Here's five lighting setups from simple to complex.
Photo By Dyad Photography
Mixing Daylight And Strobe
Justin and Colleen Picciotti make up Dyad Photography, a Brooklyn, NY-based commercial and fine-art photography studio. For a personal project centered on food, the couple started with iconic images and took them in surprising directions. The result, on view at www. dyadphotography.com, is a series of images that at first seem to be conventional representations of food-in-motion, shot with stopaction techniques. Then you look more closely and do a double take. What you see are sometimes alarming, sometimes humorous pictures of food that flout photographers’ usual attempts at suggesting the three-dimensionality of their subjects.
These images are flagrantly, almost transgressively two-dimensional. How do the Piciottis do it? As with most things studio, lighting played a crucial role. The painstakingly styled spaghetti and meatballs on the opposite page actually sits on top of a print of their photo of a table, chair, floor, and (clean) place setting. In order to fool your eye into seeing the scene as a single image, the lighting for the “room set” and the pasta had to almost match in color temperature and intensity— not necessarily easy because the table was lit by window light and the spaghetti by strobe.
Lighting, however, also helped clue viewers in to the fact that this picture wasn’t business as usual. For example, the Picciottis intentionally lit the pasta from the opposite direction of the window light falling on the table setting. “We chose the mixture of light sources with different orientations to help accentuate the play on perspective,” explains Colleen.
To make the spaghetti pop off the cooler background, they intentionally lit it with a slightly warmer light than the window light in the base image.
It took several hours to shoot and then print the base image. The photographers used white and silver reflectors and black flags to equalize light levels across the table, chair, and floor. They suspended their camera, a Hasselblad 501 with a Leaf Aptus 75 digital back and 50mm f/4 Carl Zeiss lens, over the table.
When printing the base image on an Epson Stylus Photo R2400, the Picciottis used matte paper to minimize the chance of glare resulting from the strobe’s output during the second exposure.
After styling the spaghetti, they lit the whole set with a white beauty dish whose broad, soft illumination simulated windowlight. “One of the tricks to lighting food is to use a more directional source so you can really see the different textures of each element,” Colleen says. “The beauty dish let us soften the light without taking away the direct shadow. We placed white and gray fill cards around the spaghetti to help deepen the shadows and underscore the lights' direction.”
It also added dimension to the Parmesan cheese shavings, one of the most dramatic signs that this wasn’t a conventional food shot. An added benefit: Lowering the angle of the beauty dish helped them avoid glare on the base print.
To Light their faux stop-action shot of spaghetti, the Picciottis used windowlight for the base print, and, for the spaghetti, a profoto Acute2 2400 WS strobe ($3,245, street) outfitted with a profoto white beauty dish ($352, street). They fired the strobe wirelessly with a pocketWizard radio trigger ($351, street). White and gray reflecting cards helped intensify shadows that added dimension and underscored the direction of the light.