Yesterday I tweeted about heading out on a food shoot (“Today is all about shooting Food. Normally not my thing, but looking forward to figuring it out“) and had some great comments,suggestions and reference links sent – it was those comments that got me to write this post and follow up a little more.

The project was fairly straight forward, I needed to capture some simple food shots that were going to used in a restaurant opening in a couple months. James Calder who is doing some branding work for them got me on board. James knows me pretty well, we have worked together on numerous projects over the years. He knows I am not a food shooter, but we talked more and I finally said… why not. How hard could food photography be?

I am not discounting food shooters, you guys are in another league. I get that. I was simply asked for basic shots of a few plates which I felt I could do. I started planning.

I was not going after the table setting.. the objective was simply dish shots. I was going to use a light tent and one highlight source I could tweak to provide lighting options. It just made sense for me to do this. I also knew I would shoot with my 85 1.2 to have the options to selective focus.

Then a few mentions came at me about my tweet. Which made me stop for a couple of minutes and think.. why am I shooting food?  Truth be told I could care less about food. I enjoy a good meal sure.. but there is nothing about food that I find exciting……..but the fun part of photography to me is diversity in subjects. I did not get into photography to shoot the same stuff day after day. This was a chance to do something different.

The direction had some mention of selective focus action, and folks at @spatulamedia (who know their food imagery) tweeted back about tilt shift. It was something I thought about and felt I could pull that off with some big apertures.

@pixelstoryphoto (who’s work I respect in design and photography) mentioned he might not go the light tent direction. Hmm had me thinking again.

So I checked out a few forums.. and the first sentence I read caught my eye  “have never heard of anyone shooting served food with a light tent” – instead of confirming more doubt.. this really was the motivation to see if it would work. I went over this in my mind and thought how wouldn’t it work….AND I also read this about one hour before I was to leave to the location.. so I stuck with my original plan.

The restaurant is under construction, so we were shooting at the clients home. I set up to shoot outside with a light tent, right smack in the bright sun. I did have the sun positioned slightly behind the tent, but it was around noon so it was also pretty high in the sky at the time. I also knew I needed some big apertures so I needed more diffusion then normal. I did not set the full tent up.. I left it open in the front to accommodate a higher shooting angle then the tent provides. I used the front and top of the tent to further diffuse the light on the top. This still was not enough, so out came the Westcott 7 ft umbrella to add another layer of diffusion. This created an even.. very flat light. The missing ingredient was a reflector. I went between white and silver.. and found I liked what silver did. Using silver allowed a greater range of highlighting options.

That was basically it. We tested one plate. We studied the lighting and shooting angles.. and quickly had our direction for the main shots, as well as the plan for options. (its always about the options).

Here is a shot of the set up I grabbed with my phone: (ignore the black umbrella.. that was moved)

It was pretty much a conveyor belt at that point. New dishes rolled in, and after each set we stopped to review.

The run down of each plate was  – a core shot, three rotations covered,  movement of the reflector and focusing to provide different highlighting. The focus was always on the main item and soften on the sides. My aperture mostly was in a 2.5 to 4, and always made sure I hit f11 for each …just to cover my bases. Roughly 10 mins a plate.

It’s still early and I will not have the full shoot processed until late next week, but here are a couple of samples of how that set up shot – not much has been done to these except cleaning the background up a little – Once James works these images, they will look much better. Cut me a little slack on these. I thought this post would be incomplete if I did not show a few images.


I know I am not going to win an award for these shots, but they hit the objective and will be a compliment to the overall marketing for this new restaurant. It was a fun challenge, and enjoyed what twitter brought to the table.

I was also asked how shooting food was compared to people, and truthfully is was not much different. I knew my gear and understood the jobs objective.. the rest was hanging out in the sun with a friend capturing a clients creations.

Light Tent – No idea the size but big enough.
Silver Reflector
Canon 5d MrkII
85 1.2
7ft parabolic reflector
One Manfrotto Boom + Tripod

All shot 100 ISO/RAW/Mostly in a f2.5 world.

I really do not think I will get into the food world, but it was good experience to have for future projects that might have food as a component. Once the full shoot is complete I will share the final images.

Thanks for reading!