Sunday, May 15, 2011

Behind the shot: 'Oranges'



I hope you don't mind if there's no recipe today.  Truth is, last week was spent mostly out of the kitchen, madly working and then scrambling to pack before my trip out of town (btw, hello from Scotland!).  But, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the photographic process, between getting ready for my BlogHer Food panel on "Finding your visual voice" (with Tami and Aran) and hearing about the Penny de los Santos live-streamed workshop via twitter that I sadly had to miss due to travel arrangements.  So, I thought today that I'd share another recipe/how-to of sorts: a behind-the-scenes break-down of my oranges shot above (from this kiwi orange creamsicle post).

[1]

This image, the first one I took, was mostly about testing the light, the plate, and the table together with the oranges, as well as adjusting for exposure and aperture settings (shooting manual).  It's sort of atypical for me to use a plate like this one--it's a bit too modern and 'clean-cut' for my tastes--but here, I actually quite liked how it contrasted with the extra rustic quality and texture of the wood underneath.

The lighting set-up here is a large window to the right of the table. I didn't use a reflector on the left because I wanted to have some of that shadowing you see from the oranges, to give them dimension.  Otherwise, I find globular objects sometimes uninteresting and difficult to shoot/style because they come across flat so easily.  Plus, I just like shadows, if you haven't noticed already.  :-)


[2]

Having two whole oranges on a plate just looked boring and awkward, so here I added two slices of oranges as well as a knife, to give the photo a bit of context.  The orange slices also fill in blank space in the bottom left of the plate, while the diagonal knife at the back fills in the negative space up there.  Even so, everything is still angled a little off-center on the plate, just so things don't look too symmetrical and, by extension, staged.

[3]

What I still wasn't satisfied with in photo [2] above was that the bright lighting in the upper right hand corner distracts from the focus on the oranges.  One thing I'm constantly thinking about is where I want to guide the viewer's eye in a photo, and I want to make it as unambiguous as possible where they should focus and look first before taking in the rest of the image.  So here, in photo [3], I used a scrim to block out some of the light shining on the back of the table behind the oranges--sort of like a vignetting effect.

(Note: the first try with the scrim made the back quite dark, which I'm also not so happy with, but I fixed this in later shots.)

[4]

Since I was going for a sort of vignetting effect with the lighting, I wanted to block out some of the light in front of the plate, too, so here's the lighting set-up I ended up with.  I think of this as "narrowing the aperture" of the window to control exactly where the light falls.

[5]

Once the lighting was set up, I could focus on the actual plate. Once again, the two full, uncut, globular oranges were just sort of awkward, especially when accompanied by two orange slices: where did those two slices come from, for instance, if both oranges on the plate were uncut?  Instead, I switched out one of the full oranges for a half, keeping the prettier of the two full oranges in the back.

I angled the half orange towards the light so that the light would fall onto the open face side, which is the interesting part that you want to look at, and create shadows on the underside.  (akin to how you might turn someone's face towards the light in a portrait and create shadows only on certain parts of their face and neck.)

[6]

Looking at photo [5], I still found the foreground and background table to be too distracting to the eye: i.e., there's just too much negative space that detracts from the photo rather than adding any interest.  My original intention was to crop photo [5] in post-processing to a square, since I liked how the square-format shot turned out using Instagram.  (tip: iPhone makes a great shot-previewer, if you will.)


[7]

Another way that I tried to limit the foreground and background excess space was to try a landscape framing rather than a portrait one, which ended up working well because it didn't cramp the plate so tightly as the portrait framing did.  This is the final raw image straight from the camera.
[ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/250 sec]

[8]

Finally, I don't usually do much post processing to my images, but I do like to increase the contrast, which enhances the distinction between the lights and the shadows.

...and there's the final product!

35 comments:

  1. Wonderful photo. Thanks for showing us how!

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  2. I loved this breakdown of the process!

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  3. Hi Mate,

    Have just discovered your fantastic blog! I am really impressed. You take beautiful pics! And all the recipes are gorgeous! Will be coming back quite often though!

    xxx

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  4. oh wow thanks for sharing this process! i'm glad to see it's not as super quick and effortless as the final product makes it look.

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  5. so cool to follow you step by step, awesome idea and thanks for sharing ! looks like a still life painting above, beautiful.

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  6. Vey nice step by step. Thanks for share ,

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  7. Wonderful post and very helpful indeed! Thank you for sharing your work process. The final photo looks great.

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  8. You really make oranges look great, sadly I do not have any in the house right now and I feel like one, not to mention some freshly squeezed orange juice.

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  9. Your blog is so incredibly inspiring! I just followed your archive back to the very first post in 2008 and every dish is so beautifully photographed. Can't wait to try to make some of these myself soon!

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  10. Thanks for sharing your insightful observations. I'm continually working on taking better photos. Especially liked how you broke down your thought process. Sometimes I don't think about little details that make all the difference. Slices but neither orange cut? Makes sense.

    I'm bothered by shadows (my house has terrible lighting) but I see how the dimension you wanted works. How about doing this again with another object?!

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  11. The photographer in me thinks these are incredibly sweet photographs. But the culinary school student in me want to turn that knife away so the blade is facing AWAY from the user - safer. Guess you can't take the kitchen out of the girl, after all!

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  12. Wow, this was fantastic. Thanks for walking us through your process! I'm looking and learning over here....

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  13. Thank you for the run-down on the process, I love reading about others techniques, I think we can truly learn from one another... having various but small props to work with, wood, textures, its limited space, I wanted to ask what lens you are using?

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  14. This is such a great post. I am new blogger and just like many many bloggers I am trying to work on my photography skills and hoping that someday it will get better:) Such posts are sucha ahuge help !

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  15. Wow! Thanks for showing your thought process. I'm in your Visual Voice session at Blog Her Food and so excited to hear you speak. Your photos are a.ma.zing!

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  16. This is a super helpful post...you should post something like this more often...maybe once a month? ^_^

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  17. I love the instagram trick. What a great thought. I use instagram all the time and it never occurred to me that the photos are square...duh. I am not good at visualizing square through a rectangle. I'm going to try this.

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  18. I just found your blog. Yeah! The details behind your photo are so helpful in helping me learn about food photography and make me appreciate the beauty of the photo even more. Thanks for sharing.

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  19. Oh my gosh, I totally love you for doing this post. It really helps more than you know! Thank you!!!!

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  20. Thank you for sharing this! I really need to put more "thought" into my photos...

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  21. thank you for the awesome step by step and your thought process and what you did and why. so helpful!

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  22. Thanks very much for sharing your creative process, it is really helpful! I would never have thought the modern plate could work with the rustic background but like you said, it does make a good contrast. Gorgeous photos :)

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  23. Thank you so much for documenting and showing us the process! I love your shots! :)

    Pei Li

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  24. Great commentary, love the scrim of white sheet. v. resourceful and easy to manipulate. I hope :)

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  25. Brilliant. LOVE this! My friend Cheryl from Tidymom provided this link and I thank her for it! I love your thought process and detailed instruction. Just fantastic all around! You know what? This would be a perfect chapter in a book....

    :)

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  26. Hi there, have just discovered your blog and it's really inspiring me to work harder on my photos too. Thank you for sharing, and wow is all I can say:)

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  27. Oh my gosh, I totally love you for doing this post. It really helps more than you know! Thank you!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  28. The photographer in me thinks these are incredibly sweet photographs. But the culinary school student in me want to turn that knife away so the blade is facing AWAY from the user - safer. Guess you can't take the kitchen out of the girl, after all!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Thanks for sharing your insightful observations. I'm continually working on taking better photos. Especially liked how you broke down your thought process. Sometimes I don't think about little details that make all the difference. Slices but neither orange cut? Makes sense.

    I'm bothered by shadows (my house has terrible lighting) but I see how the dimension you wanted works. How about doing this again with another object?!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Your blog is so incredibly inspiring! I just followed your archive back to the very first post in 2008 and every dish is so beautifully photographed. Can't wait to try to make some of these myself soon!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wonderful post and very helpful indeed! Thank you for sharing your work process. The final photo looks great.

    ReplyDelete
  32. so cool to follow you step by step, awesome idea and thanks for sharing ! looks like a still life painting above, beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hi Mate,

    Have just discovered your fantastic blog! I am really impressed. You take beautiful pics! And all the recipes are gorgeous! Will be coming back quite often though!

    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  34. I loved this breakdown of the process!

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!

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