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Editing food photography in Lightroom VIDEO!

It sure is nice to get back into the swing of blogging again. As I was editing the images for my last post, I thought it might be rather fun to make a video of my editing process inside of Lightroom.

I have been a photoshop user for over 10 years, and have found myself in Photoshop less and less with each revision of Lightroom. Frankly, that I like. If I can keep my workflow to one package, I am a happy man. One thing that really helps that is the “local adjustments” inside of Lightroom (I believe other packages have such options too). Local adjustments let you do exactly what it says on the tin – that is, make adjustments (exposure, levels etc) to just certain portions of the image. Those portions you want it to adjust you just paint over. Rather handy for fixing up areas of an image that need a little work.

Now, I don’t want to start an argument about whether images should be adjusted digitally or not. Ever since the camera was developed images have been adjusted (in a darkroom), and more recently inside the computer. Every professional photographer I know, that makes a good living, does post-production work on their images – and rightly so. Digital cameras natively can create rather flat looking images. Just simple tone curve and saturation adjustments can go a very long way.

editing food photography in lightroom

In this video demo I run through my development process for two images, both of which require local adjustments to make them more compelling. The workflow is pretty simple and fast – certainly much easier than doing these adjustments inside of Photoshop, which would involve adjustment layers, and then painting masks for these layers.

Basic Food Photography Development workflow

Shoot in RAW

Try to get the best possible lighting and exposure on camera

Adjust white balance if needed

Crop if needed (try to frame properly with your camera, rather than rely on cropping later)

Make broad exposure changes

Make broad tonal curve changes

Make broad saturation changes

Make local exposure/tone/saturation changes

The idea here is that we want to get the overal image looking right and having the correct feel before we go in to isolated areas and make local adjustments. The beauty of Lightroom, and most other RAW editors, is that you can go back and forth with all your settings – nothing is etched in to stone, it is all adjustable without wrecking image quality. I like that.

Here is my setup for the white tabletop shot:

Food Photography setup

This is my dining table pushed over to the window. The background (tablecloth) is actually some canvas I bought at an art supply store. On top of that is a ceramic tile from a salvage yard. The fabric is a light white shirt I was wearing that day. All dishes were from Goodwill I seem to remember.

The light is obviously coming mainly from the right – through the large window. I have a white card on the opposite side of the food to help fill in the shadows a bit. Don’t default to using a bounce card. Take a few shots first and look at your light and shadow quality. A straight shot with no bounce card can have more drama, with deeper shadows. This can look very, very good indeed. For this shot however I wanted something very light and airy, and a bounce card helped produce the lighting I wanted. If you position the bounce card and find that it has removed all of shadows, just simply move the card further away from your food until you get the shadow depth that you want.

So, here is the video of developing food phtography shots. If I slur it has nothing to do with with two glasses of wine I drank this evening…(oh due to compression the colors in the video are much brighter than they actually are)

Food and Light 2011

This blog has been a little quiet of late, and I apologize for that. Things have been busy, really busy. Here is one of the reasons why – Food and Light 2011.

Jen Yu of UseRealButter fame emailed me a while ago and asked if I wanted to be an instructor along with her and Todd and Diane of WhiteOnRiceCouple for this two day photography and styling workshop in Boulder, CO that she was setting up.

Click to read more about this workshop

wrightfood photography manual – help japan!

About three months ago Danika turned to me and suggested we do more for charity. That is something that you can never just say “meh..” to. So we got thinking. She is a very accomplished artist so we are planning on selling some of her works for charity. We also thought about setting up a large community vegetable garden to supply vegetables and fruits to lower income families, however that is a wee bit adventurous for both our time and wallets right now.

She then said “why don’t you make a book about food photography and sell it”. That was that. For the last two months in the evenings after work you would find me typing away, making illustrations and designing page layouts.

The book is done. It took longer than expected. Apparently that is how it goes with these things.

(more…)

Food and Light Workshop 2011

Well folks, this is quite an honor to announce this. Every year there is a very special food photography workshop in Boulder Colorado setup by the lovely Jen Yu and Todd Porter and Diane Cu. You might know them better by their blogs – Jen Yu is UseRealButter and Todd and Diane from WhiteonRiceCouple. I am sure they need no introductions from me.

These three are easily some of my favorite food photographers of this time. Each of them a well honed professional in food photography, having shot for publications, cookbooks, websites, restaurants, and I whole lot more. Just when you wanted to hate them for being so bloody talented – there is more. They are some of the most genuine, warmhearted people you will ever come across. Perhaps the greatest thing of all (especially for everyone else) is that they LOVE to teach, and they do it really darn well.

Click to read more about this fantastic food photography workshop

food photography post production – VIDEO POST!

Post production often seems like a dirty little secret. I know some photographers that don’t like to talk about it. Others swear it is the devils work, and only for those photographers that cannot take good shots.

I call bullshit to that last statement.

Post Production should be considered any work you do to a photograph after you take it. Some call it “Photoshopping”, but that is rather package specific, and often implies some gross adjustment or head/body replacements that we all love to do to those photos of friends.. It isn’t the devil’s work. It isn’t for photographers that cannot take good shots. It isn’t only for people that don’t know how to setup lighting properly.

Pretty much every photograph you see today has gone through some post production work. Some might be very slight, others might be very severe (thinking about those before/after shots of Madonna that went round the web a while back..). Back when I worked in the film industry, every shot went through post production – and that had many stages to it including color grading and so on. It is the same with photography.

Click to read more about how to develop digital photographs, and see the post production video!

Artificial Light Food Photography

Artificial Light Food Photography tips

Raise your hand if you have a problem taking food photography in the winter?

If you could see me now, I would have my hand raised (with an alocholic bevy in it too, most likely). Heck, I would most likely be pouring one out for all the fallen photos I have tried to take in the winter, but have had sucky lighting.

The problem is this, unless doing a photography job, I shoot most of my stuff in the evening. In the summer, this works out OK – it stays light here pretty late. Sometimes you will find me taking shots at lunchtime on the weekends too, but busy weekends (hello toddler) mean this often doesn’t happen. Even if this does work out through the winter months, typically it can be too dark to get those really lovely light filled shots we are all seeking these days.

It can work out good. Natural winter light can be really majestic. It can have an almost dreamy, distant quality to it. Course, it can also be gone in a flash too. That is why From about this time to march I tend to have to rely on artificial light to take my food photography.

Click to see my advice and setup for shooting in artificial light