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My Front Door

Another opportunity to hone my skills in working with natural light came while I was preparing to shoot a promo with a food stylist. I had gathered a few props that I wanted to share with her, but I hadn’t started setting up any of my lights, and the table I planned to use (a recent purchase) was still sitting by the front door. So I just dragged the table into the light that was coming through the glass of the door and spread out my props.

I only did this so she could see the props clearly, but when she brought over the onions we were planning to shoot and started to arrange them on the table, I grabbed my camera and took a few quick shots. After looking at the images on the screen, I knew we needed to shoot them right there at my front door. It didn’t take long to get a couple of beautiful shots. In fact, we captured a very similar composition using mushrooms—assuming we would decide later which one we liked better. But we love them both!

A few days later, I listened to one of my regular clients describe the type of image they were after for an assignment. I realized that what they wanted was virtually the same thing I had done by my front door. But shooting by the window wasn’t an option. For one thing, the setup made it difficult to open the door to the studio, and besides, I needed something that was easily repeatable. So I took my inspiration from that shot and thought about how I could re-create it.


arrow2.jpg LEFT I moved my workstation close to the setup so I could shoot tethered.


Although I was comfortable mimicking natural light in the studio, there was something different about the shots I had done at my front door. The only thing I could come up with was those darn window blinds. They directed the light across the set rather than allowing it to wrap over the top of the subject. So I began lighting by placing two large pieces of foamcore on the left side of the set, but this time I also added a black flag to play the part of the window blind.

When I shot the onions I didn’t use any fill cards at all. I didn’t care if the shadows went black—in fact, I kind of liked it—but for this assignment we were going to need some fill light. Instead of shining a light against the back wall and filling in all the shadows I had been trying to create, I place a 3′ × 3′ diffusion screen on the back-right side of the set and put a light with a standard 8-inch reflector behind it. I used the same table and props as I had in our promo shot by the door, at the client’s request.


arrow2.jpg I think they make a nice couple. The onions were shot in natural light and the turkey burger was shot using strobe in the studio.

(Left) ISO 100, 1/4 sec, f/3.5, 50mm lens on Canon DSLR

Food Stylist: Jacqueline Buckner

(Right) ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/16, 90mm lens on Sinar P3

Food Stylist: Barbara Coad


arrow2.jpg Here is the lighting arrangement for the turkey burger shot.

Power settings (watts per second): A=94, B=1140

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