Home Photography Ideas: Food Photography Explosion!
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Floating food stacks are very popular in both food photography and restaurant advertising right now. This header requires a nifty combination of shooting skills and Photoshop techniques – and as you can see, it’s very effective!
We start by installing a series of precarious metal platforms for each element of our burger, so that we can take the picture. Then we remove the stack and film an empty frame. Next, we assemble the frames in Photoshop and remove the threads from the edges of the image.
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However, we still have few visible parts of the wire on which the food rests, which ruins the illusion. To solve this problem, we will have to use Photoshop’s powerful Patch tool to retouch the threads and refine the image.
It’s easier than it looks, as the full walkthrough in our video tutorial above will show. You can obviously use this technique to photograph other tasty treats, so head to your fridge and snap a good shot!
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Configure your snack stack
01 Hang the backdrop
First install and consider the background – we used a dark blanket to make the backdrop completely black. Alternatively, you can arrange a scene with more context – a kitchen counter or dining table would work well.
02 Place two stands
Install two light brackets (or other vertical support) on either side of the table like this one, parallel to each other. You can also weigh the brackets to keep them from moving, or tie them together under the table to lock them in place.
03 Create wired platforms
Using a roll of fine wire, wrap a piece around the supports to form a thin platform, then cut the wire and continue to make other platforms for each ingredient you intend to make. ‘use in the photo. Make the wire platforms as taught as possible.
04 Prepare the food
Cut out the ingredients you want to use. For our burger, we had red onion, leaf lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese, brioche bun and a burger. We also had mustard and ketchup on hand. Pick the freshest, most colorful foods you can find.
05 Arrange the ingredients
Place each ingredient on a separate metal platform, spacing them apart. It’s best to work from top to bottom so that if something falls out it doesn’t wash away the rest of the pile. Be careful that each element does not overlap or obscure the rest.
06 Take the picture
Secure the camera to a sturdy tripod, arrange your lights (see next section), and photograph the stack of delicious ingredients. A fixed focal length lens like a 50mm is ideal for food photography, as fixed focal length lenses tend to be sharper and faster than zooms. Be careful not to push the tripod – we need to take another shot of the empty stage once we’ve removed the food and wires.
07 On the line
After taking the main photo of the stacked food, we also removed a few other frames while holding some pickles and onions on another piece of wire. This gives us a bit of extra variation in the heights of the food. We’ll combine them later in Photoshop.
08 An empty frame
Once we took the food photos, we removed everything and took a frame of the table and the backdrop. This is handy for removing the threads later in Photoshop – we’ll combine the food photo with the empty scene and use a mask to hide the threads.
03 Spoons and splashes
Finally, we try a few frames while squirting mustard and dropping spoonfuls of ketchup, trying to catch them in the air. It is best to turn off any ambient light so that the speed lights will freeze the movement. We do this last, as it may do a reasonable amount of damage!
02 Add a second flash
The second speed light is placed in front and to the right of the subject, and fitted with a silver umbrella. A wireless trigger is attached to the other flash, and the flash is set to optical slave (S1) so that it detects the other light and fires at the same time.
03 Check the output
Both flashes are set to manual; the front light is at 1/16 power, and the rear at 1/4. This creates cross-light with reflections along the left side of the food and fills in the front flash. Parasols diffuse, soften and diffuse light.
04 Exposing to flash
Our camera is also in manual mode, at 1/200 sec, f / 5.6 and ISO100. The large aperture means the depth of field is limited, so the table and background should be out of focus. After focusing on the burger, we switch to manual focus to lock it in place.
Finish in Photoshop
01 Use the lasso
Now is the time to start Photoshop. Open the images of the hamburger and the empty stage, and drag the hamburger into the other image. Take the Lasso Tool and select the food.
02 Make a mask
Click the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers panel. Get the paintbrush tool and paint with black to hide the wire around the edges of the food.
03 Patch the wires
Create a new layer, grab the Patch tool and check âSample All Layersâ. Select parts of the wires and drag to clean the areas to be removed.
04 Perfect food
Use the Patch tool to touch up the messy parts of the food so that everything looks good. Then open the other images, like mustard.
05 Copy in extras
Select the mustard with the Lasso and copy it, then go to Select> Select and Hide. Select the object and set Output to: Layer Mask.
06 Reshape the burger
When everything is combined, make a merged copy with Cmd / Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E then go to Filter> Liquefy to reshape the food and make it plump and sumptuous!
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