I enjoy reading how other photographers setup their shoots to get specific photos, so I thought I’d start a series of “Photoshoot” posts each describing the setup to get one of my shots. These Butterscotch Cashew Bars are featured at Bake or Break.
This type of shot that washes out in highlights in the distance is popular on food blogs and hardcopy publications, as well. In this case, four similarly sized bars are lined up along the camera axis and shot down from a shallow angle. The final shot was taken with a Nikon D200 through a 60mm macro lens (f11, 1/3s, ISO100).
I’m here to prove that fancy equipment isn’t necessary to get a good shot. Above you can clearly see that I’ve gone all out with not one but two plastic tubs filled with clothing to support my sweep (which is in the flat mode for this shot). Nothing can beat my laptop stand lovingly constructed from an ancient ladder chair, a box with lead or plutonium or some other unrealistically dense material in it, and, not visible, a B&H catalog from my last drool through their superstore between the laptop and box. The catalog is a vital element, however, as it allows me to dream about the day that I have actual studio gear. It probably won’t affect the quality of my photos, but it will likely make taking them easier and definitely more fun. The tripod is a nondescript but fairly stable one (until I get the Bogen/Manfrotto ball head kit that has been lingering in my wishlist for at least a year).
The most important equipment for this shot is something unavailable at B&H (maybe the only thing they don’t have): natural light. I have umbrellas and strobes and so on, but nothing beats the Sun. In this room, we are fortunate to have a bay window with about 180 degrees of eastern and southern exposure. Northern light is optimal, but in the late afternoon and early evening, I love this spot. We have a great Northern window that is frosted which is great all day long, but it’s over a bathtub which makes for much more interesting and hazardous setups. Actually, the setup pictured above is in our master bedroom and I often wonder what our neighbors think when they see all of our gear setup in there.
I use Aperture on my MacBook Pro which is physically tethered to my D200 with a nice long USB cable. I had been looking for months for a tethered shooting solution, but never found one that I really liked. I yearned for tethered shooting directly into Aperture (which makes so much sense) and, with version 2.0, Aperture does exactly this. I’ve been extremely pleased with the tethered shooting thus far and many of the improvements to Aperture. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, tethered shooting transfers photos to your computer right after they are shot allowing immediate feedback on a big screen. I also use it as a remote shutter release (just the click of the mouse) to prevent camera shake.
Here’s a close up of the setup for the final photograph seen at top. The bars lead from the camera toward the brightest area outside which creates a uniform backlight. There is also light coming from camera right and a little from behind the camera on right. To fill in the shadows caused by this light, I placed a bounce to the left a little forward of subject. A little tweaking and a few trials via tethered shooting and I was pleased with the lighting. Note that my bounce is another piece of equipment not available at B&H since I fashioned it out of a little tabletop tripod (probably available at B&H, actually) and a bright white foam board available at most hobby shops. This little bounce is my favorite as the little tripod gives me all kinds of flexibility in placement.
That’s it for this shot. It goes to show that the only gear that really matters is glass and body, although looking around at flickr I’m shown that remarkable results can be obtained with most any camera as long as the finger pushing the shutter is attached to someone who knows what they’re doing. The rest of the photos from this shoot are here on flickr. Here are a few samples: