A zucchini and nothing but

My wife has a food blog, actually two food blogs (co creator of the second one), so I often get tasked with taking food pictures. Most of the time I just use the same, simple setup every time for those shots, the reason being that I’s usually hungry and want the food in my mouth instead. This time the shot wasn’t conflicting with my stomach’s interests so I decided to take the time to do something a bit fancier and different.

Different meant doing things a bit darker and I also wanted to try something with reflections. If you look below you can see the whole setup. First of all we have a black bed sheet on the floor. On top of that I used the plastic front from a picture frame. I would have liked to have a better quality to the reflection but this was what I had available so it had to do. The optimal thing would have been something like a black slate of stone, that would have been high class. The light is a LP160 that’s coming in from above and behind and it’s softened by a trigrip (seriously versatile modifier). In front of the subject I have two pieces of regular paper on either side to provide some fill light. I’ve also clamped the bed sheet to the trigrip on the sides to avoid spill light coming in from those directions.

Here’s my very advanced setup

The important thing was to avoid getting too much glare from the reflective surface. In order to do that you want a big light source and the trigrip is perfect here since it completely covers the surface in question. In other words the light source is bigger than the subject and if that doesn’t give you soft light, nothing will. At first things didn’t look all that good though. See below for one of my first tries, straight from camera. It lacks punch.

A first, not very successful, attempt

I needed to change something but I wasn’t quite sure what. Things looked a bit dark so perhaps a bit more power. It also looked a bit flat, so maybe some harder light was in order? For my next attempt I zoomed in the flash and moved it in a bit closer to the trigrip, thinking that it should give me more punch while also increasing the brightness. I also aimed the light a bit higher, which you can see in the setup shot – the lower part of the trigrip is fairly dark. Did it make any difference? Well, have a look below, straight from camera again.

Second attempt. Slightly better, no?

Bam! I think that’s an appropriate comment at this point. Huge improvement, now all it needs is some small adjustments here and there. The final result at the top is still fairly close to what came out of the camera, I just did some minor tweaking. All in all I would say it’s a pretty decent shot of a zucchini and it goes to prove that the difference between success and failure can be as small as the slight repositioning of a light. Change something and shoot again, repeat until satisfactory.