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Lights for the small food photography workshop

  
 
Kalainen
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


Hello all, first time posting to the flash/lighting section of FM. :-)

I'm seeking for an advice. I've agreed to participate in a food photography workshop where I will speak something about the food photography in general and there will be another person to teach post processing with Snapseed. The workshop attenders will be small scale food industry entrepreneurs who will want to learn something about the food photography to a point that they could share some images at Instagram, and they want to use their phones for photography. So, definitely a group of beginners. I'm no food photography expert myself either, but I've got enough experience to arrange this kind of part in the workshop and it doesn't need to be very sophisticated.

I thought I could setup a small table for products with some lights, background and other stuff so they could have a better opportunity for successful pictures, and some might get excited to replicate something similar on their own later on. Now, the question is what kind of lightining setup should I build for them? I'll be buying the equipment myself and it will stay with me for later on for my own experiments with learning studio photography (portraits and experimental stuff), so I've got my own interest here too.

Some options I've been thinking:

Option A.
I could buy a one semi-big continuous led light and some reflectors/diffusers. This way the effect of an artificial light would be easy to see and photograph with a smartphone. I'm thinking a simple side-light setup with diffuser and a reflector on a another side. Should be pretty basic - I think.. And it doesn't need to be anything fancy, just something that will help to get that soft diffused light.

+ With continuous led light they could use their smartphones/tablets and edit the pictures with Snapseed with ease.
- For my own experimentation a led light is a kind of meh, and I would rather take a strobe of some kind.

Option B.
I could buy a one semi-professional strobe like Godox AD200 or AD400 pro with softbox and reflector, and learn to create a soft side light with this setup. Unfortunately they would need to use a camera (it would be my own Sony A7III) and transfer the pictures to their smartphones to be edited with Snapseed. Or maybe somekind of tethering to tablet could work also? Now, I don't have a clear picture which would be a good workflow where many could have their own pictures from the camera quite fast and edit them on their own devices. So if anyone have any ideas regarding this I'm all ears..

+ I could get myself a nice strobe for my own photography
- Not sure if this option is any way managable with the requirements (smartphones and snapseed)

I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Maybe someone knows how to get option B working workflow wise. Or maybe there are other options which I haven't thought about. I should also add that I'm new to strobes and all, but this kind of mini project could be a perfect opportunity to start learn about strobes (not really concerned about the technicalities).



Feb 28, 2022 at 08:44 AM
jlafferty
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


A big window or Option A are your best bets. Just make sure the LED is Daylight balanced, high CRI/TLCI and maybe add ¼ CT Straw gel to warm it up. You will have to consider how to black out ambient and turn off any overhead lights. Aputure and Nanlite make nice COB LEDs, and Godox has a couple which are good, too - the VL150 would be a nice fit. IMO it’s best if you put the reflector on, bounce it, then run the bounce through diffusion, for natural looking food photography. Though to be completely honest, my first choice and recommendation will always be to use natural light if you’ve got it - makes for the best food photography, and attempts to mimic it with strobe require a lot of experience, patience and grip/gear.


Feb 28, 2022 at 09:49 AM
tcphoto
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


jlafferty is spot on, if the attendees are using smartphones to shoot a large window is the best option. Food photography has gone through quite a shift in trends recently, the soft light has given way to hard light so a window will be fine. Of course, you may want to have diffusion, flags and reflectors available so to demonstrate how versatile natural light can be.


Feb 28, 2022 at 10:38 AM
Kalainen
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


jlafferty & tcphoto, thanks for your quick replies. Looks like the natural light option with a large window is one possibility. Actually it's also the option that came to mind first when I was asked for this workshop. The reason I felt it might be insufficient is that being natural I'm unsure if the light is going to be any good at the given day. For example, maybe it will be a grey overcast day, or there won't be enough light, etc. But having two recommendations to just use natural light, I'm actually seeing it more of a positive option now, I just should make some choices to maximise my options.

As a bit of a novice when it comes to arranged lightning I should pay attention to these kind of things:

- I should find the spot where we could have direct natural light from a window as large as possible. So, not on the shadowy side of the building, but on the side where the light is shining in at the given moment.
- I should arrange table just next to window, preferably on the same level as window. I can play the direction of light depending on how I arrange the food products on the table and how I use other materials.
- I can use diffusion filters and reflectors to smooth the light or fill the shadows.
- I should kill the ambient light from the room with black flags and such.
- Other than that it's just experimenting and hoping for the best!

Any other tips you could come up with?

...and most importantly, thank you for taking you time and sharing your valuable insights. As I'm bit novice with light arrangement, all this is very much appreciated. :-)



Mar 01, 2022 at 03:39 AM
jlafferty
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


Seems like you’ve got it right enough. Keep things side or backlit and you should be good. Use an app like Sunseeker to track the sunlight for the day to round out the experience.


Mar 02, 2022 at 08:32 AM
jlafferty
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


Oh, and show people how to set a fixed exposure on their phone


Mar 02, 2022 at 08:33 AM
JohnSil
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


K, first I would totally separate your ambitions from theirs. For your own business you should use strobes with the needed modifiers.
For their photography I would get like 3 LED light banks, either like the smaller or larger ones i've listed. Both could do smaller food projects just fine using an iPhone.
One light on each side and one overhead as a sort of rim or kicker. You might need a small boom.
For phone work I certainly would do just enough to get them by. They're restaurant owners not photographers. It would be easy to overwhelm someone with complex expensive equipment.
Besides a table I would use a paper BG so different colors could be swapped out easily and cheaply. I would use the cheapest light stands you could find. Liker the ones you get with those cheap continuous light kits and modifiers. In this case I would want to produce more with less.
Good luck
John

Small LED
https://www.ebay.com/itm/324342623898?chn=ps&_trkparms=ispr%3D1&amdata=enc%3A1VrRnv_1FSZ6L76sAif9gOA47&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&itemid=324342623898&targetid=1599090335417&device=c&mktype=&googleloc=9032004&poi=&campaignid=15275224983&mkgroupid=131097072938&rlsatarget=pla-1599090335417&abcId=9300697&merchantid=6296724&gclid=Cj0KCQiA64GRBhCZARIsAHOLriISvTse3rYaNDYG2MPTvjGQcWs7b4gc9QSmswi7Wiyc5J6Z8ygo4a8aAo26EALw_wcB

Larger LED
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1341988-REG/godox_ledp_260c_3300_5600k_30w.html




Mar 03, 2022 at 03:39 AM
Kalainen
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


jlafferty wrote:
Oh, and show people how to set a fixed exposure on their phone

Thanks for getting back jlafferty. This is a good advice which I should have come up by myself too, but I've been sidetracked with the lights. I should definitely teach them fixed exposure and how to use exposure compensation to get a decent-enough exposure. Having setup a couple of workshops for beginners before (not food related), I've noticed that there are usually people that really don't bother with the technicalities and they just want to get pictures. And then there are those who have noticed that you need to get some technical things right to get better pictures. So this is definitely something I need to think about and how to get my message through. There can't be too many technical details, likely the three or something is already at maximum, and I need to think about how to express them. Trying out things in practice should reflect what I've expressed earlier.




Mar 03, 2022 at 06:23 AM
Kalainen
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


JohnSil wrote:
K, first I would totally separate your ambitions from theirs. For your own business you should use strobes with the needed modifiers.
For their photography I would get like 3 LED light banks, either like the smaller or larger ones i've listed. Both could do smaller food projects just fine using an iPhone.
One light on each side and one overhead as a sort of rim or kicker. You might need a small boom.
For phone work I certainly would do just enough to get them by. They're restaurant owners not photographers. It would be easy to overwhelm someone with complex
...Show more

Thanks for chiming in John, and especially thank you for your lucid advices regarding goals. I agree that I should go 'less is more' route in this and leave strobes stuff for something else. I could actually make two different setups, one with natural light and one with led-lights. This could be quite educational to experience the pros and cons of each setup (for me too!). Thanks for listing the actual products as well, I did a little search of my own, but found it a bit difficult as there are so many products in different price ranges and all.
Thank you for helping me out here!
:-)




Mar 03, 2022 at 06:31 AM
story_teller
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


Another quick solution would be to find a light tent with LED lighting. The have multiple on Amazon for $30 to $50 that would work. If they want to add more contrast and texture, just get a couple black cards that can be placed inside the tent, as necessary, for negative fill.


Mar 03, 2022 at 09:02 AM
 


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tcphoto
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


story_teller should be banned for even suggesting a light tent.


Mar 03, 2022 at 11:22 AM
JohnSil
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


Since leaving college most classes I've ever taken have been at night since i usually have to make a living.
Every time I hear natural light suggested I think just how soft and soothing moonlight really would be. And that's assuming it's not overcast!!
And while doing those time consuming food set ups, lets just hope the sun doesn't go down!!! LoL
john



Mar 04, 2022 at 02:14 AM
story_teller
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


tcphoto wrote:
story_teller should be banned for even suggesting a light tent.


You'll be happy to know that I've been put on suspension at PPA for 3-months, my strobes and cameras have been seized and my website has been blocked for the same period! Suggesting a light tent, what was I thinking?? (lol)

In reality, these are non-photographers with smartphones, not Joe McNally creating his next complex lighting effort. They want quick and reasonable shots of their food for social media and menus, otherwise they would hire a professional. For the cost of a single light stand or reflector, they're in business.



Mar 04, 2022 at 09:07 AM
tcphoto
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


You clearly don't look at Instagram, the food images are shot in a propped setting and are either light and airy or dark contrasty. Perhaps a light tent would work if they were shooting to post on Amazon or other eCommerce site.


Mar 04, 2022 at 10:16 AM
rico
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


I don't have or use a tent, but now it sounds like a challenge! For just $30, I can try to light something that doesn't look like crap. Cheap thrills.


Mar 04, 2022 at 01:51 PM
story_teller
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


I don't use a light tent either, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid option. They are going to edit in Snapseed.

The alternative is probably $500 or more of lighting equipment and spending hours trying to place lights and reflectors to get what they want. This is an inexpensive way to get them started. If they want better quality, the initial investment is not great.



Mar 06, 2022 at 08:16 AM
jeffbuzz
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


story_teller wrote:
You'll be happy to know that I've been put on suspension at PPA for 3-months, my strobes and cameras have been seized and my website has been blocked for the same period! Suggesting a light tent, what was I thinking?? (lol)

In reality, these are non-photographers with smartphones, not Joe McNally creating his next complex lighting effort. They want quick and reasonable shots of their food for social media and menus, otherwise they would hire a professional. For the cost of a single light stand or reflector, they're in business.


At the risk of a lifetime ban I will second the @story_teller suggestion of a tent with continuous lighting. Demonstrating anything with strobes is difficult because the observer cannot see the effect of the lighting in real time. For novices it will be near impossible for them to properly visualize the resulting image based on strobe settings. You'd need to first teach a class on strobe lighting. A light tent with cheap LED continuous lighting will totally control your exposure and allow the students to see the effect with their eyes rather than relying on playing back the images.

Also, how do you use strobes with an phone? I know Profoto has a trigger with but I've never used it and assume that would limit you to a full Profoto setup. Is the idea here to show the students a lighting system they could easily (i.e. cheaply) replicate themselves?



Mar 06, 2022 at 12:36 PM
jlafferty
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


Just thirding the “anything but a light tent” sentiment. It renders food as sterile objects. If you want cheap and easy (relatively), get a roll of diffusion material, or just a 20x30 sheet, and hang it from a C stand arm. Then shoot a continuous light through it, on a separate stand. You’ve got the added bonus of moving the light closer for high contrast + soft edged light; or further away for lower contrast + harder edged. Distance is often the key ingredient missing from beginner lighting and this may prove a valuable lesson.


Mar 07, 2022 at 06:52 AM
tcphoto
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


I specialize in Food images and gave my opinion previously, how do you think someone with a smartphone will fire a strobe unless they own one of the Profoto C1 units? How much do you think the attendees know about photography? I'd keep it as simple as possible or they will leave with a bad taste in their mouths.


Mar 07, 2022 at 11:28 AM
story_teller
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Lights for the small food photography workshop


We, as photographers, are primarily focused on quality and sometimes forget that others simply want to use the simplest, quickest way to show their accomplishments. For some, good quality is enough and excellent quality starts involving the law of diminishing returns.

In other words, we're snobs who think that less than excellent quality is total failure. There are a whole lot of people who love their selfies, posting snapshots on Instagram and using their camera phones. Convenience is king! Then you have the entrepreneurs mentioned by the OP. These are chefs, bakers and others who want to spend their time cooking, baking and running their business, not deep diving into photography skills. Automatic and quick allow them to get back to what they really have the passion about. If they want absolute excellence they can (and do) hire some of us.

We threw rocks at camera phones when they first came out. Who does that now? A lot of camera phone photos are indistinguishable from their DSLR and mirrorless counterparts. The point is that light tents have come a long way. They now have multiple, diffused LED strips with high CRI ratings, can be temperature controlled. The light strips can be moved within the box, feathered and dimmed. The interiors can be softbox reflective material instead of white diffusion material and can come with several different colored backdrops, additional diffusion material and other options. Sizes range from small to huge. Here's just one example -

https://www.amazon.com/SAMTIAN-Photography-Background-Brightness-Advertising/dp/B01N2OH2D3/ref=sr_1_5?crid=I2DKD4XYRXL5&keywords=samtian+photo+light+box&qid=1646667391&sprefix=samtian%2Caps%2C152&sr=8-5

I won't argue that image quality can be improved by using strobes, velum, white cards, etc. I will argue that a good light tent and minimal instruction will get most of them up and running quickly and that they will be happy with the results.



Mar 07, 2022 at 11:36 AM
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