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Food Shutter Bug Club (Part 1)


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#361 Ann_T

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 01:12 PM

I have a Olympus Stylus 800 which I think is the current model. I've had it for about 9 or 10 months. I'm never happy with the photos taken using the Cuisine setting so I don't use it. I also have a Sony Mavica CD500 which I like better than the Olympus for taking food photos. It is much bigger than the Olympus. Not convenient to carry around. I have a small table top tripod as well as a floor model and I use them both at home.

I got hooked on taking photos of food about 3 years ago. But mostly just my own. I never think to take the camera with me to restaurants. Most of my photos are a hit and miss but I did recently start to adjust the White Balance which has improved some of my photos and I never use the flash. Ever.

I'm going to play with some of the suggestions here. Thanks.

Ann

#362 TAPrice

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 01:48 PM

The problem is that your using flash at all. Food never looks as good under flash as it does under natural light. Just get a tripod and set the shutter speed to very low and your food will come out much, much better.

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Are you sure about that? I have a friend with a fancy fill flash. He inserts colored pieces of plastic to vary the light. It may just be that a standard flash has the wrong color light for food.

Maybe a photographic expert could explain this.

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I'm assuming that nobody is going to be setting up light boxes and meters in a restaurant. In this context, flash means the flash you get on a consumer grade, P&S digital camera.

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This is a handheld fillflash that attaches to his digital camera. I don't know if he uses it for food shots. I'll have to ask him. I'm assuming that the filtered flash could help improve the color of food.

It's less bulky than a mini-tripod. Equally annoying as the flash on a point and shoot camera.
Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"


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#363 markk

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Posted 14 May 2006 - 02:20 PM

I really don't care to see pictures of your food from your trip especially if it involves impinging on the attempts of other diners to have a nice meal without distractions. If you attempt to photgraph next to me, I now have management make a decision, stop the photography or lose a customer in the middle of his meal. Societal restraints against imposing on others have been rapidly lost . Individuals feel free to impose unwanted distractions on others and don't consider whether they might be annoying others. Of course if you are eating at McD's, go ahead and shoot, because I won't be there. -Dick

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Why does somebody taking a picture at the table next to you distract you so?

Sure, it's a momentary flash, perhaps, but why would you not think "ah, there's somebody so into food that he's taking a photo - how great", as so many food lovers around the world do?

I was dining at the Michelin 2-Star "Le Cerf" (having their truffle dinner for the second time in a week, and I asked the Chef Michel Husser and his wife, if I might take photos, and they said "but of course - absolutely!"

So I came away with photos like this:

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And nobody minded.

Another time I was having stupendous meals in other restaurants in France, and took photos like these, by simply raising the camera when the plate was presented, and snapping:

Posted Image

Posted Image

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In fact, at that last place, quite fancy at that, when the meal was over, a formidable woman marched over to my table and asked me, in German "are you Germans?", and we replied, "No, Americans". So she replied to us in English, "Ah, Wonderful, Wonderful !!! It's good to see people taking such an interest in their food, especially Americans !!!!!!"

Now, I could see if little kids were running rampant in the restaurant and knocked into your table and spilled your wine, getting annoyed, and certainly if somebody at the next table lit up a cigar during my meal I'd feel that they were impinging. As to why you feel a photo being snapped at the next table impinges, I can't imagine. Surely if it were an anniversary and somebody asked the waiter to take their photo, would you care?

Here's a photo we took recently at the table at Lupa in New York. I have to say, I've never met anybody anywhere that's minded.

Posted Image

There are lots more of these in the link in my signature. One of us holds up a Canon ES 20D with a hooded flash, (that'd be my partner), and if I think it calls for it, I hold two small white cards just out of range on either side of the plate to bounce light on the sides.

And unlike a photo of a dining companion, where the flash would actually hit anybody behind them, or the photo where the waiter takes your camera and stands with it and calls attention to himself, you lift the camera quietly from your side, point it down at the table, and that's it. If you're doing it quietly and compactly, what could anybody object to?

The rest is done in post-production in Photoshop.

I hope this helps you go for it! As I say, anybody there for the love of great food shouldn't mind, or never has in all the times I've done it around the world.

Edited by markk, 15 May 2006 - 07:39 AM.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”
Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”
Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”
Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

#364 dimsum

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 07:15 AM

I really don't care to see pictures of your food from your trip especially if it involves impinging on the attempts of other diners to have a nice meal without distractions. If you attempt to photgraph next to me, I now have management make a decision, stop the photography or lose a customer in the middle of his meal. Societal restraints against imposing on others have been rapidly lost . Individuals feel free to impose unwanted distractions on others and don't consider whether they might be annoying others. Of course if you are eating at McD's, go ahead and shoot, because I won't be there. -Dick

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Goodness, this seems a bit harsh and overreactive.

Edited by dimsum, 16 May 2006 - 09:45 AM.


#365 Octaveman

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 09:00 AM

Quite

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#366 LaraF

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 04:08 PM

Hi All,

I'm fairly new to eGullet, so I'm hoping that adding this reply to the original message was the right thing to do... also, I'm hoping folks don't mind me linking off to another site for the photos. Feel free to guide me if I'm doing this all wrong!

Anyway... I'm hoping to get some good, constructive critical feedback on my food photography work. Feel free to tell it like it is. For some context, I'm completely amatuer at this point, although I do have hopes that I might do more than that someday. But, I realize that I have lots of work to do before I get there.

I'm shooting with a Canon20D, and tend to gravitate towards my 100mm 2.8 and 50mm 1.4, always on a tripod. My shooting location is a nook off of my kitchen, so I use natural light when I can... but on most of these I am using a couple of Tota halogens (generally there is natural light leaking in as well)... and I'm using a Mole Richardson mini-mole spot in a couple. I haven't moved to strobes yet.

For most of these photos, I did everything soup to nuts... recipes, cooking, stying, shooting, etc. I'm really looking for more tips on the photography itself, but if you have styling feedback, that's ok too.

A small sampling of my photos are here:
http://flickr.com/ph...57594181896104/

Feel free to leave feedback here, or on the individual photos on Flickr.

Thanks!
-L

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#367 Pan

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 05:02 PM

I love the photos of the sesame noodle salad, the chanterelles, the yogurt pops (great composition!), the red sauce with the egg and the steam coming up in front of the pan handle (Babbo's eggs), the glass of white wine with asparagus soup and toast, the stacked up cinammon rolls, the spoonful of ice cream, the goat cheese ice cream with a tongue of it facing us, and the mint iced tea, and there are great things about some of the rest of the photos (e.g., the beautiful arrangement of the red onions in the salad and crisp focus in the foreground of "21 Steps"; the beauty of the rhubard scone cake and interesting interplay of diagonal planes in the photo; the colorful fingernails and vivid strawberries in another photo). The question I'd ask you is what effect you're trying for when the subject of your photo is cut off or cropped. For example, in the photo with the painted fingernails and strawberries, I'd like it better if the woman's left hand were fully visible. The composition of the rustic cherry pie photo is interesting but seems tense to me. I look at the composition of photos with the same eye I use to look at compositions in paintings, so I find compositions like the goat cheese ice cream sandwich tense and lopsided, much as I would if it were a painting of an incomplete circle of one color on a background of another (the composition actually reminds of the Legers). The lopsidedness is intentional, but do you intend tension? To me, a harmonious composition has a feeling of completeness, which is why I find the photo of Babbo's eggs so appealing. The pan is cut off, but the composition is balanced, with fascinating interplay between the center line and the sides, and between the light and dark areas of the photo.

I only wish I were 1/5 as good a photographer as you, but if my reactions were of any use to you at all, that would make me happy.

Edited by Pan, 01 July 2006 - 01:05 PM.


#368 LaraF

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 10:13 AM

Michael,

Yes! Very helpful. Thank you so much!

As for the cropped out composition thing... it is mostly intentional, but as to the theory behind it, um, I really don't have one. It's something I've seen in other photographers photos that I like, so I've given it a try to see how it goes (ie, that's my very typical way of learning). Most of the time, though, I kind of like the tension from only telling part of the story. To me, it often adds energy... and helps the viewer to see the food differently.

That said, the fact that not all the hands were in the photo? That was a mistake... I hadn't noticed the problem until working the photos later. I definitely agree that the full hands (but not necessarily the face) should be in the shot.

Thanks again for the detailed feedback! It's great and definitely gives me something more to consider as I shoot!

-L

#369 Pan

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 01:10 PM

I agree that it's good not to have the woman's face in the shot of the strawberries. I'm glad my comments are of some use to you.

#370 oakapple

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:52 AM

I've been food blogging a while, but just got my first digital camera a few weeks ago. It's what I'd call a basic consumer model (an Olympus Stylus 710, which lists for about $250).

I've started including food photos in my blog (here). If you look at a few of the posts, you'll see that most of the food photos are just barely passable. A few have turned out well, but I'm not able to do it consistently.

Like most digital cameras, mine has a ton of options. I've played around with different settings: flash, or not; fully automatic, or not; high ISO, or not; manually adjusting the brightness, or not. I've found several sites that specifically recommend against using flash, but this has been no guarantee of success.

Although I enjoy being able to take photos for my blog, I don't want photography to become so all-consuming that it interferes with my companions' or other diners' enjoyment of the meal (or, for that matter, my enjoyment).

Does anyone have any suggestions?

#371 Jmahl

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:30 AM

Good photos are, to a large degree, about light. You might want to look at a thing called a "Lowelego" Its a self contained digital imaging light. I have one and I like the results.

Good shooting,

Jmahl
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#372 Sararwelch

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:36 AM

I just started a food blog about 6 weeks ago, and I've found with the photos that it's really just a matter of practice. My pictures are getting better and it definitely helped to read the manual that came with my camera.

#373 oakapple

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:48 AM

I just started a food blog about 6 weeks ago, and I've found with the photos that it's really just a matter of practice. My pictures are getting better and it definitely helped to read the manual that came with my camera.

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Sara, what did you change to make your photos turn out better?

#374 johnder

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:11 AM

Get a mini tabletop tripod. Never use a flash. Turn the camera so you can adjust the manual settings and manually set the exposure and use a macro setting if the camera has one.

The problem with most indoor dinner type photos is you are dealing with low light. As a result you need to have a long exposure. If you don't have a tripod it will be blurry and out of focus as the camera is moving around.
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#375 philadining

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:20 AM

Good photos are, to a large degree, about light.  You might want to look at a thing called a "Lowelego" Its a self contained digital imaging light.  I have one and I like the results.

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It's absolutely true that good photos are largely about light. Also true that the Lowel Ego is a cool little light, but not so good for schlepping to restaurants!

http://www.lowelego.com/

If you're mostly shooting in restaurants, my tips would be to try to sit in the best-lit area, there's an amazing range in some places. I would generally NOT use the flash, it's not bad for just getting a shot, but it tends to give a pretty clinical, blown-out, soul-less photo. And it annoys other people in the restaurant, including me. DO use as high an ISO setting as you can. That will often make for grainy images, but grainy is better than blurry, and a high ISO setting will allow you to use a faster shutter speed, which should reduce the odds of blur. Additionally in the fight against blur, prop your elbows on something, use the optical viewfinder (if your camera has one) just because holding the camera up to your face provides another point of stability, and squeeze the shutter REALLY gently. It sometimes helps to use the camera's shutter timer, which delays the shutter after you press it, that way you aren't in the process of pressing the camera, which can shake it, as the shutter opens. Put it on delay, press it and hold very still...

If you don't feel too self-conscious about it, a tiny little tripod can really help too, although it's sometimes hard to get the right angle/elevation like that. This one gives you great flexibility, but is not very subtle!
http://www.joby.com/

Another thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to your white-balance. If your shots are coming out with a blue or yellow cast, the camera was set to the wrong white-balance setting. Many cameras have auto white balance, but they don't always get it right. Most have manual settings where you can specify whether you're shooting under incandescent, florescent or natural sunlight conditions, each of which have different weighting of the various color components of white light.

Additionally, don't be afraid to move the plates around a little, it only takes a second, and won't embarrass your dining companions ALL that much! I'm (only a little) reluctant to admit that I've physically dragged my table into a better pool of light, put plates up on a nearby windowsill, and exchanged plates with table mates in order to get a better angle or lighting. Just pay attention to where there's light and get the plate there. You can't always do it, and sometimes you might just have to bail out or live with a mediocre photo. But sometimes there's a solution available with minor physical moves of the plate. And look at how the light is falling too: directly overhead or behind you is reliable, but sometimes dull-looking. If the light can come in from an angle, that can be more interesting.

But I think the biggest tip is to do some tweaking in a software photo editor. Photoshop is the most commonly used, and the basic Photoshop Elements, which sells for under a hundred bucks, is excellent, and has most things you'd need. The basic iPhoto that comes free on new Macs is surprisingly versatile, its adjustments panel has gotten much better. There are plenty more that will work fine. No software is going to save a really crappy shot, but it can vastly improve a mediocre one. Much magic can be achieved by tweaking the "levels" adjustments, not just brightness, but color-balance too. Mess around with it, there's always the "undo" command...

You're not in bad shape: your shots are pretty good right now. And as already noted, you'll just get better as you get more comfortable with your camera too.

Hope that helps...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

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#376 eje

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:47 PM

A couple notes taking photos.

Buy a big memory card and take lots of them. Take the same photo with different camera settings. Take it at different distances from the subject. Different angles.

The beauty of digital is you don't even have to develop film and print up a contact sheet (if anyone still remembers what that is...) to have some idea which pictures are keepers.

Also, the problem with white balance is, it is very difficult to correct in post production. If the colors aren't there, it is hard to add them to your picture.

Even though you would think camera manufacturers would have figured out how to detect tungsten or fluorescent light automatically by now, with many (most!) cameras it is necessary to adjust this yourself manually to get the correct white balance.
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#377 Ellen Shapiro

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 01:02 PM

Many of the photos of plated dishes that you see in food magazines and newspapers are taken without flash, however the cameras those photographers are using have much greater light gathering capacity than your Olympus. They're also not shooting on the fly while eating. When using my digital SLR with a fast lens, I may skip flash or just fill with off-camera flash (you'd be surprised how many "natural light" photos do rely on some artificial light). But when I use our Canon A620 to take snapshots for online, informational use I always use flash unless it's an extraordinarily well lit dining room. Flash eliminates a host of lighting problems, camera shake isn't a problem, white balance isn't a problem . . . . While it is true that flash can flatten your images and take away their soft arty look I don't know why that's so bad if the point is to show the dish in as much detail as possible. It's okay to sacrifice art for information. To avoid flatness, experiment with angles. I promise if you shoot a stacked dish from the side it won't look flat. Also experiment with holding the camera as far away as possible and zooming in. This can cut the harshness of the flash. Also when postprocessing consider cropping away the plate edges where you're most likely to see flash reflections.

Edited by Ellen Shapiro, 17 January 2007 - 01:03 PM.

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#378 philadining

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 01:28 PM

I'll agree that in a dim dining room, the average flash shot will look "better" than really low-light photos taken with a pocket-sized digital camera. Taking that shot will also very likely irritate the heck out of someone nearby. Of course there are contexts when it's fine, but even as an avid photographer of restaurant food, I'm almost always annoyed by camera flashes if I'm trying to have a nice dinner. It happens semi frequently these days, it's more often people taking snaps of themselves or posing with a celebrity chef, than lunatics like us shooting the food, but I know it bugs me. And I've noticed other diners visibly annoyed by it too.

So I generally discourage it mostly as a selfish attempt to make my dining experiences more pleasant.

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#379 Dianabanana

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 11:17 PM

Okay, so I've been making bentos for my husband and myself almost every day for about a year. I take a picture of them every morning before packing them up, and the quality of the photos varies drastically depending on the weather. I don't have really good natural light anywhere in my house, and although I can get pretty good pictures by the sliding glass door in the warmer months, it's incredibly gray and dark in the mornings from late fall through early spring. In fact I never noticed just how gray and dark it is until I started this project.

I want to stop hoping for good weather and start taking things into my own hands. I am willing to spend some money and time on this, but whatever I do has to meet the following criteria:

1. It has to be compact; i.e., no big cardboard boxes or other space-hogging equipment. I have a super tiny house and just don't have the room.

2. It has to be quick to assemble and disassemble. I want to be able to set it up, take the picture, then put it away and still make it to work on time.

3. It has to be utterly independent of any source of natural light.

I really know nothing about photography, so anything you can tell me, no matter how basic, is bound to be helpful. I've looked through all the eGullet photography threads and didn't find anything on this particular situation, but if I missed it, feel free to point it out. Thanks!

#380 markemorse

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 06:57 AM

I wouldn't give up on the natural light: we have pretty challenging light here as well during the winter months, but I've found that by using a tripod, no flash, and then nudging up the brightness and saturation in a photo editor, I can get something that looks reasonable.

Edited by markemorse, 01 March 2008 - 06:58 AM.


#381 jumanggy

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:34 AM

Diana, I'd love to see you post some of the shots you've taken so far :smile:
I'm not a great photographer but I am a Photoshop nut.
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#382 nakji

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:47 AM

Diana, I'd love to see you post some of the shots you've taken so far


Yes! The bento thread could use more posts!

I've struggled with the same problem for my bento photos. Recently I moved into a new apartment with great morning light, and my pictures have brightened considerably. In fact, some mornings, the light is too harsh and casts a lot of shadows. I'd like to know how to neutralize this.

I've been experimenting more with low-light food photography in the evening with dinners, and I find a tripod makes all the difference - check out this photo. It was taken with only a lamp and 40W bulb as a light source, but a tripod makes it fairly light. The tripod takes up a little space when it's out, but can collapse and be tucked into the closet when not in use. (Theoretically, that is. Ours sits around and clutters up the place. I know for small spaces - I live in Japan. :hmmm: )

Posted Image

What kind of camera are you currently using?

#383 monavano

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:49 AM

The EZcube would probably fit your needs. I made my own lightbox with a cardboard box and some cheap clamp lights and 100 watt full spectrum Reveal lights from GE. It's a photo saver in the winter!! Not as good as natural light, but not bad at all...especially because it cost me only about $20!! Good luck.
http://www.ezcube.com/

Oh.......download Picasa from Google. :wink: :wink:

Edited by monavano, 01 March 2008 - 07:50 AM.


#384 K8memphis

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:54 AM

I am such an expert photographer :rolleyes:

Super random camera thoughts:

But I once took a great picture of a cake that I had sitting in my refrigerator. My frige has an overhead light that is placed forward closest to the door. If you had sucha light in yours you could use that and keep your refrigerated items on a tray for easy removal and made a backdrop that you could fold up otherwise when not in use this might be an idea. Or any kind of overhead light that you could toss up a background behind?

A tissue or piece of paper over the flash gives some more control too.

Another idea is that I have one of those 'natural light' lamps right here in my desk. Like $20 at Sam's Club if you are in the states. Maybe something like that?

#385 Anna N

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:59 AM

The EZcube would probably fit your needs. I made my own lightbox with a cardboard box and some cheap clamp lights and 100 watt full spectrum Reveal lights from GE. It's a photo saver in the winter!! Not as good as natural light, but not bad at all...especially because it cost me only about $20!! Good luck.
http://www.ezcube.com/

Oh.......download Picasa from Google. :wink:  :wink:

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Or you could make your own.
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#386 rlibkind

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 08:41 AM

If your camera has the capability of syncing an exterior electronic flash, via either cable or hot shoe, that's the way to go. You'll want to bounce the light off the ceiling or a card attached to the flash; this softens shadows and produces a much more even and pleasing light.

With a bounce card fitted to the flash you'll get fairly even light for your purposes to soften the shadows. Basically, you attach a small white card to the top of the flash with rubber bands and angle the flash head and the card so that light from the flash is bounced from the card to your subject. Here's a web page that shows one way this can be done; in this case it's with a 35mm film camera, but the technique holds true with any digital camera that can accommodate an exterior flash, even some compacts. (There are even some inexpensive devices sold which can bounce light from a built-in flash; the results might be acceptable, but a separate flash would be better.)

If you have a low, white ceiling and/or wall, bounce the strobe off that for even more uniform light. Set the bento box on one white board, and place another white board perpendicular behind it. (The flat boards store easily.) Depending on your camera and requirements, electronic flashes can be had for $30-$250 (you could certainly spend more if you wanted to, but not necessary for any but the most demanding professional use). You'll get much better results using an exterior strobe than with the on-board flashes built into cameras. (If you ceiling/walls are not white, they will effect the color balance of the image, which might be correctible if your camera has suitable color balance controls and/or you do it through PhotoShop or similar software.)

Given the fact that you'll be taking photos of the bento box from within a fairly close range, a foot or two I presume, the bounce card may work better than bouncing off the ceiling, but both are worth a try to see what gives you the best results under your particular shooting conditions.
Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

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#387 Chris Hennes

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 09:14 AM

I think we can probably give more useful flash advice if we know the model of camera you use: I generally always use a flash for food photography, except on overcast days when I can put the plates near the window and get nice diffuse light. The rest of the time I use an external flash and bounce it off the ceiling or a card, depending on my mood :smile:. Back when I used a small point-and-shoot with a built-in flash I sometimes used a little homemade tinfoil reflector to force the flash to bounce off the ceiling.

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#388 Jmahl

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 11:07 AM

I use something called a Lowelego digital imaging system. You can check out on its web-site. I use it with a small digital camera and a compact tripod.

Jmahl
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#389 Dianabanana

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 01:10 PM

Thanks everyone, keep it coming! My camera is just a Canon PowerShot A520. I have no idea whether it can take an exterior flash, although the manual must be around here somewhere. I imagine it's easy enough to tell by looking at the camera if you know what to look for, so I guess I'll just take it into a camera shop and ask. I do have a little mini tripod.

Here are two pictures to show you what I'm dealing with. The first was taken in the summer by the window. I think it looks okay. (If you're interested, it's grilled salmon with aioli, herbed rice, sauteed spinach, marinated bocconcini, cerignola olives, mini chocolate orange brownie, and almonds and dates.) The second was taken in the winter on the kitchen counter. This actually was a very colorful and appealing bento in real life but needless to say it looks quite unappetizing in the photo. (It's rice with black sesame and ume plum, tamagoyaki, cucumber and smoked salmon rolls, "chicken" nugget, miso peppers, those lightly pickled mixed vegetables that I can never remember the name of, and a strawberry.)

My kitchen is horrible for food photography--all the surfaces are mostly different shades of gold. Is there something in particular I can do to counteract all the yellowness?

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#390 Chris Hennes

Chris Hennes

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 02:09 PM

I think a lot of the problem with that second photo is what is called "white balance": the colors are off because your camera is not correcting for the type of light (incandescent in this case?) so things that should be white are not. Most photo editing software, including the free stuff, has a "Set white point" function someplace that lets you click on something in the picture that should be white, and it will recolor the image based on that. It won't be as good as the top one taken under diffuse natural light, but it will be a lot better than what you've got. If you want, I can re-post your image with that adjustment made so you can see the difference.

Chris Hennes
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