Food For Thought on Lighting Metal

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the U.S. balancing your health and nutrition can be tricky, but with the unveiling of the new Food Plate to replace the classic Pyramid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2011 eating the right portions is easier than ever. While five servings of fruit has traditionally been the standard, doctors now recommend a daily ration of eight or more servings to prevent heart disease.

Well, food finally found its way into my studio work.  For those of you who don’t know me very well, I’m a major foodie (staying true to my West Coast roots).  I’m also interested in health and nutrition, so for this shoot, with the materials I already had, one of the first ideas to pop in my head was mimicking the food pyramid but using only fruits and vegetables.  I really liked the shape of the brioche tins I had at my apartment but thought the fork was necessary to give the illustration more marketing appeal and to show off my use of light a little better than the partially hidden cups.  The lighting set up wasn’t complicated at all and through trial and error managed to find the right placement for my reflectors and soft box light.  I had the soft box shining directly over head and infront to move all shadows to the back and used a silver reflector to the side and a gold reflector to the bottom front to lift some of the shadows and bring out definition in the fork.  A gobo to the back kept the background from turning gray thanks to Peter and his multitasking skills.

So you see, simple!  What was not simple, however, were my props.  Turns out fruit is pretty slippery when you cut it open…especially when you set another metal tin also filled with fruit on top.  Yes, I did practice this at home before shooting in the studio, but Murphy’s law win’s every time (damn you Murphy!).  Stacking five cups of fruit on top of each other turned into a little bit of a fiasco for a while and I was worried we would get the shot at all.  Three times my tasty tower collapsed all over the table, and each time Peter and I rearranged it to make it beautiful again.  Finally, finally we got it steady (I think the grapes were the source of most of our frustration) and were able to make enough frames before we had to leave.  If I had had more time in the studio I would have experimented a little with another gobo to the front to give the metal more dimension, or a light to highlight some of the translucence in the fruit.  Instead, with our remaining two minutes Peter and I thought it would be fun to knock over the tower we had so painstakingly constructed.  The sequence below did not actually happen as you see it, but from the various shots I have recreated for you the behind the scenes frustration of dealing with sticky, slimy falling fruit so you can better appreciate, as Peter and I already do, the finished product.

One final helpful hint.  If you were wondering how I did my lighting diagram check out Kevin Kertz’s Lighting Diagram Tool that you can download for free.  If you’re not as familiar with Photoshop it can be a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will make Advanced Techniques and life in general so much better.

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