Thursday, 30 September 2010

Mixing food and art

Autumn, as we've said more than once, has it's own beauty and richness.

Having spent a rather subdued second half of the summer photographically speaking – although that’s partly because I didn’t want to sit inside at my computer, processing pictures, when I could be sitting outside in the garden – I had started thinking in that direction as autumn approached.

What I was particularly considering was my ongoing ‘food porn’ project. This beach almost accidentally back in the spring, with an experiment that turned out to be rather good.

Some of the subsequent pictures have been single items – almost food ‘portraits’ – some have been more complex arrangements. All are photographed against completely black backgrounds, which adds a really rich quality to even the simplest subject.

The first – the experiment – was a group of red peppers, including the odd chili.

Now, I don’t have a studio or any ‘proper’ lighting. For this, I used a small table lamp that I bought for something like £8 in Lidl some years ago. The basic background was a black t-shirt. The result was amazing.

You can click on the picture to see a larger version of it.

One of the things that has surprised me is that I find it easy to 'style' the shots: it never takes long to set things up. It makes you wonder what 'food stylists' get paid ...

After another couple of efforts, I tried something a little bit more ambitious – and I even felt the inclination of giving this ne a proper title: Homage to Mrs David

The only major technical difference here was adding some flash, which I bounced off the ceiling.

The processing takes a while – mostly because I have to ensure that the background is completely black and featureless. So in some ways, perhaps this is more a question of 'making an image' as some photographers describe their work. But the subjects themselves need very little work.

And it's remarkable how well the basic idea can work even with insanely simple subjects.

Take eggs – indeed, take these eggs. It's difficult to think of anything much more straightforward – and how often do you really look at an egg, before cracking it, and see the beauty in it?

In this particular picture, there are the curves and the warm colours and obviously the contrast between the shadow and light.

So what have I planned for the autumn? Well, it's the obvious chance to picture the ingredients for a really warming stew. All those root vegetables – lovely parsnips and onions and carrots. And I find myself thinking I'll have to haul out a rather old and rather battered earthenware pot from the back of the cupboard for such a shoot: it'll add something to any picture.

But in the meantime, here's a little something I prepared last weekend.

Again, it is a really simple composition, but given the detail of the little torn-edged box they come in, there's little I needed to add. I did slightly tweak the position of the mushroom at the top in the picture, simply because I wanted to be able to really capture the beautiful texture, but nothing beyond that. And again in terms of the processing, a little general clarity in Lightroom (which is a lovely piece of software) and then just spending the time to ensure that the background is uniform.

So simple, indeed, that I almost start feeling like a bit of a charlatan!


  1. The egg picture is amazing!

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  3. Really like the images - the "Homage to Mrs David" reminds me of a Dutch still life! Whilst I do a lot of photography almost all of it is outdoors and connected to natural subjects; I am going to shamelessly steal your idea of black backgrounds and experiment!

    Many thanks for another really interesting post :) ॐ

    Edit: correcting spelling - must be late :)