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I was recently asked to do some pictures of a few menu items for a great restaurant in San Marcos called China Wokery. The images are intended to be used on a new website they’re building.

Christian Lim and Zack Tatar from the Mac Lab at Valhalla stepped up as my students for this project. Both have already had some experience with cameras and Photoshop before but not in this context. The main challenge was being restricted to natural lighting – the client wanted us to shoot near where customers were eating and bringing lights would’ve taken extra space where customers could’ve been sitting; not to mention, a super bright flash every few seconds would’ve been a bit of an unpleasant distraction if you’re trying to enjoy a meal.

We arrived around noon with plenty of sunlight left. After we setup our gear and the first dishes came out of the kitchen I had Christian and Zack monitor what I was doing on my laptop (I used the EOS Utility that comes with the 5D MK II to use my laptop as a live monitor) so they could see exactly what I was doing to every variable on the camera to get the picture to look the way I wanted it to. After a shot or two, we switched positions – Christian took the camera while Zack and I monitored. After a few more pictures Zack took the camera while Christian and I monitored.

There are lots of sauces in asian food, and as you can imagine, they’re very reflective. So to keep any unmanageable highlights out of the image we simply just stood in front of windows to cast shadows on the table. At first we had a hard time deciding on how to point the camera at the food. After some playing around, we found out that tilting the tripod in odd positions is a great way to keep things looking interesting.

Now for the Photoshop side of things. I forgot how great RAW is. It’s so great in fact, that half our job was just playing with RAW info, because there’s just that much data. I split the work in two; Raw Work – which basically amounted to getting color work done consistently between each picture and Photoshop Work – which basically amounted to removing dust, blobs of sauce, crumbs, etc from the images, fine tuning any colors a little more if we didn’t get it 100% correct in RAW, and adding a nice gentle vignette to make the dish jump out at you.

Originally Zack was supposed to do the RAW work and Christian the Photoshopping. Unfortunately Zack’s laptop now rests in peace, so I did the RAW work. Everything worked out fine though, the images are complete. Here are some examples, enjoy:

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3


One Comment

  1. They look good enough to eat. Great job.

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