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Behemoth

Food Shutter Bug Club (Part 1)

585 posts in this topic

Well, for one thing, they are candid, not posed shots. A different category altogether from most of the other shots discussed here. Even the food shots which were "arranged" were in natural light, with no tripod, and with little choice of the backdrop ( I know, since I was standing NEXT to Jason for most of these and suggested some of those shots and angles--although the execution is all him).

So I think they deserve an analysis, of course (this hasn't been an appreciation thread as much as a "how can these shots be improved" topic), but we've got to keep in mind the differences between candid shots and posed ones. Ed Mitchell, for example, couldn't be moved one way or the other in that first shot, and even the camera angle could only have been changed slightly.

P.S. - I ate the sandwich Ed is making in that picture. :raz:


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Wowser. That guy is good. One could learn a lot just by studying each picture. Especially his use of depth of field and lighting could translate quite well to food photography. What kind of lens? I couldn't find that information.

I was looking at the source code, and "plungercam" came up. I Googled it and found out a little more. If you see the pictures with a very narrow in-focus area, I think it's that lens attachment creating the look.

I used to know that photographer back in my Nashville years. I even modeled for him once.

He was always a deep and sensitive (and funny) person; the world he occupies now is just beyond my comprehension in terms of depth, subtlety, good humor, and oh, the eye. So much Southernness, too. (In a good way.)

I'm just floored. Talk about stuff that can't be taught. Studied, but not taught.

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Well, for one thing, they are candid, not posed shots. A different category altogether from most of the other shots discussed here.

What I failed to convey in my post is that the first shot is really really good given the candid shooting situation. The comment about the face lighting is just a minor technical note. (Besides, we can't let Jason get the big-head. :raz: )

Quite frankly, being an obviously candid shot, you could even say, "Look at what a great shot this is even though I couldn't control any of the conditions."


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The lighting was actually already contrast enhanced. I know, because Jason and I sat at a computer and reviewed those shots after the BABBP. When we tried artificially enhancing the light more than what you see, the rest of the shot started looking washed out.

The problem, I suppose, was that Ed's hat is shading his face, and he's already got pretty dark skin. Part of the dangers of candid, I guess, is that Ed was actually working and wasn't exactly going to take that hat. I think there might have been a few other shots taken a second or two away in each direction, but I think the one we are seeing is the only one which wasn't blurry (Ed moves fast for such a big guy).


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Great thread. I've been having more of a technical than asthetic problem with my pictures...

For the White Cake thread over on the Pastry & Baking forum, I've been attempting to take some very close pics of the various cakes to show their texture. However, since the cakes are so white, I've not been able to use the flash without gettting a huge, blurred mess. But not using the flash resulted in some loss of detail. Here is one of the no-flash pics that has been manipulated to increase the sharpness a bit and to brighten it up to real-life color.

i7305.jpg

Any ideas to improve the detail? Maybe another light source?

Also, I initially photographed the cakes on a dark-colored plate, but there was far too much constrast for my little Canon PowerShot S110 and the cake was a total white blob.

I did have a bit better luck with the darker banana cakes when I could use the flash...

i6994.jpg

To me, this is "BLAH BLAH BLAH Ginger" (for those who know the old cartoon about "what dogs hear"). :laugh:
One of my all-time favorite cartoons!

Have you tried changing the metering option? Like when you take a photo of a tan person wearing a white t-shirt? My camera as a default averages out the light from all parts of the frame, so sometimes I have to switch it to spot metering. Apart from photographing in more ambient light, that might be worth a try.

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The one suggestion I would make on the cake pictures, assuming that your primary goal is to convey texture: The shots look like you took them straight on. If you put a little angle on the plane of the cake, keeping the flat part and a cut edge in sharp focus, controlling that angle and the angle of the light will help a lot. You just have to experiment to find the optimum.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Thanks for posting this site. His work is gorgeous. It looks like he did some post-production work (dodging & burning) on some of his pics. And his "one part in focus and the rest out of focus" lens (don't know the technical name for it) is put to good use.

Extraordinary images!

As for Jason's pics....

Overall, they are just beautiful, especially after hearing they were just candid snapshots. You have a good eye for composition.

I was puzzled to hear some image processing was done on them since I'd suggest a little more contrast on a number of them. After bringing out the contrast, they really pop. I ran them through my Photoshop 7's AutoContrast mode and they just came to life.

Your "beans" photo is superb and nothing needs to be done with it. It shows great depth of field, great texture and lighting. It should be a book cover photo. Well done.

A couple photos have a slight yellow tinge to them which was most likely caused by the overhead awning which changed the color of the natural light. Using Photoshop's Color Balance image tool would color-correct the photo and bring more pinkness/redness back into the meat.

You did very well on Ed's pic. It tells a story and the busy background is far away enough to be slightly out of focus allowing Ed to stand out even more. I completely understand your post-production struggle to balance this picture's light tones when compared against the darker tones of Ed's skin. This is an example of where Photoshop's Auto features (Auto Contrast, Auto Levels, Auto Color) fail to work as well as they should. Thanks to your tweaking, his face is lit enough so that we are able to see deatils & texture. You could try using the Dodging/Burning Tools to try and bring out more of his features, though I usually don't have much luck with them. I use another trick which involves a couple layers and a Layer Mask. It's rather lengthy to explain and is probably off-topic for this current thread unless you request otherwise.

I won't post the pics after my Photoshop adjustments to try and keep bandwidth down but will if anyone insists.

They are all very good pictures and with a few "tweaks" could be sold as artwork, IMHO. I can just picture them on the walls of a BBQ joint.

edited to remove extraneous letterss :wink:


Edited by Toliver (log)

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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Here are a couple of mine (to get started with).  I tend to do shots with unusual centers of focus (as with the frozen berry shot) and I am not sure if they work.

i8839.jpg

I frequently find it boring (even annoying) when people take these "flat" looking shots where there are no apparent differences in focus. So I like your shot, at the very least as an experiment.

To me, the only thing which disturbs it is that one branch that reaches up right under that berry with the yellow bit on it. I don't know... in a "natural" environment is it okay to do something like reach out and break a twig off, or does the photographer have to be totally passive? :laugh:

I was puzzled to hear some image processing was done on them

Ed's photo was, I think, the only one to have anything extensive done on it. I myself, after Jason left, managed to make one where there was a pretty interesting play between light and dark, but it started to look "artistic" and not natural.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I don't know... in a "natural" environment is it okay to do something like reach out and break a twig off, or does the photographer have to be totally passive?  :laugh:

I totally think it's okay to art-direct Mother Nature. :biggrin:

Because if you're seeing what I'm seeing, it's like a ghostly finger is reaching up for the berry. Your eye can't help but go there.

I took some fantastic shots of Bob's grandson on Father's Day: a baby in the grass with a pile of four kittens. Using the burst mode on the camera was great, but only later did I realize a big blade of grass was sticking up in his face. A distraction, to be sure.

Darn it!

I saw, "Mow down those distractions."

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Actually Toliver, if you want to post the altered versions of my pics, please do.

I had to crop it (because Jason cheated and didn't use imageGullet for the original photo--which is a bit too "long" for what iG allows), but here's the pic. of Ed where I upped the contrast on purpose. Is it better because it brings out those shadows on his face, or worse because it looks more like a still frame from an independant film rather than real life? You decide...

i8848.jpg


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I much prefer the originally posted picture of Williams. This one seems a bit washed out. The more I look at this picture, the more I think the darkness of the face in the original conveys more of a sense of mystery to the man behind the BBQ. It also seems to project his profound concentration on the task at hand in the midst of the chaos in the background. It is growing on me.

I reserve the right to change my mind and hereby retract my comment about the darkness of the face. :raz:


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Jon, you're correct, the pics won't upload to ImageGullet due to their large size.

I uploaded mine to PictureTrail and posted from there. I'm not too happy since it looks like the pictures lost something in the translation but they get the point across (I also made them a wee bit smaller in size).

Photoshop's Auto Contrast helped remove the faint "whitewash" of the images.

Here's my side by side of Ed's picture with the original next to my tweak. I did my Layer Mask trick and also gave the background a slight blurry quality to make Ed stand out more. The difference is subtle but his face is brought out more.

57805308.jpg

This is Auto Contrast, with a little more added, plus a bit of the Unsharp Mask filter to make it pop a little.

57805299.jpg

Just Auto Contrast

57805291.jpg

Auto Contrast with a little Unsharp Mask filter to make it pop

57805280.jpg

Auto Contrast with a little Unsharp Mask filter

57805273.jpg

Auto Contrast with a little Unsharp Mask filter

57805254.jpg

Auto Contrast with a little Unsharp Mask filter

57805236.jpg

Auto Contrast, Color Balance Adjustment, and a little Unsharp Mask filter

57805228.jpg

Color Balance Adjustment and a little Unsharp Mask filter

57805220.jpg

Auto Contrast with a little Unsharp Mask filter

57805210.jpg

And I did nothing to the bean picture because it needed no tweaking...great as is.

Also, I tried to keep all of these images around 100k so they would load a little easier. That may have added a little "graininess" to the images but that's the nature of the compressed beastie.


Edited by Toliver (log)

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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You should PM Jason. He might want to change out your tweaked versions for those he has posted in the BABBP topic, without the size reductions I mean.

The pulled pork pile picture (wow that's a lot of Ps) is the only one I originally looked at, other than the beans, that I didn't think needed any changes. But Jason was only here for a few minutes, and we spent most of them applying and unapplying various filters on Ed's picture and hating them all. :sad:


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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You should PM Jason.  He might want to change out your tweaked versions for those he has posted in the BABBP topic, without the size reductions I mean.

The pulled pork pile picture (wow that's a lot of Ps) is the only one I originally looked at, other than the beans, that I didn't think needed any changes.  But Jason was only here for a few minutes, and we spent most of them applying and unapplying various filters on Ed's picture and hating them all.  :sad:

I thought the pulled pork pile picture (with the checked tablecloth in the background) was too yellow because of the light filtered through the awning. I thought swinging it more towards red made it look a little bit more appetizing.

The problem in Photoshop with using Auto Contrast or even just the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment tools is that (I think) the choices the program makes when making the adjustments are based upon finding the extremes (the brightest white and the darkest black) and figuring the proper levels for everything in between based on those two parameters.

So if you have someone like Ed over a bright background, any fiddling with the contrast to bring out his dark skin tones and texture will begin washing out everything that's brighter (as you found out).

I end up "fooling" the program by duplicating the original layer and then adjusting the brightness/contrast for the image, concentrating on the area that needs tweaking (Ed's face, in this case) and ignoring how everything else looks. I then add a Layer Mask to the tweaked layer. I fill it 100% black which makes it disappear completely. Then I use the Airbrush Tool on the Layer Mask using 100% white and airbrush his face, making his face on the lighter tweaked layer appear. So in effect, you have the original image underneath with just his face as part of another brighter layer on top of it.

I'll be happy to email him my full-sized tweaking of his images if he wants them.


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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You should PM Jason. He might want to change out your tweaked versions for those he has posted in the BABBP topic, without the size reductions I mean.

The pulled pork pile picture (wow that's a lot of Ps) is the only one I originally looked at, other than the beans, that I didn't think needed any changes. But Jason was only here for a few minutes, and we spent most of them applying and unapplying various filters on Ed's picture and hating them all. :sad:

That is an impressive difference, and it is making me very hungry.

Lots of digital cameras now have those functions built in. I was going to post a pair of photos I took last week of some lettuce & nasturtium salad, one with "vivid" setting, one without. In the default photo the lettuce looked kind of grayish blah, but with the boost in color it looked beautiful. On my screen the difference was really impressive, but once I shrunk the photos down to gullet-size it was not as obvious. (The default just looks a little darker). Worth playing with those features though...

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Those BBQ pictures are great!....the touch of extra contrast really helped them pop as well. Nice.

I also really fell for those frozen cherries. I love the unique composition and the woodsy natural browns with the hot red-orange of the cherries.

Maybe we could do a (weekly? or monthly?) thing where someone picks a single food, ingredient, or theme to shoot and everyone posts their shots (cherries, BBQ, ice cream, etc) -- we can compare and talk about all the different approaches (what works, what doesn't) and tackle any technical problems we run into. Maybe a separate thread? Just a thought -- there's nothing like a narrow assignment to get people thinking about everyday things in extraordinary ways.


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Heidi Swanson

101 Cookbooks

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Those BBQ pictures are great!....the touch of extra contrast really helped them pop as well. Nice.

I also really fell for those frozen cherries. I love the unique composition and the woodsy natural browns with the hot red-orange of the cherries.

Maybe we could do a (weekly? or monthly?) thing where someone picks a single food, ingredient, or theme to shoot and everyone posts their shots (cherries, BBQ, ice cream, etc) -- we can compare and talk about all the different approaches (what works, what doesn't) and tackle any technical problems we run into. Maybe a separate thread? Just a thought -- there's nothing like a narrow assignment to get people thinking about everyday things in extraordinary ways.

I'd like something a little more focused. I think its a good suggestion!

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Lots of digital cameras now have those functions built in.

Personally, I wouldn't use any in-camera settings/functions. I prefer to import the photo into a program like Photoshop and do the tweaking there. I have more control there, plus it's at a much larger size so I can really see the details.

But, if you don't have access to a program like that, I guess having it in the camera is better than nothing at all.

...once I shrunk the photos down to gullet-size it was not as obvious. (The default just looks a little darker).

So, size does matter. :hmmm::laugh:

Another thing I thought of is the Gamma setting on everyone's monitors will make a difference on perception. Everyone will see something different...in the original picture, some won't be able to make out Ed's face at all, some will see it perfectly. I surf eGullet using my calibrated monitor here at work so I saw a lot more than I would have on my consumer grade monitor at home.

I guess you just have to aim for the middle ground and hope for the best.

edited to add yet even more verbosity


Edited by Toliver (log)

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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Wow..those are extreme close ups. Not really sure what you are trying to 'do' with these pictures. They are so close that you almost don't know what you are looking at. Particularly the bean picture..that could be any number of things.... :blink: Are you going for appetizing? texture? I would like more of a 'frame', meaning a 'frame of reference' for the photos. Some sort of contrast.

Aside from that...I'm starving and that meal looks mighty good! :biggrin:

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Yeah, I don't the extreme close-ups, either, especially when they're not in focus. The one with multiple items is impossible for me to put in context.

I can understand a certain kind of art; say you're so close to a strawberry that there are only seeds and red and the shiny, dimpled flesh. That could be pretty, in an abstract but still recognizable way.

But beans? Mooshy beans?

I like the sesame seeds, though I can't exactly tell what they're on top of. At least they're distinct.

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Okay, well, the composed picture of the food on the plate is actually a cropped version of this one:

i8859.jpg

I decided to crop it because I didnt like the way the white of the plate was showing up.

Tough crowd. No more pics for you!


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The extreme close-up works for some foods and not others. For Black Beans... no. For the BBQ Beans in the previous series... yes. Ditto for the miscellaneous pulled pork pictures.

I think the question is whether or not it's a texture we actually want to see close up.

As for the focus, it's mostly an issue with the beans because I don't think there was a distinct element to focus ON.

The Mole Poblano? I think a straight shot from above might have worked, perhaps back enough to see the plate in the frame, but not beyond it.

EDIT - Okay, uncropped that was almost what you did, but from an angle I don't think was right. As for the plate? Maybe a different color plate? Black perhaps?


Edited by jhlurie (log)

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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The extreme close-up works for some foods and not others. For Black Beans... no. For the BBQ Beans in the previous series... yes. Ditto for the miscellaneous pulled pork pictures.

I think the question is whether or not it's a texture we actually want to see close up.

I think they look cool. You suck.

Okay Lurie, YOU get yourself a digital cam and start taking pics... :laugh: Lets see how well you do!


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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