There is no recipe in this week’s post. I haven’t been in the kitchen much to bake. I did create a pretty tasty new Mac n Cheese concoction earlier this week but I never photographed it. It was good stuff though.
I decided to take some time to play on the weekend without the pressure of having to come up with a recipe or making something. Sometimes I miss just playing with my camera with nothing really planned – maybe just the snippet of an idea niggling away at the base of my brain.
I got my hands on some of the very popular paper straws a few months ago but hadn’t found the right way to use them in a photo. Most of the photos I’ve seen them in have been in a certain vein and while I love them, I wanted to do something different. I also have a flat of retro glass Coca Cola bottles in my garage. (I say retro, not antique. They’re from the 90’s!). Straws and Coke bottles.
It’s winter though (or almost anyway), so natural light is at a premium. Boooo. I know, we’re all in the same boat right? How to deal?
This is one of those times where I had an idea of how I would deal with the light in post processing before I took the photo. And you know what? It’s ok to do that. Obviously, these aren’t photos showing off food. They’re just, well… “arty”. So I approached them differently.
I will write a post with tips for indoor winter food photography soon. But I thought it would be interesting to show you how this process worked and how the images were post processed. Ah yes… the power of post processing.
Wow, is that not a breathtakingly awesome photo? This was the first photo. Shot on the kitchen table with two pieces of white foam board. The light is bad, the WB is on auto, and the framing stinks (the straw is cut off!). This is how it goes.
I played around with this, rearranged things, played with exposure, white balance and reflectors…. Here’s a look at the first run of images as they were imported into Lightroom:
And you think this photography business is easy??? What a mess! But you can clearly see where I changed my white balance, where I tried a reflector, where I used a dark reflector and where I used a light one, and where I used exposure compensation. This was all lit with an overhead kitchen light.
Eventually, I got a feel for the lighting I wanted (image 6 was the closest) and decided this would all work a lot better if I zoomed in and got closer. And here was the first image I was happy with and how it progressed through post processing:
The first is the image straight out of the camera, shot at 100mm, f/2.8, 1/80th, ISO2500. The second had the WB flipped to Tungsten in Lightroom and the exposure bumped up by +0.45 (good bye orange glow!).
The third applied a Lightoom develop preset called Creative – Split Tone 4. Essentially, that increases the exposure even more, as well as upping the Recovery, Fill Light and Blacks sliders while decreasing the saturation slider down to zero. Then it adds some split toning. All of these are legitimate dark room techniques that could be done with film. I finished up by sharpening it further in Photoshop:
You’ve come a looooong way baby!
And then I played some more. Moved in a little closer, shot from above, used a spray bottle to get some moisture, changed my focus… until I knew I had what I wanted. And then I played in Lightroom, using the almost the same settings on each photo so I would have a nice series that worked together.
See how having a shallow depth of field (aided by a small f-stop of 2.8) and changing up your focus point can dramatically change the look of a photo? All the other settings were the same on both shots!
And this was literally the last image I took in the series and my favourite:
This image used the same Creative – Split Tone 4 Lightroom preset but I tweaked it considerably by using a stronger contrast.
All of these image also made use of the Luminance slider in Lightroom to cut down on some of the digital noise introduced by desaturating and increasing the exposure of the photo. But, I wanted some grain because that’s part of the look and feel. I didn’t spend hours post processing. Maybe 15 minutes. And most of that was narrowing down which photos to use.
Oddly enough, while I was writing this post, I was watching Kelby Training’s A Day with Joe McNally webcast. If you’re not familiar with the name Joe McNally, you will surely be familiar with his images. He’s very highly respected National Geographic photographer and is also known for his ability to use small light sources to create dramatic images, especially in sports, dance as well as his emotional Ground Zero series. It was fascinating to watch him prepare for a shoot and then see his process during the shoot. And you know what… he does the same thing: takes a photo, adjusts, takes a photo, moves, takes a photo, makes another adjustment. Until eventually he hits his groove and starts seeing what’s in his head translate to the camera. Even the masters…
So remember, playing in the kitchen is always a good thing!