Lighting 102: Cooking Light Assignment | Discussion

We talked about this assignment in terms of shooting for a polished a simple look, as if for wall display, or a calendar. There is no question in my mind that we could pull several great calendars out of the pool of assignment photos.

I had the impossible task of looking through all of the photos (whew, there were a lot) and picking out a selection to feature and discuss on the main site. This was not an easy thing to do, both in terms of quality and quantity.

As a photo editor, this is exactly the kind of problem one wishes to have: Too many choices. But for one guy, it pretty much kills the day before you have the chance to write word one.

Before I get to the photos, a couple of items:

First, there were many, many great photos. I was floored by the breadth and depth of the submissions. You were clearly paying attention in the light control discussions. Many of the photos submitted could stand up to inclusion in just about anyone's portfolio.

Second, such a constricted subject range, it was inevitable that there were many similar photos and even some near duplications. Don't be irked by that, if it affected you. We were working in a pretty tight sphere.

Third, some of my very favorite photos -- several of which which would have been included on this page -- were submitted in such a way that I could neither add a tag to them (to note it as a standout) nor grab a pic URL for the blog. If someone knows the exact reason behind this, please illuminate me in the comments so I can instruct people how to change their photos if they choose.

On these particular photos, I was at least able to fave them. So, if you happen to see your Cooking Light shot in the first four or five pages my faves gallery, please add a tag saying "standout" to your photo. This is how I am ID'ing the ones that I thought went above and beyond. This way, it'll be included in the slideshow linked below.

And, even though it is possible to do, please do not add the standout tag unless it appeared in my faves gallery. I want to make this set of photos searchable without having them drop off the top, as they will in my faves gallery. Much better to get there next time with your camera and lights than now, cheaply, with your keyboard.

As for the photos below, please click on them to see a larger version and/or check to see who did it. There are some great photos here (heck, there were a hundred great photos in the batch) and your comments on the ones you liked best are much appreciated by the photogs. If you would like to ask lighting questions of the photographers, do so in the comments of the actual photos. And if they left little or no lighting info, please rag them mercilessly.

Links to the whole slideshow and other sets follow after the photos.


The Dirty Dozen

The quality of the specular highlight on this one is just gorgeous.

There were many photos similar to this one in composition and I did not want to duplicate too much. But it is clear that many of you get the idea of softly (or partially) illuminating an off-camera object (fill card, ceiling, etc.) whose sole purpose is to be reflected in the shiny surface of your subject. The actual lighting of the scene is done (typically) with another source.

Varying the relative intensity of the two sources gives you total control of the two zones. You should note that the source that reflects typically takes very little light to accomplish the job.

Nice textural contrast, too, with the cut-up surface. Click on the pic to see setup shots in his stream, too.

This wine capper, one of a few similar versions, was a very nice example of lighting on two completely separate planes.

The photographer was nice enough to include shots done with each light individually, which is great for learning purposes. (The setup shots were done with a red gel instead of a blue one, but you get the idea.

Click through the photo for a link to the setup.

Lewis Hine gets reincarnated in this photo of a garlic press.

Those broad light sources, not far off axis, are great for photographing matte, semi-reflective objects. This photo had an industrial quality to it that I just loved.

The textural contrast in the background really works, too.

This is certainly the most sensual rendition of an ice cream scoop that I have ever seen.

My favorite part? The warm vs. cool specular reflections. You'll have to click through to see the ingenious method the photog used to get them.

The contrasting textures and chiarascura-style background arrangement on this one totally work.

The effect is not so much done with light (normally that's the whole idea) but with a dark-to-light transition that is hidden by the subject.

A simple idea, executed very well.

I love the repetition of textures in this photo.

This is not an easy thing to accomplish, as the reflectance values of the spoon and the brown eggs are quite different.

The photographer was kind enough to include a lighting setup shot if you are interested in learning more. There are lots of setup photos incuded with this assignment, actually. You'll find a link near the end of the post to a search for them.

(Extra thanks to those of you who shot and tagged setup pix.)

This is art.

I am even at a little bit of a loss to reverse engineer it, too. The notes say a snoot from above, but I do not know how that yields the creamy metal highlights up top.

The photog has several other versions which merit seeing in their stream, too. I am gonna have to stare at it a little more and figure it out.

As a group, the propensity to shoot knives bordered on fetish. Not that I can blame you, seeing some of the cutting instruments at your disposal.

This shot (and the next two) really show off specular control in blade surfaces. Again, you are shooting a reflection. THis is the key to specular control in flat, metal surfaces.

This knife shot produced a great juxtaposition of tonal densities. Great highlight control, too.

Double points for the setup shot (always appreciated) which you can see under the photo if you click on it. You will smack your forehead when you see how easy this was.

If you know exactly what you are doing when you shoot it, of course.

Today, I learned a great idea for a macro backdrop: A laptop computer.

Wonderful thinking, and always available. You could use your desktop, too, of course, if you sport a flat-screen monitor.

The knife and plate pick up the tones of the backdrop in a lovely way, which the photog enhanced with a little blurring in post. I think you could get a similar result with aperture selection. Or focal-plane shifting, if you are so-equipped.

But the takeaway here is the creative thinking on the any-way-you-want-it-to-look backdrop.

Last, and certainly not least, I cannot stop looking at this photo.

Less is more, here. Way more. I love everything about it - the composition, the tones, the highlight control, the feel - everything. Triple aces.

I was surprised by so many photos from the whole group, actually. You have set the bar pretty high right out of the blocks. I don't know what you are going to do to follow this up. Just a wonderful selection of kitchen photos, with far too many good pictures to do the whole group justice on one page.

You can see all of the assignment-tagged photos (over 1,000) here. You can see the final entries here. Photos that people tagged as setup shots appear here.

You can see the slideshow of some of the other ones I really liked here. And be sure to check the first few pages of my faves gallery to see if you had something I could not access. Please add the 'standout' tag if it is in the gallery.

And of course the discussion thread, with lots of interesting words and photos, is here.

Which was your favorite? What did you love that I missed? (This is just one person's opinion, you know.) Are you guys impressed with yourselves as a group as much as I am with you?

Sound off in the comments.

NEXT: Umbrella Specular Portrait


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