Food Photography – Consistency in look and feel
Situated in one of Shanghai’s prime spots overlooking the bay of PuDong on the Bund Collagreco is one of Shanghai’s top restaurants.
When photographing food for a restaurant like this, it is important to understand their purpose with the photographs and the best way to achieve this is to go for a detailed brief from the manger and chief. Since the chef here was going to be the food stylist communication with him is key.
My brief for this shoot were simple in a way and consisted of 3 main priorities.
- Simplicity to fit the style of food.
- Colours bright and crisp (Reflecting the true freshness of the food)
It is very easy to overdo something in terms of styling or decorating something for photographical reasons. To present an object (A Dish) as photogenic in most cases means less rather than more. We are always eager to place an extra something thinking it will fill the frame and get rid of the empty space that we don’t know what to do with. The truth is that empty space or clean space can be very pleasing to the eye and makes for great composition.
Lighting Set Up:
To achieve this I used the same white table cloths that they use on their tables with a simple two light set up. A backlight set up to aim at the white surface. Not too high, the light will evenly whiten the surface causing soft shadows falling towards the camera creating a basic canvas to display the dish.
2. Bright Colours
Promoting good food means portraying the idea of healthy nutrition and this lies in the colour of food. Since from a image point of view we have to rely on visual alone to achieve out goal, getting this right is a major priority.
Now that we have our backlight filling in it’s purpose being lighting up the surface and giving us a rim light around the edges of the plate and food we now need to get the colours out with a second light. 45’ from above and 45’ from in front is where I placed the light. The goal now is to find the right exposure that will neither blow the colours out nor leave them too dark. The brighter the exposure the less saturated the colours will be and in turn the darker the exposure colours tend to be more saturated. The only way to find the right balance is to play around until you find that point where the true colours are being complimented.
Consistency is important in the look and feel of just about any series of photographs produced for commercial use. The last thing you want to do is to light and angle your images so differently that it will seem that the images belong to completely different restaurants.
This might sound like a simple task, as you simply need to leave your lighting set up and camera in the same position so all look the same. “Not Exactly”. Half true though, but since light reflects differently off of different surfaces like wood, a white plate, colourful salad, white ice cream, etc you need to keep adjusting the exposure to fill the right balance of light. This doesn’t apply so much for the backlight but most certainly the overhead light discussed in the previous section.
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