essentially, in advertising food or illustrating finished recipes for a cook book you are SELLING THE FOOD by making it look appetizing. If the shot does not make the mouth water than it is not doing its job. Therefore the motif of every shot should be the food stuffs themselves. The serving dishes, dinnerware, flatware and accessories should be secondary in the composition. Unless I am shooting a specific combo or “meal deal” for a point of purchase display board or a menu, I only suggest secondary articles in the background. I might use selective focus techniques or subtractive light methods to de-emphasize the accessories or concept props and I work hand on bringing out the textures in the food.

I like to have the food placed in such a way that the viewers feel like they can reach in a and take a helping of the food and “dig in” as opposed to having an abstract or aerial view that makes the food seem like it is somehow inaccessible. If it is a restaurant dish; I make sure the side of the plate as it is presented to the customer is right up front and personal.

In you image you have good rendition of texture and the product looks appetizing. This may sound kinda wired but to me the shot does not seem “intimate” enough- the main product is too far away and the props each lead the viewer’s eyes in a circle to each of them rather than a cohesive image. The camera position is a bit low and does not show much depth in the main product and also does not reveal much of the beverages in the cups. With tea and coffee I will add steam tablets and inject air from a syringe into the liquid to form bubbles around the edges to create a just poured look. Using shallow depth of field is kinda tricky as well in that it is meant to lead the eye to the sharp portion of the image but not give the impression that one or two additional props or accessory items are “out of focus”.

The image you have there is not too bad but it needs to be refined. If you are working tethered or not is not all that important as far as initial styling is concerned. I begin working on the layout of the items and the placement of the props even before the lighting is considered or the camera position is determined. Having a live tethered image becomes more important later in the set up process when camera position, lighting and finishing touches are applied just before shooting.

I hope this helps.

Ed
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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Onslow » Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:37 am

Ed Shapiro wrote:There are many approaches to take in food photography but essentially, in advertising food or illustrating finished recipes for a cook book you are SELLING THE FOOD by making it look appetizing. If the shot does not make the mouth water than it is not doing its job. Therefore the motif of every shot should be the food stuffs themselves. The serving dishes, dinnerware, flatware and accessories should be secondary in the composition. Unless I am shooting a specific combo or “meal deal” for a point of purchase display board or a menu, I only suggest secondary articles in the background. I might use selective focus techniques or subtractive light methods to de-emphasize the accessories or concept props and I work hand on bringing out the textures in the food.

I like to have the food placed in such a way that the viewers feel like they can reach in a and take a helping of the food and “dig in” as opposed to having an abstract or aerial view that makes the food seem like it is somehow inaccessible. If it is a restaurant dish; I make sure the side of the plate as it is presented to the customer is right up front and personal.

In you image you have good rendition of texture and the product looks appetizing. This may sound kinda wired but to me the shot does not seem “intimate” enough- the main product is too far away and the props each lead the viewer’s eyes in a circle to each of them rather than a cohesive image. The camera position is a bit low and does not show much depth in the main product and also does not reveal much of the beverages in the cups. With tea and coffee I will add steam tablets and inject air from a syringe into the liquid to form bubbles around the edges to create a just poured look. Using shallow depth of field is kinda tricky as well in that it is meant to lead the eye to the sharp portion of the image but not give the impression that one or two additional props or accessory items are “out of focus”.

The image you have there is not too bad but it needs to be refined. If you are working tethered or not is not all that important as far as initial styling is concerned. I begin working on the layout of the items and the placement of the props even before the lighting is considered or the camera position is determined. Having a live tethered image becomes more important later in the set up process when camera position, lighting and finishing touches are applied just before shooting.

I hope this helps.

Ed

Ed, thank you very much. It does help. A lot of these points seem obvious but not being practiced in this genre, it's a whole new ball game. I am taking all of these comments and will be trying to commit them all to memory for the next session.
I had a meeting of our local photo group last night and some of the comments were quite similar...

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Re: Practice in styling

Postby Ed Shapiro » Thu Feb 12, 2015 1:42 pm

The truth be told- food photography is one of the most difficult area of commercial photography. W are dealing with perishable food stuffs, things that wilt, melt, discolor or just look lousy as photographic subjects. Unless you have tried your hand a food photography it is hard to appreciate how professional chefs and food stylists can make just about anything look appetizing. Most things taste a heck of allot better than they look.

I can't think of any other branch of photography that has as many "tricks of the trade" in so far as prepping the food for photography. I can probably write a book on theses matters and yet every time I work with a new food stylist or a chef, I learn something new.

Here are just a few tips for preparing the food- this is hardly the tip of the iceberg:

• To retain color and texture in vegetables; never over cook them- steaming is the best method of cooking them for photography- good eatin’ too- you keep the nutrients in when they are not too mushy and the look better.
• It is best to under-cook roasted poultry so it does not wrinkle excessively and use a browning agent to bring up the color. Just do not forget to cook it up to the proper temperature if you intend eating it after you photograph it. Why? OK- Knock-knock- who’s there? Sam! Sam Who? Sam and Ella!
• Applying a bit of coking oil to certain foods and baked good can yield better specular highlights bur do not over doe it or it will look greasy. A little dab will do ya!
• Adding a bit of club soda (carbonated water) to scrambled eggs will make them fluffier.
• Spraying salad ingredients (and produce) with a mist of water will make the look fresher but don’t over do it; if the water mixes with the oil in the dressing it will look greasy.
• Tiny droplets can be precisely applied to food surfaces with a hypodermic syringe and needle- a solution of water and glycerin will hold better. Surgical knives make cleaner cuts in foodstuffs. Hemostats (surgical clamps) are great for moving around small bits of food. All of theses items can be obtained at surgical supply houses. Be sure to assure them that you are not running an illegal clinic of some sort!
• An application of paste type floor wax will make apples look fantastic. Apply the wax; let it dry and the buff with a soft cloth. Do not eat them!
• High quality plastic “ice cubes” hold their shape a look better in beverages than real ones. Shootin air (with your hypodermic syringe) into carbonated beverages just before shooting will make them look freshly poured.
• With hardy soups, chowders and stews; place glass marbles at the bottom of the bowl. This will force the ingredients upward toward to the surface so the soup or other recipe will not look too thin or watery.

This is just a tiny list of food styling techniques- there are hundreds- possibly thousands. Crazy eh?... and we haven’t even set up a light or pointed a camera as yet while all of this is ongoing.


Ed


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