Okay, so you’re wondering how I made this still photograph move. This is a new twist on the old .gif animation format that was responsible for all those little goofy animations in the early days of e-mail. Basically it involves creating a layered Photoshop file that contains a still image on the top layer and a video layer underneath it. By masking out the top layer you allow the video layer to show through in certain areas, and so you get this fun combination of still image and moving areas. The resulting file is saved as a .gif format file which can be posted on the web. Here’s a screenshot that shows my layered Photoshop file and the animation timeline window that allows you to play back the video. (The animation timeline window is only available in Photoshop CS5 Extended, so you need to have this version to do these).
These combination still and motion images are called Cinemagraphs, and they’ve become quite popular among fashion photographers. For this shot I used the Canon 5D Mark II to capture both the still image and the video clip so I could be sure that the images would match exactly when I layered them together. This is a really fun technique to play with. If you’d like to experiment on your own, here’s a great video tutorial from Russell Brown that walks you through the complete process.
Our set up for the shot was quite simple, with a small soft box overhead and slightly behind the bowl to bring out all the shapes and textures of the seafood.
One interesting styling issue arose as we prepared the Bouillabaisse. When we filled the bowl with seafood it became too dark and opaque… lifeless. So we solved the problem by using clear plastic “ice cubes” to fill in the bowl and allow us to artfully arrange the seafood.
The ingredients shot was fairly straightforward, with a large octobox as the light source to create a very soft, even lighting. Since the camera had to be quite high, I decided to use the Canon EOS Utility to control the camera. This allowed us to use live view on the computer to see exactly what was in the frame as we were arranging the elements… much easier than trying to peer down through the viewfinder.
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: