DON'T MISS: Italian conceptual portrait photographer Sara Lando is coming to the US to teach in Atlanta (8/16) and Baltimore (8/23). Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tupperware and Trash Bags, Pt. 3 of 3

Wrapping up the series from the "cold food" assignment I shot for The Sun from a couple of weeks ago, I saved the toughest subject for last.

By this, I do not mean that I saved the toughest of the three articles for last. I mean I saved this shot of "tuna tartare" (yum... NOT!) as the last shot I would produce during the afternoon's shoot.

I did this because I had no idea in the world how I was going to escape being reflected in these spoons:


I mean, Geez Louise. Why not just give me a chrome gazing sphere to photograph while having to hide my reflection and be done with it?

Look at the reflections from a single umbrella above. Yeah, it has a kind of neat "melting-Terminator-bad-guy" look to it. But nothing appropriate for the food page.

I prided myself on not cursing (out loud) as I studied the spoons the designer had chosen for tuna props.

They're pretty, I guess. But the fact that they are both concave and convex means that they threw back the light's reflections on opposite sides of the spoon at the same time. I could hide the flash's reflection on the bottom of the convex part, but there is was on the top of the concave part.

Or vice versa.

And it wasn't as if I had a stack of white foamcore cards to use as a reflector tent, either. We were shooting in a small kitchen with a couple of SB's, making it up as we went.

I tried bouncing off of the ceiling. Nope.


I tried another Hail Mary lighting scheme - bare flash nuking - and that looked even worse. But those ball-bungee stand-ins sure do look delish, huh? (I like 'em braised...)

So, internal cursing mostly completed, I did what I always do when faced with a tough problem. I procrastinated let it settle in my mind a bit while I did the other two shots.

But in the process of shooting, I also used up the idea of backlit tupperware as a base on the soup shot seen in part one.

(Nice work, Dave.)

In short, the spoons would see everything. So what I needed was a clean, white background. And a soft, white light source - that came from everywhere.

If it had been cloudy outside, there would have been no problem. I could have shot the spoons with a long tele, far enough away to make the reflection a tiny speck.

Alas, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. But you see how I was thinking.

What I needed was a small, backlit, indoor, cloudy sky.

For the background, I settled on the top of the designer's stove, between the burners. It was also waterproof for the ice that she wanted to use as a theme in all three shots. One problem solved.

Here is a quick stand-in: A roll of half-width black gaffer's tape. The background was big enough to hold the subject and a nice, sweep horizon.

To say that I was glad when I decided how to light the spoons would stretch the limits of my already atrocious pun judgment. So I was merely happy to realize that I could make a light tent out of a kitchen trash bag.

Using a little of the gaffer's tape, we made a makeshift tent out of a torn-apart bag. After that, it was easy to just stick an umbrella'd flash over it.

And presto: Double-diffused light.

Soft, nice, easy transitions. And all-encompassing.

And cheap.

At that point, it was simply a matter of shooting low enough to disguise my reflection in the bottom edge of the spoon. You can still make it out in the top photo on the far left, but it is not obvious.

(I had the designer hold up my side of the trash-bag tent and I peeked the 55 macro lens through to shoot.)

In the vertical, my reflection is totally hidden by the bait delicious, raw tuna. (That's why I was playing with the ball-bungee stand-ins earlier.)

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would wager that this is possibly the first time in world history that a ball bungee has been used as a visual stand-in for tuna tartare.

(If anyone can find a link proving otherwise, I'll take it back.)

Again, this picture ain't the end-all. But it is a good example of understanding your lighting theory well enough to bootstrap some found objects into a solution for a vexing little problem.

And that is a very satisfying experience in itself.

Next: Soup Up Your $10 DIY Macro Studio


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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used white trash bags often as diffusers, I was worried that their shiny nature might give me some specular highlighs in random places, but so far I haven't seen that. Is that a risk?

I've got diffusion-cloth diffusers and trash bag diffusers and haven't noticed too much difference in light quality.

August 26, 2006 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, another good idea for inexpensive light control. I actually got a lightbox for my work with reflective objects but I teach others to make boxes with tracing paper and a box but I think the trashbag method may get more use from some people.

I guess you dont like tuna tartare but I would have been on top of that as soon as the shot was done. Its good stuff, I hope you got to try a sample. ;-)

August 26, 2006 8:37 PM  
Blogger David said...

Anon#1:

If they are being backlit, they are a light source. Hard to get a shiny spot on a light source.

Anon#2: I saved the raw tuna for you and put it in the mail. Couldn't afford express mail. Should be there in a coupla weeks. Enjoy.

August 26, 2006 10:44 PM  
Blogger Duane said...

Damn, that's amazing. I have run into similar problems, on a much lesser scale, and I haven't been able to grapple with a solution. I must admit as I was reading it was really looking forward to the solution on how you were going to resolve that. Pretty cool and THANK YOU for sharing that!

August 26, 2006 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice work. there nothing wrong w/ raw tuna David. yummmmmmmmmmm

August 27, 2006 1:34 AM  
Blogger photoimagery said...

It may have been the most difficult shot but I think it is probably the best one of the set - it almost looks appetising

August 27, 2006 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing, but I think the photo is a bit too flat. Did you try not using the umberella to get a bit more direction to the shot?

August 28, 2006 12:16 AM  
OpenID grunyen said...

I was thinking freezing the spoons. Then pulling them out to condense "fog" on them. Then the surface itself would be less shiny. But then, I just read the beer bottles post a few minutes ago.

January 08, 2008 10:02 PM  
Blogger Glenn said...

In my TV work, we would use dulling spray. I never stuck around to find out if the stuff ever came off of the owner's valuables. Of course, diffusion manufacturers produce a "real" item to do what you did... in case you need to impress the cook.

March 14, 2010 4:38 PM  
OpenID Shawn said...

Any suggestions on how to mitigate that characteristic light-tent opening?

I'm shooting a very highly reflective (round mirrorlike metal) teapot in a light- tent.

1. I do have a cover on the opening for the lense,.. nice round blackspot in the middle
2. Would using a 20mm make theblackspot less conspicuous?
3. Should I do f1.8 (instead of f12) to blur-out the reflection?
4. Should i try 200m/f2.8 to blur out moure effectively
5. Anyone tried lighting the wall behind the camera to make the tent opening less obvious?
6. How about putting a polariser on the lense... Or on the light source?
7. Anyone resolved this by shooting off-centre with a tilt-shift lense?

I know i can photoshop the refection out... But smack in the middle is an engraved logo ! Arghh!

I know i could put the teapot in the freezer and then get a frosted look... still metal but diffused reflection... Not as pretty.

Ideas, anyone?
Thx.

Shawn
uncertainregard.ch/

P.s. Does anyone have a blog list for this subject?
I do know about www.tabletopstudio.com/documents/silver_photography.htm
And here: strobist.blogspot.com/2006/08/tupperware-and-trash-bags-p...

May 21, 2010 5:03 AM  
OpenID Shawn said...

Any suggestions on how to mitigate that characteristic light-tent opening?

I'm shooting a very highly reflective (round mirrorlike metal) teapot in a light- tent.

1. I do have a cover on the opening for the lense,.. nice round blackspot in the middle
2. Would using a 20mm make theblackspot less conspicuous?
3. Should I do f1.8 (instead of f12) to blur-out the reflection?
4. Should i try 200m/f2.8 to blur out moure effectively
5. Anyone tried lighting the wall behind the camera to make the tent opening less obvious?
6. How about putting a polariser on the lense... Or on the light source?
7. Anyone resolved this by shooting off-centre with a tilt-shift lense?

I know i can photoshop the refection out... But smack in the middle is an engraved logo ! Arghh!

I know i could put the teapot in the freezer and then get a frosted look... still metal but diffused reflection... Not as pretty.

Ideas, anyone?
Thx.

Shawn
uncertainregard.ch/

P.s. Does anyone have a blog list for this subject?
I do know about www.tabletopstudio.com/documents/silver_photography.htm
And here: strobist.blogspot.com/2006/08/tupperware-and-trash-bags-p...

May 21, 2010 5:03 AM  

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