Photographing wrapped food in display cases

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by carl_o'connell, May 29, 2009.

  1. I've been asked by a cafe/food chain to photograph their products in situ in the display cabinets that they use in their stores (they have a mock shop in their HQ). I've previsouly photographed their food in a studio with no problem but when attempting this last time I had real problems... namely:
    1. Food is in deep narrow shelves with tungsten fixed lights which bleach out some items and hardly illuminate other items
    2. Fill in flash won't work due to colour temperature differences, filters helped somewhat but flash still won't lighten those dark recesses
    3. Products are in plastic wrapping which causes the light to bounce wildly with dark and light spots
    this is the best result I could get, which is not great:
    Any ideas?
  2. Been there, refused to do that,,,
    My take on this is that it's a studio job, just photograph each individual item with exactly the same lighting, photograph the display cabinet, then stitch it all together on the computer.
    Much better for the client, much better for the invoice.
  3. Try pola filters over the lights and camera lens. Cross pola them.
    Lots of time consuming retouching.
    Brng your own lights to match what exists or bounce some flash off the ceiling and others into the dark areas. Turn off their lights.
    Some combination of the above.
    In the end, this is going to be very difficult, but pros are expected to work miracles.
  4. Indeed. If ever there was a use for carefully applied HDR, this is it.
  5. Funny circumstances. Oddly enough, a classmate of mine was actually pushing something like this as one of his graduate photo projects. Although his intent was to show in situ how unappetizing food is as it is currently mareketed.
    Since the company has gone to all the trouble of having a display case in their hq, they might be amenable to a "normal" lighting scheme and a scheme that kills the tungsten and allows for studio lighting. It would certainly be worth making the argument.
    Because the human eye is so adjustable to the situation, it doesn't see how tragically unappetizing food usually is when packaged and sold in our everyday lives.
  6. If money is no object, I like the idea of a comp of studio shots.
    Otherwise, I would shut off their room lights and bring in my own strobes. It will be next to impossible to make this shot work with the case lights-they are very small point sources that are going to give you large glaring hot spots, as you've discovered. A large softbox overhead, a strobe behind the case to provide backlighting, and another strobe to camera right or left to provide fill, plus some large sheets of foam board to control the reflections on your shiny surfaces would be a good start.
    Another note-have them fully stock the case before you shoot it. There are two orange juice bottles in the lower left that are just sort of hanging out.
  7. While the room lights are on, get out your screwdriver, chainsaw, axe, whatever and remove the acrylic front of the case. When you get enough light on the subject to shoot that panel will be nothing but blinding glare. Then turn the room lights and probably the display lights off. (You may be able to leave them on, they may not make any difference once you get your lights on.)
    Have them give you a goodly supply of extra food and labels. Some of those should be unwrapped and the labels slapped right on the food. Matte spray might do it in some cases. If it's important to show that the food is wrapped, you'll want to provide most of the light from big diffusers (like 4x6 feet) and then provide a couple of near-point sources (small reflectors or bare bulbs) to pick up some small specular reflections that show there is a wrapper without obscuring the content.
    I'd bring lots of heads with snoots, maybe some mirrors, and a fair pile of black and white foam core board. Plus a bunch of styrofoam blocks to cut up for wedges to hold things at the desired angle.
    And I wouldn't even think about this if I couldn't shoot it tethered. I normally just shoot from my laptop, but in this case I'd seriously consider spending a couple of hundred bucks extra to bring a 22" LCD to make sure everything was actually lit reasonably.
    And what the heck is that immediately below the "new" sign? It looks like somebody ate most of a caramel pudding and put it back on the shelf.
    If you pull this off and get a great shot you can congratulate yourself, it's a bear.
  8. Hi Thanks for the responses guys. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something glaringly (excuse pun) obvious with how I was approaching it...
    I did try turning off the display lights but it's unrecognisable as one of their display cabinets and the client didn't think it reflected what's in store. I think that bringing as much extra lighting as possible to combat those awful bleaching tungstens is the only way to do it, plus lots of bracketing and many hours in post-prod, plus a proviso that this isn't going to be like the studio shots we also do for them.

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