Remember from the last post, here’s how the background looked in the final shot, with the crop applied:
The prop stylist on this project arranged layers of fabric, curtains, a window, and some lights going back on various planes to create a sense of depth. Here are some views of how it really looked:
All this material will go out of focus later on, and any extraneous things like the green wires from the lights can be retouched out. The idea is to have something in the background to imply a space, without calling attention to what specifically it is. I like to say “it’s there without being there.”
OK, so now we have the layout for the cups, and we’ve established the general idea for the background. We still have to light this set, photograph nice swirls on the tops of all the drinks IN FOCUS, and get a nice creamy out of focus background.
Let’s do the lighting. I don’t have a set formula for these things, though some kind of back-light is almost always used. Once we’ve created the volume in the subject with a (somewhat back) main light, then we use “fill” light to open up the shadows in front. Sometimes the shot will need some extra “bling” so I add a specular (not diffused) light to spice it up. Then we light the background separately. Let’s see how this works on this set.
I’m using a very large parabolic reflector made by Broncolor. Right now it has a layer of diffusion in front, and inside you can see the silver surface and the way the flash head sits on an adjustable rail. Without the diffusion, this light produces a very interesting hard snappy light which paradoxically adds its own fill. This is because the light hits the subject from so many places around the reflector. Fashion photographers like this light a lot. Anyway, back to our shot…. we could also have done this shot with any broadly diffused light, whatever covers the set evenly and produces soft shadows.
With just the big light, the effect is too soft. I add a bare head on the opposite side, and then my assistant holds up a large fill card in front. I find it’s just easier to have someone step in and hold it — the food stylist has to get in there too frequently for us to set the card up permanently on a stand.
This is an iterative process. Here my assistant goes through the progressive captures as we balance the levels of the lights. In addition, we’re leaving the shutter open a little longer than usual, about 1/8 second, to pick up the glow from the decorative lights in the background. You can see somebody’s lunch on the shelf above the monitors — oops!
I’ll end today’s installment with a bit on equipment. We’re shooting with a Hasselblad HD4-50 which has a 50mp sensor. I’ve got an 50-110 zoom lens on right now, which enables us to scale the image size more easily. If this were a smaller set, I’d be using my 120mm Macro, which is the go-to lens around here. Next time I’ll we’ll see a bit more behind the scenes and talk about how each of the drinks gets composited into the background.