Its been a while since I did any “on the go” food photography, but the opportunity arose while shooting a Google Virtual Tour for a new restaurant in our little town of Hollister. Happy Doggs (did I mention I love hot dogs?) opened in a nice little commercial center and shares the driveway with our movie theater Premier Cinemas.
The store is bright and airy, with cool colors and an interesting “hot dogs must be really good here” decor. While my family enjoys butter popcorn at the movies, I always get a dog. Now, I can grab a Happy Dog on my way to see a flick (did I mention I love hot dogs?)
The owner George and his family offer one of the best selections of hot dogs I have see outside of Cincinnati. The basic Happy Dogg has ketchup, mustard, red onion, relish (ok, but we’re here for an adventure!) The “North East” offers red onion sauce while the “Mid West” has sport pepper.
Of course there’s the “Coney” with sauerkraut, and the “Hungry Dogg” with its “dogg” buried in hot pastrami! My favorite is the “Down South” which is a chili dog smothered in coleslaw , , , , yeah!
The secret to good food photography is no secret; read and practice, read and practice! I belong to several food photography groups on Flickr, and devour (sorry) food photography books; the latest is “From Plate to Pixel” by food photographer Helene Dujardin. Most photographers including me prefer natural diffused light rather than flash for several reasons. Sunlight is an “always-on” light source, so we’re not fussing with flash setup and have have a “you see what you get” frame to work with. Also sunlight is usually easy to diffuse and reflect.
The setup above is what I used in the Happy Dogg shoot. We setup next to a south facing window, and draped a 4′x6′ white scrim over two compact light stands; on the opposite side of the table the diffused sunlight is reflected back to our test-dummy-dogg using a silver reflector (a white reflector works also, but the silver light is a bit “cleaner” on food. If no sunlight were available I would have used the same setup, placing a flash or two to the left of the scrim to take the place of the sun. Umbrellas can also be used, but it is a bit easier (at least for me) to get a large diffuse light source using this scrim, or a white bed sheet rather than a shoot through or reflective umbrella.
First task was to set the exposure; ISO 200, f13 for a good depth of field, 1/125 or so shutter, RAW + JPG. All shots hand held as no room for tripod, but for the record I prefer using a tripod as its much easier to keep a constant frame. We used the test dummy dogg to set our staging and after a few tries, we settled on the look above; a small plastic cup is inside the yellow basket holding up one end of the hot dogg.
Once we were ready, George started bringing the real dogg’s to the show. Food does not last long; it only has to cool a little bit and the camera shot can look really blah. We did four dogg recipes; as soon as we were happy with one shot, George made the next dogg.
I post processed the JPG images as they were well exposed and color was fine. I post the RAW images quite often when there are significant color or exposure issues, or if I need to sync an adjustment across a lot of images. If the JPG’s look fine and only need a few tweaks then I’ll post the JPG. One item I noted in the image that I missed in the field was a white edge on the top red and white square paper under the basket; it is a distraction and I fixed in Photoshop but left in the image above. Its easy to miss details in the field that show up in great detail on the image!
Its a joy for me to do this type of photography and when your done, you don’t have to leave to have lunch!