Quick Tip – Improve your food photography with glass block

Food Photography | July 13, 2015 | By

Most food photographers will agree that natural light makes for the best photographs.  Unfortunately, it is not always possible to take advantage of natural light.  In these cases you are left to artificial light, usually in the form of speedlights or strobes.  While artificial light can be used to produce beautiful images, it generally requires the use of some type of modifier as, on its own, artificial light tends to be harsh and flat.  Modifiers come in all shapes, sizes, and forms – from the DIY bedsheet diffuser to a professional Softbox.

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On becoming a strobist

Gear | December 2, 2013 | By

Early New Year’s Resolution #1 – Earn my stripes as a strobist.

E-TTL has served me well, but it is time to expand my flash horizons and learn how to take more control over balancing flash and ambient light.  Simple right?  Aperture controls flash, shutter speed controls ambient.  Check.  Wait…what?

As a refresher, I have read (and re-read) David Hobby’s lighting 101 and 102 materials at strobist.com – be sure to check it out for advice and inspiration.  What finally hit home (#head slap) was the fact that, because the flash burst is so short, shutter speed really has no bearing on the flash intensity in the image provided that you are within the camera’s sync speed.   Aperture, on the other hand, plays a big role in the intensity of the flash that will be recorded.  The wider the aperture, the more of that short flash burst that will be captured.

I know what you are thinking…aperture also plays a role in the amount of ambient light that is captured.  True.  However, as you will likely be choosing an aperture based on the depth of field you hope to achieve, shutter speed is the logical choice for adjusting ambient light in the image.  Longer shutter speeds allow more ambient light into the image without affecting the intensity of the flash.

I decided to start simple, photographing kitchen gadgets on my dining room table. I placed a black tri-fold poster board behind the gadgets and balanced a piece of white styrofoam across the top of the tri-fold.  My camera gear consisted of a Canon 7D and two off-camera speedlights: a Canon 580 EX II fitted with a lightsphere, and a Canon 420 EX fitted with a Rogue flashbender formed into a snoot.

I set the 580 EX II to 1/4 power in slave mode and adjusted the shutter speed on the 7D to 1/250 (max sync speed). To be honest, my 420 EX has seen better days so I didn’t try anything fancy – just turned it on, set it to slave mode, and remained grateful that it continued to fire. I aimed the 580 up at the white styrofoam and the snooted 420 directly at the utensil. The Canon 7D has a wireless flash trigger that I used to control the flashes.

I took a series of photos, varying the shutter speed on each shot to find the sweet spot that would underexpose the background but catch the specular highlights on the utensil.  Here are my favorites (post-processed to black and white):

Whisk2_bw_wm

ISO 100 – 50mm – f/22 – 1/250

Whisk1_bw_wm

ISO 100 – 50mm – f/22 – 1/250

Knife1_bw_wm

ISO 100 – 50mm – f/22 – 1/250

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Mastering Canon EOS Flash Photography

Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites