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Pasta and Clams

This was the last shot of the day for an assignment, and probably the most relaxed. I wanted to get a shot for my portfolio that felt more like the end of a meal. The kind of image that makes you wonder, who ate this? What type of person are they? And are they still here?

I asked the food stylist to take the lead and create a dish of his choosing. Meanwhile, the prop stylist began assembling the props, and I worked on lighting the set. The simplicity of the food and the props plays an important part in creating studio images that look like they were lit by natural light. Being spontaneous and not fussing too much are also factors in making images that feel relaxed and attainable.


arrow2.jpg FAR RIGHT One light source makes this scene feel like daylight.

ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/8, 50mm lens on Canon DSLR

Food Stylist: William Smith Prop Stylist: Nora Fink


Storytelling is part of the creative process. Telling yourself a story about the person or place you are photographing can help guide your choice of props or the style of light. The time of day, the season, the location, or even the person you imagine eating the food can affect how you approach your lighting style.

For this shot, I imagined a shack near the sea with no electricity and a few dirty windows. I believe that a nearly finished plate tells you more about the person who ate it than a full plate that has not been touched by a spoon.


To recreate the natural light I envisioned coming through the window of the shack, I placed a bent piece of foamcore on the left of my set and positioned my light close to it. This would help the light to appear more directional, like the late afternoon sun coming through the window. On the right side of the set, I used another piece of bent foamcore to address the shadows overall—I only wanted enough fill to barely read the detail they held.


arrow2.jpg RIGHT You can see how far away the lights are from the set. I didn’t use a tripod for this image. I just walked up into the empty space and took my shot.

Every picture tells a story, and the simplicity of natural light that shines through this image is exactly what I set out to create.

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