Capturing Food in Motion

Lesson 4/21 - What is Commercial Photography?


Capturing Food in Motion


Lesson Info

What is Commercial Photography?

This is taking commercial photography to another level. When I started to do food photography, I was experimenting with splash photography in my home studio. And when that started to take off, I started getting a lot of attention for that. And I'm not the only person doing this. There are a lot of photographers who specialize, maybe not even specialize in splash, but can do it. Just like us, we have a gallery on our website that's only splashes and crashes. We have a gallery that's only food and beverage. Now, those were flipped. The splashes and crashes were originally first, and I still need to work on locally. So, I had to flip 'em. Because a lot of people just want food photography. They want, they're not looking for excitement, but what will happen is I've worked with people who, we had basic product shoot, or we had a basic food shoot, and at the end of it, they said, "Hey, let's make this. "Let's do a splash image at the end of it." So, that was something I could add on to a reg...

ular shoot, and offer them the most couldn't, or wouldn't have the experience to confidently handle in a commercial setting like that and be able to pull it off. So, it's something that we not only do for, solely for campaigns, but it's also something we offer to our regular clients who want something unique 'cause it does stand out. And it also shows, if it makes sense, like that knife shot, if it shows your product in action in a cool way, it's memorable. It's not just a knife. It's a knife doing something and creating an impact. And we also are exploring with cinemagraphs, creating liquid splashes that are constantly moving in cinemagraphs, where it's a still image, but there's a motion element. So, transposing my donut image with the coffee splash into something that is actually moving, but it has to be repeatable action, something that can move. So, we're gonna be experimenting with that. So it's just an added bonus in regards to what you can offer you're regular clients, but you need to remember that if you're gonna specialize, well, you're gonna need to be close to the airport, 'cause you're gonna be gettin' in a lot of national clients and a lot of local clients just aren't gonna be as into it. So, you have to market to both. I have two separate portfolios and one that combines the two. I have a portfolio that's only splash work, and I have a portfolio that's only my traditional work. 'Cause some people just don't need it, a lot of people don't need it. It's rare. This campaign that we have discussed is rare because it really matched my style, and it was the perfect fit for me. And that doesn't always happen; you have to, you have to make some concessions in every commercial setting. So, the first thing is working under pressure. I can't tell you how much pressure it is when you, when you have a product that you know is delicious and you have it on set, I know I can capture that image perfectly, it's gonna be great. When somebody asks me, "Can you capture watermelon "being exploded on the ground?" , perfectly with the sketch we provided and the pieces going in this direction so that's a lot of pressure. And you have to have the, it's really mostly about the experience in your eye. Once the gear is in place, and they're always specially secured to make this happen, and I've gone over it, but once that's in place, then I truly forget about it, and I'm only concerned about gettin' the pieces. So, what we'll do is, to alleviate some of this pressure, we will get, there's a lot of pre-production. We have to build any tools that we think we're gonna' need to make this happen, or I'll work with a rigger in Chicago. And we will conceptualize, we will pre-conceptualize any issues that will happen with the image, so that's crucial, because there will, if you think things go wrong in a food photography setting, the splash stuff, stuff always goes wrong. Things die, lenses get splashed on, so you have to have backups for your backups. So, we just pre-conceptualize all the issues, and then we will basically get a base plate that we feel is the best that we can get in one shot. So we'll just keep tryin' and tryin' and tryin' until we get that one shot where we're excited about it, and we see it, and we're, "Whoa!", that's a great shot. Then, we proceed to grab elements that are in addition to the layout that they're looking to have, so if there's a piece, let's say it's a watermelon crashing on the ground, but there's a chunk that they wanna have coming out this way, and they have their logo or something in the upper left, so we have to make sure we get a picture of the scene before we shoot which is probably the most important thing so you can blend out any splatters that get on the background or blend out anything. And we'll show you that in Photoshop. So, first, take a shot of your set as it's going to be. So, you commit to an angle, then you take a picture of the set so it's clean, and then you start to go to work. That way, you have a base plate to draw from, and then, so you'll get that perfect shot that, in one shot, and then you'll add pieces, or you literally do it piece by piece, like that splash shot that had all the tropical fruit, that was piece by piece. Every single component was different. We shot the ingredients first, so that we didn't ruin the set with the splashes. And then, we just threw milk on it, and just went crazy and just, until we ruin the set, 'cause even when you think you got the shot, you didn't. It's blurry, or something. There's images where we feel like we nailed it, but then we zoomed in and there was like that one corner that was blurry, and we're just like, so we have to shoot it again. And problem-solving is really, you have to be kind of a Macguyver with, you have to have a knowledge of grip gear, because I can go over a lot of different gear, but it won't cover everything. There will always be something where you have to jus' jimmy something using rubber bands and tin foil. I'm not kidding. So, just having A-clamps around from Home Depot and having these basic tools, rubber bands, just having a lot of this around allows you to problem solve. And that will happen a lot in each shoot. And finally, the client's vision is the most important thing. So if you're shooting for real, for a job, it helps that you have a lot of knowledge in just basic food photography because this, that will come in handy when you do this. 'Cause everything kinda' comes naturally so you can focus on the fact that there's a lot of motion going on and all the crazy elements that are kinda' outta' your control. Every time you throw something, you can't tell it where to go. And the work tool doesn't always really help you. In fact, it can really degrade your image in a hurry. So, getting it right and getting it to match what the client wants is difficult. But as long as you're able to kind of, preconceive what's, or preconceptualize what's gonna happen in advance, you can already solve those problems by the time you get to set. And you'll see us, when we go back here and shoot, we're gonna make some mistakes on purpose. We're, in fact, I'm just gonna fling liquids, too. There will be a point, a lot of our shoots are just stuff being thrown, and there's liquids going everywhere and stuff like that. 'Cause we're not gonna be doing these multi-day Photoshop efforts that we have to do on some of these campaigns. We want you to be able to do it at home, and get it in one shot, or maybe a few layers. But that's really the point, so you can take some of this home and actually do it. 'Cause when we do post-production, it'll take maybe a week to get one, a group of shots done. It takes a long time, or it doesn't. So, it really depends on the shot. What would you start with, sort of, liquids, or would you start with crashing, if you're just starting at home? What do you think is not easier, but more attainable? Crashing is dangerous, Okay. crashing is, uh, so I will, uh, I'll tell you a story about my first. The first image I captured in one shot was a peanut butter and jelly image that I showed my other class where we, it was me and a camera just like this with the same exact set up. This is really my go-to set up, but it doesn't have to be yours. So, mess around with it, but I had a, I had bought a bunch of jars of peanut butter, and I'd bought a bunch of jars of jelly. And I wanted to do a peanut butter and jelly closure shot. In fact, I did a whole series, most of which didn't turn out and were terrible, of flavored combinations colliding with each other, so peaches and cream, coffee and donuts, flavor meshes in a collision shot. We, featuring liquids as well, so there was glass and liquids, but the peanut butter and jelly shot was the messiest and most dangerous thing I, I had, because I wasn't as experienced and I didn't have my mise en place all, everything kind of laid out and ready to go and I didn't have the proper hand protection. I didn't have anything. I was jus' messin' around, makin' mistakes because I knew I had to get over that hump of just messing around. You can't just dive into this. So I had one in each hand, and I turned the camera timer on, and the trick, if you're doin' this solo, is to have really heavy duty gloves, have a camera on a 5-second timer, but also have it take multiple shots, maybe like 5 shots. So you have a timer and then, the shot intervals are 5 shots within each within a half second of each other, or something like that. So when you go ahead and do it, you'll see the first couple shots go off, so you're already timing for that third shot, that's really what aim for, so I'll have something in each hand standing behind the camera and the two shots will go off and then I'll know when the third shot's gonna happen 'cause I'll already be in a groove so I can just go '1-2-3-Bam', and more often than not, you're gonna get it. Most of the time when you first start, You're gonna get the shot as it's colliding, which isn't exactly that exciting. What you're looking for is the result of the crash, and the result of the liquid splashes. So what I'm looking for, is a triggering that happens right after the splash. So you can do this on your own, but if you're doing a timer, you don't have the luxury, I have the luxury with Jack here, of kinda' havin', doin' it by feel, where I, where I capture it right after the action happens, and I'll get way more keeps and selects, and when you're dealing with glass and jelly and peanut butter together, it creates this dangerous slurry of broken glass. It's the most, I mean it smells good, but to clean this up, I actually had to scoop it out of the table I was using, and I did it with, I had, I was sort of an idiot at that point in regards to this, but I cut myself, my hands, and it was messy and I wasn't expecting it to be that messy. Because it's different than liquids, it doesn't get everywhere, but where it does get, is this hodgepodge, so you really have to double bag it, and you have to hope that nobody pushes down on your garbage. That's really important to do. Warn people when you dispose of this stuff 'cause it can be really dangerous. I have to tell people after we do crash work to kind of tighten the bags, but especially if you're home, and somebody goes down to make more room in the garbage and you have this slurry of broken glass, and that's not good. So, safety is really important. But as far as capturing a really good image, I think the crucial things to remember are really to make sure to do a lot of testing, and you'll get in a groove. I set this up this morning. I came in here, and there was nothing here. And I set everything up because I just know what my starting point is and then those lighting diagrams that come with the classes, they showcase some starting points that I go to, and this is one of them. But what'll happen is we will shoot and then we'll see that this light is lighting way too much in the background. Or we like that, or there's not enough light. So if there's not enough light, I'll take the front backfold off, it'll tend to really throw more light on the scene in general so I don't have to make any exposure adjustments. If it's too much light, then I have the A-crates that I can stretch and make these strip boxes hyper-dimensionalized and so that they just go straight forward. They don't spill any light onto the background really at all. So this can go black in a hurry. So when we're doing crosslighting like this, we have a lot of options. Another lighting technique that I see a lot of masters of splash photography in the business use is overhead lighting. So then, you only need one overhead light. So if you have, say, two of the speed lights, one just wouldn't be enough, especially for this kind of scenario, but it depends on how big your set is, but if you have two, maybe, hanging down over the set, you could really get some cool effects doing that, or, just have one strip box coming right over. And the benefit that this provides is it provides a really dramatic lighting. It also takes your surface and the surface becomes the reflector back into the, back into the, so if you have a white table top, it will reflect light back into your product, so it looks really cool. So you basically have the same lighting scenario only flipped over. If you have a dark surface, it won't do it as much. So, if your surface is in the shot, you'll lose that secondary reflection that looks really nice. That's why I didn't like it as much. I liked the control. I wasn't afraid to get these dirty, and I liked the control of the edge lighting. And what I'll do sometimes is have one as the key light. This one will be closer and it'll be raking across the front of the scene so my depth of field is right here. This one will be raking across the front, and it'll be creating all this texture. And then I'll actually have the second strip box either behind on this side or behind on that side, actually illuminated from the back. So I'll actually be doing sidelighting and backlighting at the same time. So what happens is when you throw olive oil or orange juice or whatever in the front, you see the front and it's lit from the front from the side and you see all the cool texture in the orange juice which is crucial, especially for milk shots where you're looking for every piece of texture so it doesn't get blown out to white, this allows the texture to appear, but also the amazing translucency of honey or orange juice to kind of come through. So, you get double duty on these lights. And then, I just, I'll put a, what I'll do is I'll put white acrylic on this side to act as a reflector and a protected barrier so it goes right down the tube so you're not splashing everywhere. So that's a really, that's another lighting set up that is really helpful to use. But that's it, if you wanna' have, really focused light on this, you can actually take one of these down and just put a gobos or you can put a snoot on it, and you can have very directional light so it focuses just on one piece of the scenario so you have an overall lighting, a reflective card, and then something focusing on the hero, so whatever that may be. So, that's really helpful, but you do need it to be a strobe, and you can actually, I believe you can mix and match, I've never done this, but I'd love to try it, you can mix and match strobes like this with your speed light. As long as your speed light was triggered by the other light, you could use that as a more directional component to this. So those are different lighting scenarios that we use. I tend to have this be my go-to scenario, and then I'll mix and match, or I'll adjust from there. But, it's good to have this starting, so you know where start. There's kind of a, everything's zeroed out, the camera's zeroed out, we're at F16, 250th of a second, 8000 flash duration and two strip lights with the background and a water tank at the bottom.

Class Description

The food in an image is quite another thing from food on a plate in front of you. Food photographers have the challenging task of recreating the many sensations that draw us to a good meal - its aroma, warmth, the anticipation of taste - using only one of the senses. To bring foods to life in pixels and on paper, Steve Hansen liberates them from the stationary plate. He captures them in motion, crashing and splashing into each other.

Join veteran photographer Steve Hansen for this course, and you’ll learn:

  • How to capture your food in action by using the right flashes and strobes.
  • Which lenses and settings to use to capture your food and liquids in vivid motion.
  • The basics of post-processing for images of frozen motion, and how to enhance the image you take in-camera.

It will be fun and messy - the audience will be wearing slickers to protect their clothes from flying food and liquid. In addition to learning about the technical requirements for capturing food in motion, you’ll learn how to sell your images to editors, websites and magazines. Develop the confidence to bring more advanced techniques into your food photography practice, and make your photos stand out in the crowd.



This course is so fun to watch! I love how hands-on this course is even while watching it 3000 miles away on the other side of the country. I love how Steve Hansen is like a mad scientist just throwing food everywhere just to capture the "right moment". It's great to watch a professional at work especially the behind-the-scenes that we normally won't ever know just by look at the final product. It's amazing how much work goes into this and actually gets me excited to try my hands on capturing food in motion as well - first need to find a place that allows me to get it messy :D I do prefer this type of course set up than the lecture-style some of the other courses are.

a Creativelive Student

This course will NOT disappoint! So much quality info that can really help a photographer move to the next level. To see the actual shoots with food flying everywhere and how to capture all of it and turn it into an incredibly stunning image is worth every penny of the price tag. To spend an afternoon with Steve on a one to one basis would cost more than most of us could afford but that is exactly what this class offers! We see into the mind of an incredible artist and his creative process. This class has been invaluable to my personal education as a photographer. There is so much here and I will continually come back to it again and again to learn and refine my techniques and images. You opened up a world of possibilities to me with this class! Thanks Steve!!!

a Creativelive Student

I attended this class in person and I found it to be wonderful. Steve is awesome at what he does and he is great at explaining what he is doing and why he is doing it. This course will lay out all the steps needed to help you create awesome splash and crash photography. I highly recommend it.