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  • Sandy Weatherall

Teaching Teaches!

One of the things I am most grateful for is being able to share what I do. When I teach, I learn. This is one of the reasons I started this blog.


However, I have been teaching food photography for a few years now and this past weekend, I had another group of great students.


I always teach flat food (soup), "brown food" (Read: boring looking but delicious!) and stacked food (Yum. Burger!). Each has their challenge and so as a group we worked it out.


We begin with the soup and a slightly reversed lighting system. Beginning with what would be a back or key light, we create texture. A smaller more concentrated light source, skimming the surface gives us what we need. Then a fill light from the left to round out the dark places without looking like another light has been added. We always look for a second shadow, which would be unnatural, when we do this. Check! We got it. And the finally a small shiny reflector from the right filled in some of the deeper shadows there. Nothing was done on post production to brighten shadows. We also used a scrim at the top left to reduce the brighter area there. And as a group we decided what went where and had an expert "lentil toss" at the end. Great work!


Just a note: We decided on the "look" as a group based on recipe ingredients and the story we wanted to tell. Composition was decided as though advertising text was going to run along the top and right side of the image.


Note two: The third photo shows what happens when you don't synchronize studio flash and the fifth photo shows the effect of using the tilt on a tilt-shift lens.


Brown food was next. Stroganoff anyone? What was the story we wanted to tell? It was fun because the group decided and "elegant rustic" was in order. Very cool. This time it's with window light and "bird's eye view". Did you know, psychologically we like to see shadows at the bottom right of an image? Therefore, we placed our set to create that. Texture is even more key with bland looking food. It brings out subtle colours. The blue in the plate brought some support but it still needed help so we added chopped parsley but DON'T add stuff for colour if it won't make sense or drastically change flavour. The recipe already has a herbed goat cheese in it so parsley works! Finally we added the wine, diluted with water. You can see we played with some different ways to bring more light into the wine - even my phone flashlight - and apparently my head. In the end, I did saturate and brighten a little in post, but not much.


Finally the fun! A carefully stacked burger. The stand in was my regular wood bowls. Use what yo have! Then we made the burger. Scotch Guard the bun. It keeps condiments from soaking in. The bringer was made the day before; just barely cooked and then browned a little more with a paint stripping gun. Yup, you heard it! we layered carefully; debating the order and then came up with this beauty. The cheese was put in hot water for round one and then melted with the paint stripper for round too. Fun and whimsical background colours were great! Again, window light with a single reflector. Some saturation and brightening in post but again, not too much work.


And then finally, I really wanted to photograph fish because one of my students is an avid fisherman. As am I, my dad and my family. I'm going to learn fly fishing from him in the spring. A bucket list thing. I love the simplicity of the first shot that has ice in it. Again, minor edits. Some saturation and contrast.


I'm a big believer a shooting clean in camera but do whatever make you happy! If you like editing, then play!


Thanks to my great group of students! I'm hopefully going to get them to share their images too. They did so good. I'm very proud :)



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