Watermelon Mountains. A Food Photography Inspiration.

Watermelon mountains. The summer sun is fading fast and soon fresh watermelon in New Jersey will be no more, or shipped from far and wide, without the same fresh sweet ripeness. The piles of fresh summer fruit are shrinking, and I have been inspired to capture images that are quickly fading.

After posting yesterday’s blog post, highlighting the blueberry as my subject, I wanted to see what creative inspiration I could find today, without having to take a trip down to the local market to see what inspiration I could find.

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I wanted to capture the essence of what my iPhone captured in this photo. (Above: ISO200 F6 1/160 with my Canon T41)

Here is the photo I took with my iPhone, which I use to set up the shot and get my composition right, trying out different angles and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

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Reflector card, of course, to capture the highlights on the melting watermelon mountains.

Watermelon Food Photography Set Up

Another photo taken with my iPhone – again, not a bad shot, but I wanted some green, which of course if on the outer rind, with some interesting patterns you can’t get inside the fruit. There were some water highlights, which I like to capture in my food photos to convey a sense of juiciness. After all, water is in the name, right? Watermelon.

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Would I capture the watermelon mountains spaced apart? Again, iPhone test shots, looking for the right angle and story with the morning light coming through the window, softly diffused.

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A photo from the front with a slight angle? No, hills aren’t really spaced evenly apart.

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Just a small benefit of food photography…When I’m finished, I get to eat it! What summer fruit would you like to see next? Drop me a line at @vickiesicnj

Watermelon-Bite

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Food Photography Behind the Scenes – The Making of a Blueberry.

Blueberries on Instagram

Nothing much to them, a little berry that is blue in color. I wanted to capture the story of a little blue fruit being the star of the show. Maybe you might just think of blueberries as some fruit in a protein shake, topping for oatmeal or ingredient in blueberry pancakes. Photographed with a little thought and good lighting, the blueberry can be a very interesting and beautiful subject.

Subject
For this photograph, I chose to use blueberries as my subject and star of the show. I had recently seen a photograph of blueberries artfully placed on a tasting spoon, using a very large aperture, more of a macro shot. The blueberries in the back of the bus were soft and out of focus and the blueberry on top had a very green stem that kind of drew your eye to it. It reminded me that blueberries do not grow in a plastic box on a tree. So I kept that in mind when I took this photograph. There was something more to the story for me than a tiny little blue fruit.

Plating
The only tasting spoon that I own is a porcelain soup spoon that I use when I have miso soup or wonton soup – something of an Asian influence. Kind of like when I use chopsticks to eat sushi. It just sets the mood. And it just so happens that this tasting spoon has a blue outer rim. Perfect to surround my little blue subject.

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Setup
Table
I used a snack table base, which is much like a saw horse, only very portable and lightweight. This snack table has a tray that sits on top that can also be used as a table, but I just use the legs that open up to create a stable platform for my foam core.

In-home Studio Food Photo Set Up-2The foam core I use has become a staple for my in-home “studio” food photography.. You can’t have food photos that make people want to sink their teeth in without good lighting.

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Reflector
I also use it as the base for my reflector cards, which are invaluable. Because I like to shoot in natural lighting as much as I can, it is great for filling in some shadows (when I don’t want them – they can be a great tool for showing depth, contrast and feeling). For this shot I used the foam core piece that I cut and wrapped using the soft side of aluminum foil on the outside, taped with packing tape.

And the V clamps that I use can be bought from home depot for a couple of bucks. They make taking those food shots a that you want to take a possibility when everyone else can’t wait to dig in! They are an extra set of hands that won’t melt or spoil, and when you’re done, they won’t even take a bite of your subject!

Food Styling
I plated the blueberries by hand delicately. I chose the only one in the box with a green stem. I looked to the middle of the box for the plumpest fruits that were surrounded by other blueberries and were able to retain their moisture. I did use a spray bottle to finely mist the blueberries to retain their moisture. I didn’t know how long the shot would take. So in this case I didn’t need tweezers to place delicate items, but I did use a spray bottle to mist.

In-home Studio Food Photo Set Up-3Surface
I have a cutting board that I bought recently that has these really interesting knots, lines and curves. I wasn’t sure when I was setting up this shot how I would use the surface to support the shot, but I knew that it would be an interesting contrast and supporting role. When I first took the shot (with my iPhone 5), I was at a 90 to try to catch the entire subject and interesting shape of the spoon.

I took this photo from a variety of shots, all at a 90 degree angle because i wanted to catch my subject straight on and capture the supporting surrounding lines and curves.

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Camera
For my first round of shots I used my iPhone 5 to set up the shots and make sure the lighting was correct. Because it was handheld, it was tough to get the lines of the cutting board exactly straight – I am a perfectionist and am always trying to get clean lines and the entire subject in the frame, with supporting lines.

You have much more control with a DSLR, and I am hooked. But in a pinch, my first camera that I grab is my iPhone – especially to set up my composition. And because I posted this photo on instagram, my iPhone was my first go to shot. It does take a few minutes to download the RAW images to your PC and then import to do your final touches. I’m not talking about post-processing, just the process of normalizing.

DSLR – The Final shot

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For my last and final shot, I used my Canon T4i, with my 18-135 everyday go to lens, ISO 200 F5 1/160. I’ve been using my Sekonic light meter to shoot in manual, but I was in a pinch for time with this one, so I chose to go in aperture priority mode (AV). It did an excellent job capturing what I had in my mind, so no futzing around was necessary to get it right the first time. This would be the one that I would include in my portfolio.

My everyday lens is not my ideal lens to shoot with for food photography (my next investment is a 50mm F1.8), but on a budget, it does a pretty good job, especially of picking up more details than a smartphone camera ever could. I just can’t buy all the lenses I want, so I just make do with what I have like most photographers. A lens is a tool for me to tell my story and if I get it right in the frame, the rest will fall into place.

I shot this in RAW, and imported into Lightroom. With very minor adjustments, including tinkering with the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks and some cropping, I was happy with just one shot. Then I exported it to my Blog Food folder after keywording all ready for consumption.

Final Notes

As this blog continues to evolve, I’m searching for the content that is easy for me to share and that I’m passionate about (which makes it easy, right?). The last two blog posts this week have been sharing food photos of me showing how to create something to eat. Roasted brussel sprouts were on the menu, including sauteed gray squash with red peppers and onions. Again, I love taking food photos and I love to educate and show people how they can do something. The recipes I shared were all easy to prepare and created something unusual and interesting to my eye.

When you’re shooting the steps of a recipe from start to finish, your subject changes and moves from one light source to another – unless you’re shooting everything in a pan. But if you shoot the individual components as I did, it becomes very time consuming and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if I just shot the final dish. But by then I wasn’t bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I was when I started. Taking a photograph of a prepared meal for a cookbook must be exhausting.

But still, I love the story and that’s why I love shooting the parts and pieces. So on this blog, I will move from photographing the parts and pieces of a meal to tell the story, and start sharing more of the parts and pieces of how I work behind the scenes.

When I created Digifood, I didn’t know what it would evolve into. I just knew I was addicted to taking photos of my food. So now that I have picked up a DSLR for the first time almost a year ago, I use my camera to tell a story at work, where I am a Marketing Manager by day. Vickie-Photographing-Trade-Show-DisplayI take photos of sometimes very large trade show displays, and try to capture the employees as I much as I can and they are willing to let me share, and events. Here’s a shot taken behind the scenes (Courtesy: Ron Johnson). I am shooting parts and pieces of a tradeshow display before it is dismantled to be shipped off to a show. Sometimes there is a very small window of opportunity to get the shot – sometimes I just miss it all together. Nothing melts, but it will disappear by going in a crate. Lighting is another subject all together – it is a very complicated process, and I learn every day about creating good light for my subject with tricky different reflective surfaces.

There is a ton of stuff I do with as a Marketing Manager that uses photographs, and I am very lucky to have the chance to capture it all with a really great tool and tell a story that would make their people want to “sink their teeth in.” After this week’s vacation that I took to just catch up with my photography, blog, website and my own brand (to sort it all out), I look forward to sharing this blog with you to tell the “story” of how I do my work as a marketer AND photographer, with a passion for food photography. Let me know what more you would like to see here – tweet me at @vickiesicnj, or post a comment right here. Thanks for reading!

Gray Squash Sautee with Red Peppers and Onions

My second vegetable side dish of the week worthy of the lens – gray squash (also known as Mexican Zucchini) with red peppers and onions.

This recipe is very simple and easy to make.  It can be a light summer dinner or a health and flavorful side dish.

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Ingredients:

3 medium gray squash
1 medium red pepper
1 medium onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
splash of orange juice
salt and pepper

Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Slice the zucchini about 1/3′ wide.  You can quarter it, or slice it, whatever you prefer.

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Dice the red peppers and onions.

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Put olive oil in pan and sautee the red peppers and onions. Keep the zucchini for the last step.

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Cook until the onions are translucent and carmelized.

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Next in is the gray squash. Keep tossing the zucchini around so it gets a nice flavor coating from the red peppers and onions that have carmelized.

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The final dish.
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I’m really happy to have gotten my blog off the ground again for so long. It’s tough to find the time to devote to your passion of food photography. Thanks for reading! Let me know what more you would like to see here.