Still Life Food Project

 At the beginning of January my friend Don sent me a photography challenge- ’52 Weeks of photo inspiration’, so I decided to give it a go. It is a great idea, as not only does it motivate you to use your camera more, it also forces you to think creatively, as it is all based on your own interpretation of the subject. 52weeks

 I do not have a big budget, nor do I have my own studio, so sometimes I have to get a little creative, and make use of what I have available.

I read a tutorial online about creating sunlight in the studio using a soft box and a gold reflector, none of which I have, but what drew me to the article was the subject he was using – a bottle of wine with food on a wooden crate. It was perfect for this weeks subject, which is ‘eat’, so I decided to try and create my own version.

 My first thought was ‘where do I get a couple of wooden crates from’, but then I remembered I had a little wooden wine crate in the kitchen I could use instead. Initially I thought about setting up outside, using some ferns as a background, but by the time I got home from work, it was already getting dark. Never-the-less I emptied the wine crate to take a look at it, and draft some ideas up for when I had daylight to shoot in. I had taken up most of the side space in the kitchen with the contents of the crate, so the only space I had left to put it was on top of the stove. I then started arranging a few things, using some fruit I already had, and a near empty bottle of Pineau. I took a step back to take a look, and realised the tiles behind the stove actually provided a nice background, so I grabbed my camera and took a couple of test shots. It looked pretty good, but the kitchen light didn’t really give the subject much impact and the images looked a little flat, not to mention it wasn’t really lighting the subject well and I was forced to use a higher ISO (i was already using the widest aperture and lowest shutter speed I could use hand held). I suddenly remembered about the overhead light built into the extractor and flicked it on. Instantly the scene looked better, as the overhead light provided a warm directional light, adding some shadowy areas, and i was able to take the ISO down a couple of stops.

dsc_3696  Out of interest, I flicked the main light off to see how the scene looked with just the overhead light, and it looked really good. The shadows were intensified and it looked quite dramatic. It was at this point I decided I was going to do the project here, so I headed to the supermarket to grab some edible ‘props’.

 I came back with an array of fruit, some walnuts, cheese, a bottle of wine, salami and some bread.

I started playing around with the arrangement and switching the props to see what worked best, and if I liked it, I took a couple of shots.

Before: This unedited shot was taken using only the overhead stove light. 
After: Using Lightroom I made a few adjustments to the contrast, and added some clarity. Unfortunately the first slice of salami is not in focus, which is due to the wide aperture I needed to use. In hindsight, using a tripod with a longer exposure and smaller aperture would have alleviated this problem.


Before: I sliced a pomegranate in half (spraying juice everywhere) and propped it next to another whole one.

After: I added a little contrast and clarity to make the pomegranate pop.
Another creative way of making the subject stand out is using selective colour. I achieved this in Lightroom using the individual colour sliders to remove unwanted colours. I replaced some of the orange hue on the pomegranate by using the adjustment brush and setting the colour to orange.
Before: I found the best shots were taken using only the overhead lighting as it gave the scene more impact, but here there is too much shadow on the subject causing the detail to be lost.
After: I increased the shadows to +30 and used the adjustment brush to increase the exposure on the fruit and wine to make it stand out more and retrieve the detail.


As you can see, you can achieve great results without the use of additional kit, and this project only cost me the price of the food, (which I can eat after anyway!).



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