My goal for this shot was to highlight the delicate beauty of all the ingredients in this bowl of soup. I opted to do this by using a clear glass bowl and lighting it from underneath. Here’s a shot of my set up showing a sheet of translucent plexiglass lit from underneath with a single Alien Bee head and a shoot through umbrella. This setup creates a nice even light under the bowl so I can have a uniform white background.
Note that I have my compendium lens hood on to block off all the extra light from outside the frame (See this post for a full explanation). When you’re shooting for a clean white background, it’s important to precisely control your exposure. I use the highlight warning flashers on my preview image (or, since I’m shooting tethered, I can also turn on the highlight warnings in Lightroom). I dial up power of the flash slowly until the background just starts to flash as a solid highlight, but no more. This insures that my background is a clear white, but that I don’t have so much light pouring in that it will cause flare.
This gives a beautiful backlight to the bowl of soup which shows the translucent quality of the miso and the broth. However I do need some light on the front of the ingredients so that they are not left in silhouette. I used a gold reflector to bounce some of the light back onto the top of the bowl which illuminates the ingredients and gives them a warm glow. You can see the gold reflector on the left side of this shot.
With the lighting in place it’s now just a question of arranging everything in the bowl. We used a big pile of noodles as a support for all the other ingredients. The noodles provide a nice flexible base on which to support slices of pork tenderloin and the mushrooms.
Here’s a nice animation that shows the tweaking and arranging we did along the way to the final shot:
For this shot I was able to go back and re-use the set up that didn’t work for my Pork Tenderloin shot (see the post below), but this time it succeeds! I really love the white-on-white look for this shot, with the blown out background. However, this raises a critical issue about flare!
OK. I’ll say this right up front… I’ve developed a pet peeve. Through my teaching and workshops I’ve noticed that photographers have forgotten (or never knew) how to use lens hoods. I constantly see photographers shooting, both in the studio and outside, with their lens hood securely mounted backwards on their lens. I notice that Scott Kelby has observed the same thing as well (see his article here). That lens hood is critical in preventing image destroying flare (stray light that bounces around in your lens and lowers contrast and sharpness).
In the studio, this is particularly critical, as we often position our lights so they are shining towards the lens, thus guaranteed to produce flare. One simple test: with your camera mounted in shooting position, put your head near your subject and look at your lens. If you see your lights reflected in the lens, you have flare! You must use something (a lens shade or a gobo) to block the light from the lens.
In this shoot, I have a huge soft box pointed directly at the lens…. here’s my set-up:
Note the camera on left is pointed directly at the big softbox behind the subject. Therefore, it’s critical that I block off all light outside of the actual frame of the shot. The best tool for doing this is a bellows style lens hood:
These adjustable lens hoods adapt to a wide range of lenses and focal lengths. Note that I’ve actually put a custom made mask in the front slot that exactly masks off the frame of my 90mm lens. Although these very handy tools are not as common as they once were, Lee Filters makes a very nice version. Here are examples of the exact same shot, same exposure, both with and without the lens hood:
Note the reduced contrast and saturation when the lens shade is not attached. That’s the effect of flare!
Now you know…. Rant over!
Here’s Linsey with her oh-s0-tasty homemade marshmallows:
Here I demonstrate the back-of-the-spoon method of pouring the hot chocolate without disturbing the liqueur, and Linsey applies a touch of the torch:
Add a few marshmallows as props, and here’s the final shot: