Food Photography – Will Work for Coconut Milk Soup

After Cancun, I made my way up to Miami to finish the shots for the Spa book but mostly for some R&R before heading back to sub zero temperatures. Brrrrrrr…. Another great thing about staying at my friend’s place is that they own 2 Thai restaurants! And after spending 7 months in South East Asia a while back (wayyyyyyyyy back) I developed a soft spot for Thai food. Since their 2nd restaurant had just opened a few weeks before, they asked me if I could shoot a couple of food shots for their image bank in exchange for all you can eat privileges as long as I was in Miami. Well, I had to think about it for, oh, the shutter speed of a sports photographer! So I said: “One bowl of coconut milk soup please”. 🙂

All I had with me were my trusty SB-800s. I had never shot food without my studio lights and softboxes before so I felt a bit naked. But it all went well.

Since we were shooting at the restaurant, it was important to caputure the place’s “feel” so, rule number one in lighting? Come on guys, you should know this by now…. hint: just like in the outdoor product shot tutorial I did not long ago. Yes! You got it! Expose for your background first. Since I only had 2 SB-800s with me and I needed both of them to light the food, I had to use the available light in the restaurant to expose my background. Since it was pretty dark, I cranked up my ISO to 800 and then tweaked my aperture and shutter speed to my linking. Most shots were at 1/80 sec. hand held at f4.5 with a Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 lens on my D300. Here’s a quick test shot I took for background exposure. They liked it so much that they kept it. 🙂

The next step was to set up my SB-800s on tripods. I used one on camera left as a main light with a Gary Fong Lightsphere on it to diffuse the light (soon I’ll be geting myself the sweet Lasolite EzyBox!). I used my 2nd one on camera right 45 degrees behind the food without light modifiers.  At first I added CTO gels on them to match the incascent lights in the restaurant but that killed the warmth of the background so I removed them to get more of a daylight (window light) effect while keeping the warmth of the restaurant. Here’s the setup:

When it came to selecting the power output on the SB-800s, I usually go manual and tweak everything in camera. But this time I went wild… I stayed in TTL just to see how smart those Sb-800s were. They did a good job on TTL!  Since my main light had a diffuser on it, I had the crank it up a notch to +1 exposure and that was it! Here are a few of the final images.

5 responses on "Food Photography - Will Work for Coconut Milk Soup"

  1. Great pictures Yanik. I love the mood and the background. The food looks simply delicious which is I think what speeks the most of the success of the shots 🙂

  2. Thanks for the recipe France! Can’t wait to try it! 😛

  3. Hi Yanik,

    Since you are so generous with your information, I thought I’d share with you my favourite Thai shrimp and coconut soup recipe (it is unlikely I’ll ever share a lighting tip with you since you are so good). If you are interested, send me an email!

    Take care


  4. Love this kind of stuff!!
    Thanks so much!

  5. Oh! for some fried bananas!

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