Location Sushi Photography
The reflection on the soy adds interest.
Food photography, the dark art, made more impossible by shooting sushi on location at the restaurant. Food photography is probably the most difficult specialty in photography; sauces run, meat looks dry in seconds, lettuce wilts, and sushi becomes pale and unappetizing almost instantly. The first shot of the salmon hovering over the bowl of soy was pitched to another restaurant, but they balked at the price and had someone else shoot an inferior version of this idea. It is a tricky shot. I built a jig on an arm attached to a lightstand to hold the chopsticks and sushi, and I test lit the shot with a paper towel bunched up as a substitution for the sushi so that when the real sushi appeared, everything was ready. Lighting was very simple. I used a 3′x3′ Norman soft box with a 300 ws monolight positioned to reflect in the soy sauce. The surface is black fabric, slightly tweeked and darkened in Photoshop. The finished shot is a study in minimalism, and I believe that this is a successful finished image.
Shot #2 is equally hellish. I wanted a study of whites and simplicity. Whites are brutal to shoot as the detail can be lost, everything can mush together, and digital cameras suck at fine gradients. This was shot on a special plexiglass shooting table with a sheet of glass to create a reflection beneath the plate. Lighting is a large softbox behind the product and a strong kicker light to the left with a silver reflector as a fill on the right. This took a while to light properly, and was a mental workout of camera histograms and inverse square lighting. This shot, as well as the other, are mildly tweeked in Photoshop, nothing extreme, no color correction, just a mild curves setting and some gentle dusting.
I love shooting food, it is my favorite. I spent another lifetime as a chef, and I am a decent food stylist. It is the perfect blend of technical, and sensual, and the challenge is enormous. Food photography is similar to nude photography in the sense that great lighting can make something more beautiful, and bad lighting can make a beautiful subject unattractive.