I started a long and rambling post on food photography here, but I thought I would start trying to add a few posts on what goes on behind the scenes here at Cookography. I took these photos back when I was working on my post on fava beans and how much they suck. I am hopeful this gives you a better idea of what goes into taking the photos, figure out how you can make them better, and how to read a photo to learn how the lights were positioned.
First off, this is sort of a boring, simple photo. I just wanted to show how the different lighting elements contribute to the photo. The overall setup is pretty simple–the food is on a piece of white matte board that is resting on a folding work bench. There is a light stand with Nikon SB-26 flash and a shoot through umbrella to the left of the camera. On the other side of the table from the camera is another light stand and Nikon SB-26 flash with PhotoFlex Small LiteDome soft box. I got the softbox, stand and flash connector together as a kit, which was a great purchase.
One Light From Rear
As you can see this is a pretty simple setup. The rear flash casts a shadow that falls forward. The shadow is pretty soft though. The edge of the shadow is not a distinct edge and fades out gradually.
One Flash With A Reflector
So the only thing different with this shot is that I setup the umbrella in the front and to the left of the camera. The flash attached to the umbrella is not firing, but the light from the rear light is bouncing off the umbrella. Since food is a small subject you can really do a lot with just one light and a lot of reflectors. The shadows underneath the fava pod have lightened up a bit. The shadows in the front of the pods have also lightened a bit.
Ok, here we have both the flashes firing. The dark shadows are largely gone and the lighting has become pretty even across the bean. The flash in the soft box was set one stop lower than the flash in the umbrella.
So let me know, is this helpful? Is there something I can explain in a little more depth? I will try to do couple more posts like this future, so now is your chance to shape them.