A glimpse into the studio

Aglow from below

OK, so I’m sure you want to know what the background is for this shot.  It’s a random mesh of metal (nickel, I believe)  that I picked up off the floor of a metal scrap yard and have always meant to use in a shot.  It’s pretty dull and dark on its own, so I chose to back light (actually, bottom light) it to give it a glow.  To accomplish this, place a sheet of translucent plexiglass on a wooden frame atop a studio sawhorse.  An Alien Bee head with a beauty dish is on the floor underneath to provide the backlight.  I also added a warm yellow and red gel underneath the plexiglass (using another wooden frame, some clear acetate, and lighting gels).   This gives the backlight a warm glow, and compliments the color of the shrimps.

Note that I’ve surrounded the subject with black foamcore.  This is very important to prevent flare from all the white light coming up around the subject.

I selected a medium softbox for the top light to ensure that I could get enough light and detail in the black cast iron pan.  Balancing the two lights is simply a matter of adjusting the power of the bottom light until it gaves me a nice glow without totally blowing out the hilights and flaring.

Meanwhile, Linsey prepares the final food, using a dome mold to shape the rice.  Notice the cute trick she uses for the shrimps.  By placing them on short wooden skewers she prevents them from curling up on themselves as they cook.




















Here Linsey and I have a close look at the food arrangement.  One of the great new features of Lightroom 3 is the ability to easily shoot directly into the computer (tethered shooting).  This way every one involved in the shoot can see a nice large image in full detail.  I decide to add a gold reflector to warm up the shrimp, and Linsey reaches in to make some final adjustments.











Here’s the final shot as it appeared in Lightroom.  As well, after the final shot is in the bag, I grab some additional detail shots to round out the selection.












Post Production

As I was shooting this shot, I was very concerned that the tonal range from the black pan to the white rice might be too much to hold detail in both.  So, to be cautious I took a range of exposures (my old film habits… cover your butt!).  As I reviewed the shots the next day in Lightroom, it occurred to me that I could use the range of exposures to create an HDR (High Dynamic Range) shot.  This is a technique usually applied to landscape or architectural shots, but in a mood of experimentation I decided to give it a try.  I exported the files from Lightroom to Photoshop HDR, and with a little tweaking achieved a very interesting result!  Enhanced detail in both the shadows and hilights, as well as amazing texture in the shrimps and rice.  I did feel that the HDR alone looked a bit “manipulated”, so I added a layer of the original file and played with the opacity of the HDR to get a balance that felt good.


"Straight" image, before HDR



HDR version



Final, combined image



Photo Credits:  Photography by Rob Davidson
Food Styling by Linsey Bell
Assistant & BTS shots:  Adriana Garcia Cruz


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