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Lighting Food


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#1 Tyler Kersting

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 01:08 AM

First time post, long time reader...I am interested in any techniques for lighting and shooting food. Perhaps somebody knows of a great resource to steer me in the right direction. I have never lit food before...how does one make it look great without making it look fake? For example, Chili's, TGIF's, Applebee's etc...maybe it does look fake?! Thanks in advance.


Tyler


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#2 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 05:22 AM

hi
Lighting food is sometime not enougth to make it "sexy"
it's why you'll use colors of accessories and décoration to enhance the food aspec.
you'll also meet "food makeup artists" (don't know the exact name) who's job is to make the food sexy for an image.
use of hair spray to make it shine, smoke (hot dish) white paint for cream ect...

After you can try to light it with soft boxes and indirect ligthing and make it shine.
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#3 Fergal O Hanlon

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 07:42 AM

generally fresh food packshots are softlit...generally...although like with everything we do there are no hard and fast rules...but in my experience the most important thing to have on the day, is a VERY good food stylist...thats what makes the difference...we've all seen what the product actually looks like !!! its their job to make it photographable...the rest, that is the look or style is usually client/agency driven...as regards lighting techniques, large lights through silks/muslin/paper, bounced light off poly/card, kino's and their variants, some small well controlled hard light for highlights etc. are generally the order of the day...just remember the golden rule of fresh food packshots...NEVER EAT ANYTHING OFF THE SET...'cause when you were'nt looking, god only knows what the stylist put on it to make it work ;) i've seen models and actors chowing down on stuff that was practically poisonous...obviously i didnt tell them, i was to busy laughing my ass off :lol:
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 08:26 AM

Yeah, it DOES look fake.

I forget who told me this, but I heard that I think Burger King, when they do their TV commercials, literally go in and cut the back of the buns on the burger and stretch them out so that, in the two-dimensional realm of photography they seem bigger. Also, they individually place sesame seeds, so some people take it to the point of an obsession.

Honestly, that sort of thing should be illegal. That's no better than falsely advertising an incorrect weight.

Speaking of seeds, I think I saw a quote somewhere too where Ansel Adams, the great nature photographer, did a job where he was taking still photos of some kind of raisin bread or something, and they came in and added I forget some seed from Rye bread that isn't found in white bead.

The ironic thing about all of this, he said, was that the photo wasn't an advertisement, it was for a bread-industry magazine. So everyone who saw it would be hyper-critical and know that that sort of bread doesn't actually look like that :rolleyes:

But yeah, then there are so many other examples I can give you IDK where to begin. Glycerine on glasses to simulate sweat condensation for beverages, painting food to make it look fresher and more appealing, gels, filters, digital manipulation, and using forced perspective or other in-camera photographic techniques are all accepted practices.

Unfortunately, if you can't beat 'em, you have to join 'em. So, while I personally think taking the illusion to the pint where you're cutting buns in the back goes too far, if everyone else is doing it too, what can you do? Don't hate the player, hate the game, I guess.
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#5 K Borowski

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 08:30 AM

you'll also meet "food makeup artists" (don't know the exact name) who's job is to make the food sexy for an image.


IDK if there is a more specific term than this, but, in general, they'd be called "Art Directors".


You know, I have mixed feelings about dressing food up. While, yeah, sometimes things just don't photograph well, that also means they don't look that good in real life, usually. So, why not make the food look better in real life?

Why does everything have to be a lie, a trick? Lol. I always used real alcohol when I was doing glass shots, as a "reward" for when I was done B)
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#6 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 09:00 AM

You know, I have mixed feelings about dressing food up. While, yeah, sometimes things just don't photograph well, that also means they don't look that good in real life, usually. So, why not make the food look better in real life?

a step off the photographical debate.
thats a serious point, thats what they did : make the food look good because you buy what you see (an image) but infortunatly it taste like water i'm talking about genetical modified vegys and meat.
Real, natural food verry often look like nothing, is not calibrated and is not sexy looking but it taist real good.

and i prefer ugly looking vegetables taisting good rather than a super sexy tomatoe that has THE chemical laboratory taste nada!
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 09:21 AM

and i prefer ugly looking vegetables taisting good rather than a super sexy tomatoe[sic; no e on singular] that has THE chemical laboratory taste nada!


Is it greedy to want to have both?

And what is it with the perception that modern science is an evil conspiracy? Really, human beings have been practicing genetic engineering (thorugh selective breeding) for at least 10,000 years.

And we've been utilizing biological manufacturing techniques (yeast in bread, beer) for probably just as long. It is just that the tools have become far more refined. Any technology can be dangerous when it is used errantly, or casually, even film! (like in porn)
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#8 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 09:33 AM

i've nothing against progress an science when it's bringing fantastic images like the new D21 (even if i don't see the porn for porn !)
but being able to eat water taste tomatoes in february isn't a big step for me.
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#9 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 09:41 AM

i've nothing against progress an science when it's bringing fantastic images like the new D21 (even if i don't see the porn for porn !)
but being able to eat water taste tomatoes in february isn't a big step for me.


you should read if don't see the point....
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#10 David Rosenblum

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 08:43 PM

you'll also meet "food makeup artists" (don't know the exact name) who's job is to make the food sexy for an image.


Food stylist and/or Home Ec is what they go by. I've done a few food/restaurant spots now and its very necessary to work with the food. Its just another prop and device to make it look. If you have a phone that doesn't work for real in a scene for a cell phone company, should that be illegal?
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#11 Justin Hayward

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:45 PM

A very soft key light set three quarter back is usually a good start. I work here as a gaffer and we tend to use hard, bright, backlights broken up all sorts of ways. I find scream’n backlight is one way to have good contrast with nobody complaining it’s too “moody”.

It’s funny, food stylists are many times just ex-chefs that found out making food look nice for commercials pays big-time. It’s nice for me because I have access to a wealth of cooking tips and recipes.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 10:27 PM

and i prefer ugly looking vegetables taisting good rather than a super sexy tomatoe that has THE chemical laboratory taste nada!


As do I but that doesn't work for advertisement. Until flavor can be packaged for advertisement (and, unfortunately, probably created in a lab for that purpose), ads for food can only work by the sense of sight.
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#13 Kiarash Sadigh

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 09:43 AM

My experience is that the best resources in food lighting is found in the world of still photography, in almost every still-photography lighting technique book the food set up is thoroughly discussed...look up your public library's list of still photography books and order them all! you'll be amazed how much you learn. ....you can also google "food photography" to see how much information you'll find....good luck!
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#14 Michael Collier

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 01:30 PM

Why does everything have to be a lie, a trick?


Are you seriously asking this of the advertising industry? You might not like the answer.
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#15 Chris Brown

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 11:04 AM

I am interested in any techniques for lighting and shooting food. Perhaps somebody knows of a great resource to steer me in the right direction. I have never lit food before...how does one make it look great without making it look fake? For example, Chili's, TGIF's, Applebee's etc...maybe it does look fake?!

I have experience in shooting food (see examples in "Snacks" here) and it's easy to see the difference between a shot lit with only a softbox and a shot lit with a blend of soft and specular light. In just about every example, the specular lighting gives more dimension and texture, and this lends to a "tastier" photo.

I've just received some Kino-Flo lights and, while nice for soft lighting, they don't provide a specular source. A fresnel without its lens, sometimes scrimmed with Roscoe Toughspun or light Rolux, is what I typically use to add a specular source.

The real key to a great food shot is a great food stylist.
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