There was a time before Photoshop (BP) when photographs were able to be used as
evidence. Now, after Photoshop (AP), photography is one of the least truthful
pastimes you can take up. For the pro photographer much time is used in working
out how to either show the product in a favorable way, or to disguise some
defect or other. There is a veritable army of people out there who love to go
through advertising brochures and look for minute imperfections and write to the
manufacturer saying “Does all of your jewelry have scratches on them?” And who
gets the blame? Not the manufacturer who sent over the product, but the poor old
photographer, that’s who. This can really be an enormous problem especially when
you may be photographing a pre-production item and this is the only one in
Have you ever tried photographing champagne at the wedding?
There’s never enough bubbles to make it look sparkling. To get over this, drop
some sugar into the glass. Only a few grains are enough to give the almost still
glass of champers that “just opened” fizz look to it. For a catalogue shot you
also have to bring the light in from the back of the glass, as well as from the
front. This takes two flash heads, or at least one head and a reflector.
While still on wines, if you try and shoot a bottle of red
wine, it comes out thick dark maroon or even black. Restaurateurs who have tried
photographing their wines will agree. So what does the pro shooter do? Well he
has a couple of courses of action. First is to dilute the red wine by about 50
percent and secondly place a silver foil reflector on the back of the bottle. So
what happens to the half bottle of red that was removed to dilute the wine? The
photographer has it with dinner.
I once was given the job to photograph 10 ice cream cones for
a restaurant chain. They wanted all 10 of them standing up, all the different
flavors and looking attractive. This was not a simple assignment, let me assure
First off, how do you get 10 ice cream cones to stand upright
with no obvious support. The answer was wooden skewers through the back of the
cone going into a block of polystyrene covered with black velvet material.
Next you have to check the lighting flash heads and focus,
using polystyrene balls on top of the cones, as ice cream melts too quickly.
After you get all that set up properly you have to be ready to scoop up the ice
creams and place them on the cones without any drips. You need three people to
do this as ice cream under studio lighting melts in under 30 seconds.
Having taken one shot, if you are lucky everything will be
fine. The reality is that you will need to take the shot several times to get
everything correct, all the cones exactly parallel to each other, and no drips
on the black velvet. That one shot will take you one day, which is why food
photography is so expensive.
This is one area where there are more fraudulent practices
than any other. Cold food can be made to look hot by sprinkling chips of dry ice
to give “steam” coming off the dish. Not palatable, but it looks OK. Cooking oil
gets brushed on slices of the cold meat so that they look moist and succulent.
That is just for starters. In the commercial photography
studio, the dedicated food photographer would erect a “light tent” of white
polystyrene and bounce electronic flash inside. Brightness is necessary to stop
the food looking grey and dull. Lighting is just so important. If you do not
have bright sparkly light then potatoes will look grey, and even the china
plates look drab and dirty.
In the USA, there are very firm rules about photographing
food. You are not allowed to use substitute materials which “look” like food,
but are actually not. This covers using shaving cream as the “cream” on top of
cappuccino coffee for example. But don’t believe it!