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Getting Started in Professional Food Photography

Lesson 15 of 21

Oven Shoot with LED Lights


Getting Started in Professional Food Photography

Lesson 15 of 21

Oven Shoot with LED Lights


Lesson Info

Oven Shoot with LED Lights

Let's get going. Are you done, are you ready? Almost. Until we get into the oven, I won't really know. Yeah, we can make tweaks in there. Is that, okay. And we're gonna put the pepper, oh I got you some pepper and some salt, so you want to just sprinkle that on right before we're, Yeah, we'll do it right before the shot. Yeah. Okay. Does that work? Yeah. Okay, let's go with it now, and then we can always bring it back out if it's not, if we're not feeling it. (metal sliding) Okay. Alright Jack, let's take a reference shot. See where we're at. Alright, I already know. I just see immediately. Focal point's off! Yeah. So let's, we want the focal point to be right on the front of the chicken. I'm actually gonna open up, I'm at f3.2 right now, so I'm actually gonna, I'm gonna close down to f4. I think that should be just enough. This actually does have autofocus, but it's really finicky. All right, so that's good. We need to control the light a little bit. I'm actually g...

onna, 2.5, I'm actually gonna put a scrim in there, because the light is actually dimmable, so I believe that might do the trick, actually. It's actually not dimmable much more than that, really. So, let's do a scrim on top. And this cuts a half-stop or so of light. This will soften the blow, for sure. Do you wanna take that shot, Jack, and see where we're? Yeah. So, focus is a little far back. You're hitting the top of the chicken. Yeah, we need to do, let's do f, we'll do 5.6. Let's do 5.6 at, Okay. at 20, and I'll scrim it. Yeah, I would still pull focus forward just a touch. Okay. Exposure's looking pretty good. Forward towards camera? Yeah. See if, I'm gonna scrim it here. Okay. There you go. (camera shutter clicks) The thing about this, doing it by hand, is if you have to scrim something else, or if you have to cut something else, you start to have four hands, and so, you will need to lock these down on stands, eventually. If you're really on a set, I would really have this locked down, so that my other hands could be doing other things. So, we have a highlight, the highlight in front of the chicken's not bad, and it'll go away once I brush it. It'll really, it's actually a really nice highlight. You're gonna, I think you may wanna double-diffuse, 'cause in the speculars, we're picking up this pattern. Oh, I like that pattern. I don't mind that. Okay. Yeah, yeah yeah. That's just part of the chicken. What I do wanna see more is of the legs. I don't know if they can be pushed, even if just by hand. Yeah, I feel like, If it rotates. I feel like the chicken's not quite high enough. Do you think? I feel it's high enough, You think it's high enough? but it needs to rotate, the back end needs to come up a little bit to mimic, at least a little bit. I don't know if they can stuff a little, This guy right here? Yeah, if we stuff a little napkin, or paper towels underneath it, just to prop up the legs, because I don't see much of the legs. Yeah, you don't. Steve, I'd still pull the focus just a hair forward. We're kinda in the middle of the specular, for focus, which, Yeah, well go back. Go back, I wanna see where it lands. One of the crucial things, especially if you shoot shallow depth of field, you'll always be obsessing. Maybe that's why I don't do it, but you'll always be obsessing about where that plane lands, and how it lands. And right now, it's landing solely on that highlight on the chicken, so, I wanna bring it forward, but not too much. I do wanna capture the front end nice and sharp, though. Let's see how that-- I need to take it out. Unless you wanna hold it and I'll stick it in. I can do it. Okay. Live on the edge. Then you can lean in. You're also taller than me. 'Cause that's gonna see it. Okay. You need me more? I think we're good. Take that shot, no diffusion. I just wanna see where the legs are. It is resting low, you're right. Yeah, I feel like it's a little low. Let's fix it. Okay. Let's do it. Just take it out, and don't take it out, but just sort of shimmy, take it out of the oven, but shimmy towels just under it until it elevates maybe like an inch. Okay, just gonna, can I take it out, out? You can take it out, out, yeah, yeah. We'll reassess it. But I'll take any questions that are maybe out there, just watching what we're doing. Right now, we're just trying to get the chicken to be the hero, and right now, it's not the hero. It's just kind of sagging in there. It's not, we want it to be up and happy, and right now, it's just not doing that. So we're gonna get some more towels under it. And then we're gonna start to work on, I'm gonna work on the back, 'cause right now, we just have one thing sticking up back there, and so I'm gonna work on creating a nice, elegant background. And then once that happens, we'll start diffusing, and then we'll add the fog at the end to kind of create a little steam. And then we'll capture that to create the final. So, Steve. Yeah. I just wanted to make sure, in the speculars here, That diffusion will get rid of that, though. Okay. To a point. Yeah, in some of these, I was still seeing that weird sort of hex pattern, almost. Yeah, okay. And I wasn't sure if that's something from these LED panels. It is, it's a by-product of 'em. But usually one, I'll hold the diffusion lower, so that it has more, 'cause if you hold diffusion right up to these LED panels, you're not gonna do a whole lot. The further away it is, the more diffusion it will provide. So I just had it basically stuffed up against that to keep it out of the frame. But we'll lower it a little bit and see where we're at. And then, I like that. Okay. A lot. Yeah, that adds dimension to it. We're talking about the lower lighting of the, in the lower part of the oven. I really like that pool of lighting, I don't know about you guys. And it's gonna be diffused by the fog, once we get that going. Let me make sure this thing is still on. It is still on. So that's working. I just put a leek back there. Yeah, let's brush it. Let's brush it and get... It's very rare you'll get this in one fell swoop. It usually takes a little bit of time, so. And it's okay, the splatter is, because what we're doing here is, we're not styling the chicken anymore. We're actually just mimicking what would it look like if you basted it with its juices. These are pretty dark juices, but they'll sort of drain off the chicken and look really good and moist. All right. (metal sliding) Okay. See how that is. That's better. That's better. And now I'm gonna, I'm gonna go in and just, I'm gonna grab some of these leeks and sort of tease them outward. You don't really see the carrots. You don't really see carrots, either. Do you want some more? No, I'm gonna make sure they do, Basically prop them forward. Okay. The further you go back in the frame, the less, the more elevated they have to be to really show up. So it almost looks weird. It really does look weird. I'll break stuff off all the time and put it in there. And then you want stuff to spread out and really fan out nicely. Let's see. Do you want some more leeks, to push those forward? I think that's, well, let's take a shot and see. Let me get some salt. How's that looking, Jack? It's looking good. So, I'm gonna garnish this with a little bit of kosher salt, or not kosher, flake salt. And maybe a touch of Rosemary. Actually, I don't think it needs it. I really like the surface. I think that's too much grain. Although, that wouldn't be up to me. That would be very, although the cleaner, the better, usually, with commercial style foods, so they wouldn't want a lot of sprinkly or dirtiness or crustiness. It's very sanitary and clean. Even beyond what I'm doing right here. So let's do a diffusion. If you want, do you wanna hold the diffusion panel? Sure. So you can hold it right here, I believe. Take a shot, Jack, and see if that does it. You might be in the frame. All right, the corner of your hand's in frame, but I think we can just clone that out. No, that's the GoPro. That's actually the GoPro in the shot. No, that's the GoPro, and that's Molina's hand. Oh, okay. But that's easy to clone out. Do you want me to move it a different angle? No, 'cause you're just on a black corner, so it doesn't matter. So I'm gonna reflect some light into the pan. You can see the difference there. It adds a little dimensionality to it. 'Cause I feel like it's going a little bit dark, so that's an improvement. And so we're gonna get the fog machine, and we're gonna go after this. The fog machine takes a little bit of time to kind of marinate in here and dissolve. So let me get it filled up now, so we're not waiting around. (fog hisses) (Steve coughs) And that's it, that nailed it. All right, so we're just gonna wait. So the reason I like a fog machine is 'cause this stuff looks really nice, and it looks like steam, but it hangs out forever. So you have a lot of time to kind of check it out. There's different things I use for steam, and for smoke. But they're very, we'll use like incense sticks for smoke. They're really good for that. I'll actually use tampons for steam. I'll microwave 'em with water in 'em, and put 'em behind baked potatoes or corn or, there's a lot of different tricks in regards to steam. But, if you wanna diffuse the top now. We'll get that. All right, take a shot, (camera shutter clicks) and lower the diffusion a little bit. There you go, another shot. (camera shutter clicks) Let's see, Molina, can you get your hand sort of up a little bit more? That works. We'll do it again, we'll do one more. I think we lost the steam. In fact, I know we lost the steam. All right, here we go. It's still, I think that the steam is doing a pretty good job of the diffusion. Yeah, let's try it out that way. Okay. (fog hissing) Oh, my God. (fog hissing) Whew! All right, let me grab my reflector. Want me to slide in there? No, I think, he seems to think it's really diffusing nice, and I think he's right, I really do. That was a nice shot, for sure. So, we're not there yet (laughs). We're taking some time. (camera shutter clicks) You can always, there we go. (camera shutter clicks) (camera shutter clicks) There we go. (camera shutter clicks) That one should work, this one's good. There we go. (camera shutter clicks) (camera shutter clicks) So, you just keep shooting, keep shooting until you get the perfect one. It just, steam does, I like that one a lot. Yeah. I'm looking for any kind of waviness going on, any kind of gesture. I don't like just, steam coming up. (camera shutter clicks) And I don't like Photoshopping this stuff. You can always put steam on a black layer and insert it later. It just never works. It's always a little bit off. Take another shot with, we have one with the reflector, okay. Yeah. So that, we like that one. Let's do that one. That one's, yeah. This one's pretty good, too. Go back between the other one. No, I like the one with more dark, that one. This one? Which one do you guys like better, left or right? Right. The right. Yeah, I do, too. There's more room for it to breathe. There's more room for the eye to go. And I do this a little bit light, going down to the bottom of the rack, because it's kind of being under-lit, so you can still see the grates, and I feel like we're getting plenty of diffusion with that. Yeah, definitely, we're not, if stuff's hot, you can see from the, when I turn the exposure warning on, where things go red, that's showing it's getting close, but when I'm looking at it, we've got almost nothing that's, Bring in just a touch of highlight. And bring up just a touch of shadow, like a degree or two, not a lot, but a fair amount of highlight. And a touch of clarity, just do a little quick job on it that you would normally do. But yeah, I'll take any questions from, I think that's gonna be close to our final. But we'd love to get your feedback, too, and what you see and what you would, what you like and don't like, what you would change. We did have a comment online that was about the pan handle, and wondering if that was, this is SnappyGourmet, who says, "Is the pan handle in front of the frame, "does that mesh well?" Do you know what I mean? Yeah, but I mean we would be selling, we're not selling, it's what you're selling. Great. You're not selling the chicken. If you're selling the chicken, then no, no, no, no, no. You'd probably take that off. Or turn it more. Which we can do, but I feel like the handle is, it looks more natural. 'Cause you're not gonna put a pan in the oven and just rotate it. But if we were selling the chicken, there's no question, I would probably go higher by a little bit, and also turn it, so that is a good point, for sure. Artistically speaking, yes. But there's a lot of branding issues, because we're selling, this is gonna be like a macro shot of the oven in action, as opposed to the environmental shots. But this is a really good example of that. But yeah, the chicken needs to look, it needs to be the hero, still. But the appliance does, too. But let's, we can turn it and see what happens. But I think that's a valid point, for sure. It's just good to hear the different thoughts that you should go through, and also reiterate what's the purpose of the image. The commercial photography side, you're no longer just an artist. So you have to let go of that a little bit, and sort of think, I think a lot, I tend to hang out with people in the art direction community, I don't hang out with a lot of other photographers. And I sort of try and think like the agencies or the brand is gonna think. I try and get in their head, because in the end of the day, I'm creating art for them, and they're paying for it. And it really it a matter of me being able to execute. I find that fun, and you have to find that part of it fun, or commercial photography will, I mean if you're a true, if you're a genuine fine art photographer, and you're looking for that moment in time that cannot be replicated, that's an amazing thing. But if you're gonna be a commercial photographer, it's completely different. It's not about you anymore. It's about who is asking you to do the job, and you've gotta think like they do to be successful. Really really great point, thank you. So a question had come in from E Gold Media, who asks, "Why are you using the scrim, "as opposed to shortening the exposure time?" What's the difference in effect, using that scrim? That's a good, I mean that's something I hit on a little bit earlier, but I love, okay, so when I have an exposure of the main object, an exposure range that is acceptable, and the hero looks fantastic, I'm not thinking, "Oh, my God," 'cause in a camera, you can be like, "Oh, my God, the highlights are blown out, "I gotta knock down the exposure." And you're thinking, "I can bump up the shadows later," which always ends up in noise. There's a lot of noise that comes in, even with the medium formats, if you bump up shadows too much, so I get the base exposure how I want, and then I actually go in and create my own success just by going over every single area that is blown out with a small scrim. That's why I have all those dots and everything, and I'll actually have sets where I clamp, I have a bunch of super clamps on the side of that oven, and all different kind of arms are going in, and there's little pieces of foil that are reflecting on, you can have just a little mirror reflecting on just one piece of vegetable or the chicken. So it can get really, this would be a good shot, but you could really, really take this, as long as you have the time and the tools to really go in, and so I knock down highlights on my own, in short, yeah. Whereas, taking the exposure down would force you to bump the general shadows upward, which wouldn't be good. As we've talked about, there's so many different tools that you can use. If you look around your studio, there's thousands of things in here. Where can people go, what are some resources maybe online, where people can go to find little tricks and tips, or things that sort of, whether it's for prop styling, or all the little things that you use, the Elmer's Glue, those types of things? Or is there? I mean, I first started, when I was still a chef, I looked at food blogs. That's kinda how I saw, that's my exposure to food photography, was just food blogs, and people shooting in their homes, like I'm helping you guys who will continue to pursue, because I shoot at home on occasion, too. Not as much as anymore, but the resources online are endless. And I'm hoping to take this, and not only give you kind of a set of tools, but sort of give you a philosophy of how, of where to take things, and kind of a state of mind of how to get to a certain place, but then feel comfortable pushing it in a specific direction. That's really important. And especially when I get into the business of marketing, that's also gonna be sort of an eye-opener for you guys as to how to really get those images, once you have them, out to the world. And when to do that. Not too soon, not too late. Did that answer your, what was the original question? Well, I kind of combined a couple of questions (laughing), which was really like, the tips on how to keep food looking good, whether it's the chicken and all the different liquids and things. Oh, the Delores Custer book is where I go to incessantly. What was it again? The Delores Custer book. It's just called Food Styling, and you can still get it, I'm pretty sure. But it has, it takes a long time to go through that book, because everything is like, "Oh, my God, "Now I have to learn, that's gonna take some time to learn." Ice cream styling is the hardest. I did another class where I showcased ice cream styling, and it was a lot of work, and I did it by myself, and that is asking for trouble. You do not wanna style ice cream by yourself in a warm room, it'll be a mess. You have to work really fast. You can do it. You can open up your freezer, but it won't be a chest freezer, so it's just gonna, the cold's just gonna come pouring out. So, there's a lot of things to learn, working with a food stylist. If you're a pretty good food photographer, there's gonna be food stylists who just would like to shoot with you and just get to know you, and so don't be afraid to kind of just go out and ask people, "Hey, do you wanna shoot together?" Even if they're just an amateur, or they're working up the ranks of food styling and you're working up your ranks of, you can really form a relationship that way that will blossom, and you'll know each other like crazy by the end of it, once you're pro or semi-pro. Those relationships last a long time. So, just to not feel like you have to do it on your own, because you really don't. But you can (laughs). But you don't! You don't have to. You can, but that's the different stages that people are in, as well, in their journey. Yeah, but you can always find really amateur food stylists who are really looking to get into, or just chefs who wanna learn about it, or do something fun, or shoot their food. So, yeah, there's a lot of options. I do have another great question. Of course, we are photographing here for the class, we're kind of doing that probably more quickly than you might in a normal shoot, with a client and all of that. How long do you generally spend, if you're here and you're with a client, on a particular setup. I know it will vary, but what modifications have you made because you're teaching at the same time? Okay, I'll always be really vague, especially with money numbers and how long stuff takes. Every time I say it depends, I will also at least give you something to chew on, as far as why it depends. And we shot 50 images in one day for a salt company. Fifty. Retouched. And we shot one, Processed out. During the summer, last summer, we shot one in a day. And it wasn't even a hard shot (laughs). But you have to wait for people to get back to you. I mean, there's people who we work remotely. We have clients who are coming in from the East Coast, who have to work remotely, with the mothership, I guess. The company that, the brand, and the Art Director will be in town, but the Brand Manager will be out of town. And they have to communicate, and sometimes that's super slow. So you have to be able to wait, and really act on their feedback once you get it. Because they're busy, too. They're off in meetings or doing stuff all over the place. Some aren't checking their phone all the time, and it's just, yeah, it's completely different. So you have to be able to execute 50 in a day, which is unusual, pretty well. So you have multiple sets going on, but these were little vignettes, so it's a web-based thing, and it was a good job. But we executed all 50 in a day, and the other time, we were just kind of talking about our next shot for quite a while before we got the instructions on where to proceed from there. So it varies an enormous amount. That's why you have to be so flexible. And happily flexible. And that's why, again, it's so important to know, sort of what all these different options are, working in this field, which is why people are here today. Just kind of understanding what it is, that are all the different options of things, 'cause you wouldn't know, necessarily, out there. I think we did actually have one more question. So let's try to squeeze that one in, as well. Can you stand up, please? Oh, yeah. So when you're waiting on an Art Director to get back to you, or the brand person to get back to you, is your food dying? What do you do? What do you do to combat that, or? (laughing) The nervous laughter Jack and I have, going back and forth, yeah. No, the food, it's up to us to execute the images, no matter what. No matter what their timeline is, 'cause they're the most important thing. The client's happiness, and the agency's happiness, and whoever's involved in the project. So you're the last person who gets to be happy. So you are in charge of just making something happen, no matter what, but we will get, sometimes you'll have a shot that's on set. Luckily for us, it was just a produce shot. And because it was East Coast, we weren't able to get feedback until the next day. So we had to have, we put Saran Wrap over it, and just let it go. And then we basically used that as the stand-in for the next day's shoot, once we got all the feedback of the carrots not the right size, or these small packaging shoots can be really intense, because there's these minute things that you have to do. Like that one little thing, and all of the sudden the entire thing tumbles over, or a t-pin comes out, and then you have to just build it from scratch for the next hour. Doesn't happen to us very often, but we will get feedback the next day, and have to rebuild the set, for sure. You just have to do it. But it varies quite a bit. Locally, I've had things where there's so many people on set, I mean, there's people actually, I've had shoots where nobody knew the art direction going into the shoot, and they would just pick stuff off the walls, and that's normal and that's totally fine. But they have to understand the limitations of that approach, and what can be accomplished in a day if they do decide to go down that road. Have to rebuild a set, and you, how do you factor that into your pricing? Do you figure that you're gonna have a couple of days when you're working with people on the East Coast and factor that in? Or is that a day that you eat? What's surprising is that the person in charge of making the decisions, whether or not they're in your studio or not, will start to make quicker decisions as time goes on. It's crazy, they'll kind of really be on it. Especially the last day. So we'll get like four shots done the last day. So we've never had, I've never, in a shoot, gone over, ever gone over time, 'cause we're expressing to the client, this needs to happen for this to happen, and this to happen, and we buffer in a little bit of time. Especially if we know the client, and know that they get back to us more infrequently, or if they're really on top of it and they're on set, and we have a really good working relationship. We know we can bang out 10 in a day. But pricing, I'll get into, and I have an approach that doesn't let you get into trouble, one way or the other. It's based on the value of the final images, regardless. And there will occasionally be overages, if we have to rent a different camera to get more resolution, or we'll eventually go over a day. There will be times when we do that. But it tends to be that shoots, I don't like that to happen. Everybody wants to get out, and so we make sure that we express, or just get a second shoot if they can afford it. But it tends to be, I will shoot stuff, if it's our fault, I'll make it happen. It's rarely, we get it done. We just get it done. There's really no way around it. That's how you know kind of when you're ready, is you just, like if you're a chef, you don't get to say, "I just don't have that entree, "I didn't feel like doing it," or, "I didn't get it done on time." There's no, you kind of sneak, you just don't take your break, or something to just make it happen until it goes out. There's a lot of stuff I learned in the kitchen that translates to the photo studio, because nothing really gets me fazed anymore, 'cause kitchens are just a crucible for even-temperedness and other situations, I guess. Or a lack of patience, I'm not sure which, but (laughs)

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

With the advent of social media foodie culture, food photography is everywhere. The market is saturated with top-down smartphone images of cappuccinos, barley salads, and elaborate toast. This represents a real opportunity for photographers looking to expand their businesses. Professional photographers are in a position to provide high-quality, captivating images of delicious food for clients eager for an alternative to stock photography and social media images.

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

  • How to shoot a beverage, main course, and dessert.
  • How to light and style your shots to get the most compelling images.
  • How to build out your basic studio gear to get the most out of your food styling and photography.

Steve will walk you through the basics of becoming a food photographer by drawing on his own experience as a chef, certified food stylist, and photographer. You’ll learn about the equipment you’ll need; how to interact with food and prop stylists, and direct them during a shoot; how to work with digital technicians and editors; and you’ll learn Steve’s tips for marketing food photography. 


Christy cwood56

This class has appeal for the beginning food photographer as well as the photographer that is already a bit further advanced on the path. There is quality info about gear and other logistics for the beginner that is absolutely necessary and establishes a strong baseline of knowledge. When Steve starts to shoot then the magic really starts to happen as we get to see into his creative process, how he styles, how he problem solves, how he continues to push the envelope until he comes up with his incredible images. That was the most enlightening part of the whole class...being able to observe an artist in his creative zone. Steve is a master at what he does and whether you are a beginner, intermediate or even advanced photographer, there is something for you in this class. It is well worth the minimal cost of the class. Part of the value of purchasing this class is that you can watch it again and again and again and each time you will walk away with boatloads of info. It is one of those classes that you will go back to again and again and use as a reference point for improving your images. Thanks Steve for being willing to share your gifts and talents to help others! Awesome day!

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