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Lighting for Food Photography: Beyond Natural Light

Lesson 1 of 4

Creating Your Style Anywhere

Andrew Scrivani

Lighting for Food Photography: Beyond Natural Light

Andrew Scrivani

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Lesson Info

1. Creating Your Style Anywhere

Lesson Info

Creating Your Style Anywhere

Hello and welcome. It's really, really nice to be back. I creativelive and it was nice of them to come to me this time. You saved me the pat down at the airport, which is always, always good. One of the things that in my years of doing instruction and some of the kind of interactions I've had with people about adult education and it comes to photography is about this idea of reinventing oneself is about finding some passion later and figuring out that it's something that I need to have in my life. And I need to find more information. I need to grow within this kind of path, something that's different and that experience is something I share with you. But it's also something I have personal experience with. My photo career began in earnest only 14 years ago. Clearly, I've been around a little longer than that, but the reality of it was that I was also seeking to reinvent myself, and I took a passion for something that I learned when I was young and figured out how to turn it into a care...

er, and one of those kind of things was this kind of this unquenchable thirst for learning new things. And when I found myself in that conundrum and I wanted to learn something new or build on something I already knew a little bit about, um, I sought out whatever was available to me at the time. These things were not but being a teacher, which was my former life, I understood that the benefit of this kind of sense of re inventing oneself. So my path was very different in that I wanted to get back into photography in a real way. I saw it out friends, I sought out, um, my social circles in food and in photography, and I started to just experiment and learn and try to grow that way. Then, of course, you get a break. Sometimes you get a break and you have to exploit it and move on and grow into into whatever it is that's kind of opening up in front of you and follow that path. For me, it was getting great assignment and learning how to kind of build that client out in an industry that was still growing at the time. Food photography as we know it now didn't really exist 14 or 15 years ago, it was just growing into itself. There were only a couple of major magazines newspapers were using still life photographers. Things were made of wax, you know, So that allowed me to grow with this. But now we have this. So I intro that way because I want you to understand a story about a former creative life student of mine who is in my first class as a complete novice. Never touched a camera. I knew nothing about food photography. Knew nothing about photography in general. Was there because she wanted to see what it was about. Fast forward. A few years later, she came to my class. She asked questions. She learned. Okay. A complete novice never had done anything before. Fast forward. A few years later, she came to another workshop I was giving and another. And then she sought out other people. Other workshops. Finally, last year in Seattle, she assisted me on a photo shoot. And this was something that we did for another author that we both knew mutual. So she has grown to the point in her career Now is that she is a working photographer. She is assisting top photographers, and she has her own company that specializes in food visuals. So that point of reinventing oneself in a field that you feel like you have a passion for is so possible. And it's so possible here, especially because the people I've met the networks I formed, a lot of it has grown out of the creative life family and that particular person who I think is watching today. I would be very disappointed if she was, um has kind of embodied what that meant for me as an instructor and what I think it should mean for you as a student here and creative life. So with that said, um, I want to move into my, uh, my presentation and I want to talk a little bit about why the title. I've been teaching food photography for about six or seven years, and almost everything I've done has been about teaching people how to manipulate and use daylight for food photography because it is clearly the best way to capture food in a delicious way. This is been my experience and I've been at it for quite a while and it's and it's been very true, But you have to grow beyond that to become a professional photographer in all venues, because your clientele is going to demand things that are different. Your, um, your circumstances going to demand something different where on a day like today, if I needed a shiny bright summer shot, I'm not making that shot Today. I need to figure out how to make that shot and to be a professional. And I've said this before. You need to be able to make your shot every day, anywhere, anytime. Anyhow. You have to be able to make your shot. So developing style is one thing that then being able to recreate that style across platforms and then alter it and modify it to be flexible, for your clients to be able to adapt the multiple styles and then as well talk about a little bit long later, this intense and increasing pressure for photographers to move into motion the camera does the job. Why can't you? Well, that's a different skill set and learning how to modify your own skill set and your style, too, be in that format is really important these days. Even just the basic knowledge I wouldn't call myself a DP When it comes to video, that's not my role. My role is as a director now, but to have the basic knowledge, to understand the cameras, to understand what they do, and especially to understand the lighting that you want. That's when you have a crew and you have people and you could tell them what you want. That's one thing, but you have to tell them what you want. You have to be able to express that. That's important. So with that said, Let's talk a little bit about some of these things So this is the first and foremost thing I've already mentioned. You need to be able to create your style anywhere for anyone in any situation. OK, this looks an awful lot like my daylight photography. It is not that is recreated, that is, with done with strobe lighting that was actually set outside the house, pushing through a window with a ah Phil scrim in the window to create my one sided daylight look. And this is for an upcoming cookbook, which is coming out next week. Art of the Pie by Kate McDonagh, a Seattle native So she's got horrible coming out next week, and this is one of the photos in it and so, but this is a really good example of something that to take the style that I've employed in my work and make it anywhere. We had a cloudy day like this in Seattle, which is very often, and we had to make this picture. So what I did was took the light stand sticked light out the window, put the screaming the window, push it through because clearly, when I shoot in my studio, I'm using window light from the southwest, that ice cream with a big filter. So what did it do to recreate that? I put a single light source out the window and screamed. It filled the whole window with light boom, one sided, light softened and color corrected to make it look the way we wanted to look. So that is recreating my style. But there are times when you're asked to do something different. Now. This was part of a sushi book that I was doing where every single shot had to be stroked because we were doing a how to book about sushi. Every single shot chef's hands of here, Chefs and Zaheer, chefs and Zaheer Knife is here. Finish shot is here. Everything had to match thousands and thousands of images. So when we did it, it had to be perfect lighting that would match all of this process shots. So this had to be Strope again. A little bit of a departure from my style, but something that I was able to adapt to because of strobe lighting. I was able to use lighting to make food, still look appetizing, but still have an opportunity to be consistent with the rest of the project. Now this this is my baby. This is a project that I might be. I'm not even able to tell you what it's about yet, but the reality is I'm given a sneak preview on this. This is a really in depth art project that I'm working on with two other collaborators. But I had free rein to create something that I wanted to create out of my kind of out of my mind and out of the collaboration with two other artists. This has deep hidden meaning at the moment, but I did want to talk about the idea of creating kind of a look that may be a little different than what you're normally used to doing. Like this is what I would consider a fine art look. This is less about food and more about photography. It's really more about lighting and technique and doing certain things to highlight certain parts of this. And I'll tell you a little bit is that the food, the plate it sits on and the way it shot all have very implicit, deep meaning that are all intertwined. So there are. This is interpretive and it's supposed to be, and that's why it was important to shoot it this way. So this was shot again with strobe lighting redirected strobe lighting in a very kind of particular pattern. So a style that is important to me that this kind of side lit, moving light, directional light is important. But it has a little bit of a different sense and feel because of the contour and the texture of the light. Couldn't could not achieve this with daylight. Okay, so we talk a little bit about Strop's today. When we go through some demo, I'm gonna demo two types of lighting that I use pretty regularly beyond daylight. I use strobe lighting, and I use led lighting and led lighting. We'll talk about in a moment, but for strobes about expanding your range as well, it's not just about being able to recreate the things that you do well, but also about doing other things that you hadn't really even thought of before. So this looks like a typical daylight shot. But the ideas I supplemented daylight with a strobe light to make certain highlights come out that I couldn't have gotten just in daylight because once I rotated the barbecue toward the sun, even though it was being filtered, the light was too strong. So by rotating the barbecue away from the sun, get lots of ambient light and then have a very soft Phil coming in from far away on a strobe on a stand filtered a nice soft Phil using that like I would've bounced card but a little stronger. So that's again by expanding my range by using strobes, I'm enhancing my day like photography in a way that I might not be able to do with just the bounce card in a big open area with lots of other influences when it comes to shooting outdoors, and it's very hard to control the sun when you're outside. So that's one way. Another way is to expand your idea of what food photography is into a more commercial sense in that by using strobe lighting by keeping a clean, crisp, very commercial look than something like that has food in it because it's it's supposed to be mawr expressive off food. This was an advertisement that ran for The New York Times cooking app when they first launched it. So this was from a very familiar client of mine being asking me to do something completely different than what I normally do. So I had to create a very commercialized look of what they wanted, and they trusted me to do it, even though it was completely out of the range of what I normally do for them. So that was another way of using strobe lighting to expand the range of what I could do, not just for myself, in my work before, for a very important client for me and giving me an opportunity to go outside of my range. And then this is a very old photo which is the very first strove assignment I ever shot, and basically it was for the business section of The New York Times, and it was asked to do a representation off the Goldilocks economy. Cold, hot porridge, whatever the whole thing. So this was again my first attempt at using strobe lights in my work, and it's not perfect. There are things here that are wrong. I would do them differently. But there's one part of this that I was able to do that I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. And that was about shaping the light in that crescent behind where I am toe let it kind of silhouette out into into space. That was something I was able to do because off strobe lighting and because of being able to use reflectors and modifiers and shape the light the way I wanted to again. It was my first attempt at using Strobe for food photography in this way, and it waas somewhat successful as far as what we're talking about about 10 years ago. But as far as I would be concerned now, I might do it differently. I might use a different technique, but it was the first thing that taught me that I could do things differently if I had strobe lighting toe work with. And this was again something that was for a client that wanted, ah, hard edge. This was for the Museum of Sex in New York City, and everything had to have this kind of slick hard look to it. So this was complete departure from any other lighting I had done, because the texture and the shapes and the form and the hard edge of the light was something that was important to them, to have it look more like fine art because it is a museum but also have the kind of sensuality of food and and the kind of sense off our environment when it was going to be displayed. And this is shot on a light table, which I've done a class for Creative live about a light table once before, And it's something that you can use and utilize in a different way to exemplify different parts of food, especially, and especially still life, by using a light table on what a light table is, is a clear a sort of an opaque piece of plexiglass that creates the tabletop, and then you have strobes above and strobes below. So what you get is this detail that you can't get otherwise, and it also gives a very artistic kind of flair to what you're doing. And it's it's fun, You know, it's a fun thing to do. You can when you can push light through a subject and you start to see almost like an X ray. In a way, it's very interesting. It has application, and sometimes it's. It's an approach that you can take. Teoh, change it up a little bit. Show your client that you have all kinds of range. Okay, moving into motion now. We talked about this very briefly in the beginning, but what I want to talk about is that there are a couple of different situations that I have an example here. One is probably the most common for food photographers being asked to shoot something on emotion set, meaning It's been lit for motion, and now you have to step in and shoot it Now. Normally, the lighting is not daylight balanced in emotion. Shoot unless, of course, it's meant to be that way. But 90% of the time, it's not, so you're going into a set that's not really conducive to what you're doing, and you're asked to make a beautiful shot. Now, of course, the settings and the fact that we work digitally and the fact that we can adjust call a temperature and post production. That's fine. But it's also about trying to use what's in front of you to make the best shot possible. And usually that's about taking a right angle. It's about trying to use. As much reflection is they'll allow you with on the set. And in this photo, which looks pretty commercial at this point, was I was able to use the set that was there. You can see the directionality of the light coming in because I couldn't reposition anything that was there, and I took the same camera angle that the camera that was shooting the video the commercial was taking. So I understood that the light was going to be available to me from this angle and pretty much it from the top angle. And then I brought in a modifier and I was able to just kind of bounce light around just a little bit and use that motion lighting to make the shot. I wanted to again being able to call a balance your camera to tungsten lighting, which this was in this case, or being able to adjust it in post production. To get a look more of a food friendly look is important, but it's also about understanding and using what's available to you. So that was this. This is an example of my led lights, which I'm going to show you in a little bit so I can actually show you the video that we shot. And this is for again on Seattle company called Sons There, and you could see I get the lighting that is very familiar. One directional. It's very clean, and it gives me that that kind of shadow we fall off that looks nice and food photography Now I couldn't have obviously achieved a shot or shoot like this in day light, because the light changes so rapidly that when you have to do a 2nd 2nd and third passes now, nothing matches in post production. So it's really important to be able to recreate the light that you want to shoot it in so if I was shooting stills of this this that would be my daylight approach. This one directional daylight approach let it go off to shadow. Keep it very. Keep it very balanced, This faras temperature. I usually shoot in the Kelvin range of about 48. 50. And I say that number specifically because the reason I have the lights that I brought with me today is because I can dial in that very number. Exactly. And I know that from my when I produced my my, um my photos in post production, I always kind of zero in at that very specific Kelvin number. Okay? And the last thing about the idea of motion with a still camera is going back to stills and back to Strobe to do something like a stop motion. So this is lots of stills strung together that look seamless like a video. And because you can use a strobe light and because you can have the opportunity to string all of these perfectly balanced frames together, it looks like video. So the idea of being trying to do a stop motion, a long stop motion like that one was in daylight would be nearly impossible because that shoot took four hours execute, and by the time you know what the sun does goes away so wouldn't work. Every frame would be different. So the benefits of using different types of lighting for food photography ranges from being able to create new styles. Being able to adapt to client needs, being able to expand your original style and being able to just be mawr accessible and flexible and user friendly as a photographer.

Class Description

Join New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani as he shares how he uses strobe and steady lighting techniques for your food photography. 

In this class you will learn: 

  • How to mimic natural light by using artificial lighting 
  • How to incorporate strobes into your food photography based on your budget 
  • How to use LED’s for a steady light technique to be used in stills or motion tabletop food shots 
Andrew will explain how he incorporates both new and old technologies to create the best food image. By the end of this class, you will be able to create light artificially that reflects your daylight style seamlessly.

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Student Work

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a Creativelive Student

A fascinating introduction to the ways Mr Scrivani uses artificial light, this course provides an outstanding companion piece to his more comprehensive course on food photography. Brilliant work, as always.

Carol Glisson

I enjoyed this class so much that I searched for other related classes by Andrew Scrivani and purchased two more. A nice guy, a good communicator, and obviously a very skilled individual. It was a good investment for me because I learned a lot. Greatly appreciated, I will keep my eye out for more :)

Emma Sammels

Interesting. Looks like I have lots to learn. Thank you!