Using Strobes with a Cake
So we're gonna take a minute and set up. We're going to set up my first, Uh, my first set up is gonna be much a strobe set up. That is something that I'm proud off because of where it comes from. So I never got a chance to work for gourmet magazine. But I did end up working with one assistant who worked with gourmet an awful lot, and he helped me readjust my lighting technique. And it's pretty much what there's used to be. So if you ever wonder how gourmet got such beautiful strobe shots that looked really like daylight, we're gonna learn that today. So Okay, let's do it. So I'm gonna use one stroke ahead to start, and we're gonna need to come remove this gun. We're Yeah, because we're going to get in here. I'm gonna go grab that B flat. Never been on a ladder in front of a live audience. I could tell you a really good story about me and a ladder and a bowl of soup in a broken camera on then about nine stitches in my hand. But, uh, and the first thing I did as I was going like this and...
this and the blood's going all over the place was I handed my brand new from five D mark two to my assistant and said, clean that because I had just dropped it in a bowl of soup. So she's, like, go to the hospital and, like, fixed the camera. Okay, we need one of these. Yeah, and then you got the scrim. Great. So this is I mean, this is a really quick set up, and it's exactly the way I would normally do it. So I took this off the frame. You know, normally, these come with these really great frames, but because I do it this way, took it off the frame. What power is this on, Greg? Okay, Okay. This is the lowest setting. Let's start at the lowest setting. And the reason I'm going to start at the lowest setting is important to note, because I want to be able to still get the depth of field that I get with daylight, which is a shallow that the field. And that's not that easy to do with a strobe light. So there are two things that I'm going to do here. Three way already said the 1st 1 We lowered this light to his lowers. It'll go. Then I'm bouncing it into this V, which is softening the light once. Then I'm gonna put this up in front of it, which is going to soften the like twice. So now I've redirected and soften the light. So this should give me the opportunity to shoot it at a more open aperture. Get that softer look which is doing two things. It's giving me that. It is on the ladder and it's also giving me that softer look. That's softer daylight. Look, this is about a one stop. Yeah, this is a one stop scrim. So the one I have in my studio is about 1.6, but that is the set up. So basically, what I've done is I've recreated my window. The window in my studio is not that wide, but pretty wide and basically like the shot we saw earlier where I put the light outside the window basically creating a really big light source. The bigger the light source, the better for food photography. Because really what you want is you want basically this big wash of light that you can frame and redirect any way you like. So Okay, so the soul horses, the zinc, zinc. So let me tell you a story about this surface. So there is a prop house here in New York that went out of business recently or closed? I wouldn't say they went out of business. They just shows to go to. And I bought a truckload of their old surfaces and this was the prize because we were bidding on each individual lot, and this one was in a lot with by itself, and we bid on it for almost 15 minutes before I actually wanted. And so you can imagine what the price ended up being. But so far it has paid dividends. So my collection of crops is We're good for now. Yeah. My collection of props is vast and has taken over my studio, which used to be my home, which is why we moved. So the first thing I'm gonna do is what take the time to thank my friend and chef P. Xiong. Um, he did me a great service by volunteering to make our treats for today, and I want to give him a hand and thank you on the High Street bakery, which also allowed Piche A to use the kitchen and get set and ready, which were so were nearby and were able to get everything over here. So thank you very much. Them as well. Okay, so now that I have this set, I'm gonna do it. We'll test it first, So I got my light meter. You know, this antiquated thing that people use toe take pictures, Um, on they got a trigger for me. Yeah. So what I really want to do is get close to I want to get close to my normal numbers. So my normal numbers to start would be about at 100. I s O about 125th of a second out of around 4 to 4.5 if I get somewhere near there and I could start playing with those numbers if not that, I have to do other things. So if I take this and I'm actually a little bit tiny bit under So if we came up just a hair, I think we'll be right on the number. Yeah, so probably just a little bit more right around. We're right at four. So I mean, I'm going to be able to and I'm gonna tell you another trick that I use when I'm shooting. And this is a very digital thing to do is under exposed just slightly, because by under exposing just slightly, you're gonna always have the opportunity to bring it in. Pope, bring it up in post and usually my colors. I feel a richer and sharper and nicer when I under exposed, because once you start to push your whites out further and further, it gets harder and harder to bring them back. And then once they're lost, they're gone. Unless that's intentional, which at times it is okay. So, yes, each of my light. Yes, I would, because it would be really nice not to be blind. And it might be and the blinding shine off my head Take out the audience. Oh, look at that much nicer. Okay, so I'm gonna attempt this from a couple of different things. Now you saw in my slideshow that I prefer to shoot in this side of sidelight where I have a sharp light coming down into a dark into a dark shadow. I do that very often. The other thing I like to do is shoot directly into the light. So I would approach it from this angle. Okay, Now, this isn't completely centered, so I can drag it over just a little bit, just so I know that I'm going to be right in the middle of my light source. I can also adjust this according to how the light seems to be coming out. So if I feel like the light is washing completely sideways on my angle, the light up a little bit more. If it's coming down this way and I like it that way, and then I'll leave it. So the idea is to figure out once I take a shot what it's gonna look like. So I have a handhold this to for the 1st 1 Um, can I get a black now? That's gonna be weird. Okay, I need to black the other black V flat because I want to put this behind me before I shoot from the top. So? So I had to debate whether I was gonna put the card in front of the audience, which is usually bad, bad thing, or put my back to you. So for a minute, you're gonna have my back to you. So in here. Yeah. So that's my backdrop. So we go off to Black. Great. All right, so we're gonna take the shot based on what I've already we say, OK, so we're a little under, and I feel like I could probably use so a tiny bit under. But I like my highlight. And I feel like all I really need to do is maybe push back a little bit on this side. And to do that, I would use another white card. Maybe a couple of Well, this'll might be a little harsh to start, but it might do the trick. So let's take a look and we are. All right. So one thing I noticed right away is my, my Phyllis. Too hard. You see that little highlight behind the cake? That's no good. I don't want that. So what I might have to do is either shape it by pulling it out a little bit more or adjusting it this way because it's catching that light and reflecting it back along the edge, which I don't want. I'm not. Can you flip back to the one before I am. I could see it there because it's probably coming from the ambient light in the room. But I highlighted it in the other one, and that's kind of almost counterintuitive, right? I added more light to make it Phil, but then I filled the thing I don't want, and that's not what I want to do. So if Greg would help me and hold this out just a little bit further now, of course, if you don't have a Greg when you're working, you can put it on a stand or you pin standing on the floor can also change your angle a little bit. Now if I see what I have, thank you. If I see what I have their I may just increase my F stop to 4.5 to see what that does to this highlighting. But the fact that I'm getting that sharp highlighting along the edge and I'm getting that one hot spot on the top of my cake, I'm happy with that. I like that because now I have a workable file. That's something I'm gonna be really be able to institute the things that I like to do in my post production with this. Now I notice it's a little crooked, which is always me. I'm always a little crooked, carry a little level with me so I can work that out when the cameras on the stand. I can straighten that, but the idea is that the fall off is natural. It's something that looks a lot like my daylight work, and I'm happy with the starting point of this file. It is definitely where I want to be, and it's something that allows me to have some flexibility Now. The other stylistic things I may work on with this is by pushing this all the way back in here. And if Greg will come back for a second, then I get a little bit of a different horizon line. When I get down here and shoot, I'm adding a little bit of a different look to it. So now it's almost kind of floating. There's a little less surface in a lot more black, which is again, another look. It's another adjustment, and it's not so. I didn't really have to play with light that much to make that change, so I'm kind of working freehand the way I would normally in daylight without too many restrictions. I don't work on a tripod that often. I do work on a camera stand. So that's the next thing we're gonna do and show you that when we put the camera up on a camera stand to get that right over the top. Look, um, are lighting my change a little bit because I may I don't need this now, which means I'm I don't know that the daylight that's coming in will change that, and I may have to adjust it. The reality is, I'm looking for a different type of a shot from the top, a very much more detailed shot, and I'm gonna change my settings to accommodate that. So my handheld shot was at 4.5. My overhead shots started eight aperture. So that gives me a little bit more crispness, a little more depth of field down to the surface, but not completely so. It kind of gets softer as we get to the surface, which is what I like, particularly on something that's on a Kate on a stand. So let's bring that in So This is a phobia stand. This is a little bit bigger than the one I have in my studio, but is definitely pretty much the same thing. And, um, yes. So we're gonna make any adjustment in the strobe to accommodate that eight point. Oh, aperture. Okay, Okay. This is not my ball. This is not my tha pan and tilt head. And I think I put it on backwards. It's the beauty of live being live. Right? So that's gonna go like that. Okay. Ah, One of the other things I mentioned here is that the lens that I have on here is a cannon. It is a 2.5 compact Mac macro 50 millimeter lens. So I like to shoot macro lenses as often as possible. I have obviously have other lenses that I shoot, but these are my favorite, and I have two of them. So this is my pocket level. I keep it in my bag all the time for this shop so that when I know that the floor is level, which it's not, then the camera has to match the angle. Now it doesn't have to be mathematically perfect, but it definitely has to get close because if you do not account for it, it will end up becoming a problem. So I lined up pretty much directly over the top. So So now I'm going to just take a test shot based on an estimation rather than getting up there to look through the viewfinder because normally when I'm shooting tethered, I work live and I could see it live in the in the frame. And this is a light a little bit off, just like the floor. Okay? These little things that hang down when you do this will always get in your way, and you eventually get one in your shot, and then you'll learn never to do that again. So let's take one and see where we're at. And OK, we're still at four and our lights too hot. So this is this is where the adjustment come. So we'll go to eight. Can you do that remotely, Or should I do that in the camera? Okay, no problem. So we're going from 4 to 8 and we'll see where we're at. Lined out a pretty good Can we rotate that horizontally if you get the chance? Okay, so now we realize we're a little bit under. So the other adjustment I failed to make when I did that was I failed to make my shutter speed go down. So I'm still at the shutter speed. I was at four, which is why I'm too dark. So I do the counting click method like I've taught here on creative life. I went up five go down. 51 345 So now we're at 48th of a second, which I'm doing daylight calculations, which is wrong. It is not the way to do that. Okay, So what we will do is we will just rsl or we will push that harder. Okay, so let's push that a little harder. How much more do we got in there? Okay, let's go up to know that's our last shot. All right, let's go up one. It's gold. 11 stop. And I'll take that Phil card and then see where we're at. So let's take in all the one in check. Check our light. Okay, So I'm happy. Pretty happy. What I'm seeing on top of the cake with faras light is concerned. What? I want to see more off as I want to see a little bit more of this surface. So what I want to do is I want to put a little bit of a low fill in here because I don't want to do too much on the cake because it's a light color and it's probably gonna be take me out of the range of which I'm comfortable in. But if I take a shot with this down here now, we may get a pull a little bit more out of that dark side. Not a lot. I still want to see dark to light, like the dark, but I don't want I want to see some more of the texture. So in this is that it? That's it. I didn't really get a lot more out of it, so let me get a little closer and see where we're at. And the idea with this composition is the zinc and the cold kind of, and that's better and I could see it, and I have a really good idea toe what? My lighting. I want my lighting toe look like so on. The fly without a whole lot of modifications, was able to get to different lighting setups from that same side lit and two different perspectives that I was happy with that seemingly mimic what I do in normal daylight. Um, and again, with this composition picking the gray pedestal with the great top and then letting the color and the and the difference between the light colored cake and the colors and the cake pop off of the grays and the blacks was the intention. So what I want to do now is show you the difference between and this is sort of my normal workflow. I usually start with the camera up on top and take my overheads, and I bring it up and I bring it down and we could do that shot where I come down a little tighter and really try to pick up a frame. I'm looking at the live you, which is really hard to do with. Okay, So rather than rather than, um, where was I 40. Okay, Rather than take that shot and crop into it if I wanted a closer detail of the top of the cake, lower the stand and get that shot. So let's do that shot. We didn't fire Oh, okay. Well, take it out of hold on. Oh, I know why. Okay, we're good. There it is. Okay, so we get I didn't exactly lined it up perfectly. We got pretty close, but the idea is now. Okay, so I want some or detail out of that, because now I'm not looking at it as an overall composition. I'm looking at it some really fine details. So if I wanted to Now add a little bit back and see if I get a little bit more detail off the top is now my surfaces and as important. So we got a little bit sharper, a little bit tighter on the top. And if I wanted to really highlight the top in the garnish of the cake, I could always add a little bit of light. Now, let me talk about this thing. Now, this is clearly the way I like toe work, because this meant totally mimics the way I work in daylight. But this is always a possibility. So the other thing I might do is bring in the second Strobe. You know what? I think we'll talk about it conceptually rather than bring it in, but if I brought in the second Strobe and did something very similar on the other side, maybe a little bit further away at the lowest setting to add fill. That going to give me more sharpness? It's going to be crisper. It's gonna be a little bit more commercial looking, so it's by adding the other light. It's still achieving the same thing, but you're not gonna get the same exact results. Adding the other strobe as the Phil will give you much more clarity and Christmas. It will give you the opportunity to shoot at an even higher I s O and get real real sharp. But we're gonna go to one other demo here, handheld, backlit. So if I get this out of here without breaking stuff, got it? Yeah, yeah, that can come out. So the other technique I like other than shooting out to black is to shoot right into the light and then figure out where I am from there. So now I need to obviously go back to my old settings, which was at about 100 100 125 at 4 4.5 give or take now, this may not be what I need now, but it's definitely where I'm gonna start, always started the same point and then know how to add and subtract. So if I'm in here now, I want ultimately that light to blow everything out in the background. That might not be strong enough. It maybe, but that's my goal. And there's that. That's exactly what I was looking for. So clearly I have some space on that side, and if I needed to get closer, I could move in a little bit with the table. I'm not gonna do that. What I can do is I'll move the cake closer and try to get it centered in that white background. And clearly I don't even need the Phil at this point. I have enough of a daylight fill in the back side of this in this room with ambient light that it's giving me enough and this is clean. This is exactly the shot that I would normally make in the daylight setting, and I want a demo something after this. So let me see. We were at right. You see how soft and ethereal it gets, and this is a different type of a look for a different type of food or a different type of an approach, and this is something that I have employed in daylight for many, many years as well. So these two basic techniques of where I position the light versus the camera are important. I understand that these are recreate herbal with strobe light, just like they are in daylight. But I want to show you something else. The idea of what where you stand when you shoot food is really important. So as soon as I start to come back this way and I break the plane and I start to shoot with light, no matter what angle on Matt, you could see how flat the food gets. It no longer looks appetizing, and that's the same exact light. Same exact camera, same exact lens. It's just about where I position my body as it is to the light, and it changes the whole dynamic of the feel of the food. It then becomes very flat on appetizing. The lighting doesn't have any ambience to it. It doesn't have any romance. It's no longer sexy food photography. So one of those mistakes that I think people make oftentimes is forgetting that that body positioning and then you get to that point you take the shot like What am I doing wrong? And it's a simple is just put yourself in a different relationship to the light, and that's really it.