Shooting (and Lighting) for Food

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments




I mentioned last week that I’ve been trying to get my wife to do a cookbook of her recipes, and along those lines I’ve been shooting a lot of food lately (when I tell people I’ve been shooting food, they usually look at me and say, “Food?” I tell them to think of the type of shots you’d see in a cookbook—as shown above where I mocked up some of my shots with a cookbook layout).

I’ve done a food shoot every single day this past week, and I’ve gained 14.3 lbs. (totally kidding, but I’ve got to tell you, since I’m closely watching my weight, it’s tough shooting food and not totally chowing down on it. The only saving grace is; once you’re done shooting it for an hour or two, you usually wouldn’t want to eat it).

I took the shots above (click on them for a larger version) using pretty much the same lighting set-up; natural window light, along with a Westcott Daylight Fluorescent Spiderlite with a 24″x32″ softbox as a fill light, and a small handheld white reflector to fill in the shadows on the opposite side of the light.

For example, the cereal shot above was taken in front of a open window, with the window light coming in and lighting the cereal from behind. Then, just off to the right of my camera, I positioned the Spiderlite aiming down at a 45° angle. Lastly, on the left side of the bowl, I held a small handheld reflector just outside the frame.

The cereal photo was taken with a Nikon D3, (mounted on a tripod) with a Nikon 70-200mm lens, with the screw-on Canon Closeup lens attached (which I mentioned in Vol. 1 of my digital photography book, which turns any 77mm sized lens into an instant Macro lens).

The Spiderlites are really ideal for shooting food (or any product shots for that matter), because they match the daylight light nicely; they don’t get “hot” (because they’re fluorescent), and because they’re always on (a continuous light source), which makes lighting something as tricky as food much easier. Here’s the link for more info on the Spiders.

TIP: The “milk” in the cereal you see above is actually Elmer’s Glue. Real milk makes the cereal really soggy, really fast, and it’s hard to control, where glue pretty much sticks where you want it (get it, sticks….ah forget it).

I’m doing a food shoot every day for 30 days (in between other shoots, like the two I have scheduled for tomorrow), and I’m learning a lot and having a blast. I’m going to hire a food stylist for some of the final shoots later in the month, so if you know of a kick-butt food stylist based in the Southeast, let me know.


Friday Wrap-Up (and BIG news about Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in)

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments


Before we get started, just a quick word of thanks to the wonderful folks at the ISAP (International Society of Aviation Photographers). I spoke at their annual symposium in Dallas, Texas yesterday (on behalf of Nikon), and I just had a wonderful time. They’re a terrific group to present to, and once again I was blown away by the images their members capture. They had a mini-gallery set-up of their attendees work, and it was just absolutely stunning. Thanks to Nikon and ISAP for having me back this year.

  • On a side note: while at ISAP I picked up a wonderful book by aviation photographer Erik Hildebrandt called “Anytime Baby; Hail and Farewell to the Navy F-14 Tomcat.” It’s filled with incredible images, and fascinating stories about one of the most amazing fighter jets ever made (Here’s the link to it on Now, on to the news:
  • THIS IS HUGE: Remember last week when I raved about Nik Software’s new Photoshop plug-in Viveza? Well, I told our chief deal maker here at NAPP, that this plug-in was the next big thing and to see if we could get a special discount on it just for NAPP members. Well, he pulled it off, and for the next two weeks only; NAPP members get $50 off Viveza (That’s 1/2 of your NAPP yearly membership back to you in just one discount. Sweet!). So, for everybody else, it’s $249. For NAPP members, for the next two weeks, it’s only $199 (plus, NAPP members get the plug-in two weeks before the rest of the world, which is totally cool if you ask me). If you’re a NAPP member, drop by the NAPP member homepage for your link to get the exclusive member discount (Note: NAPP does not get any rebate, kicker, commission, etc. from Nik Software. I know you know that, but I thought I’d mention it anyway). Thanks to Ed and everybody at Nik for making this available to our members.
  • Hey, it’s Friday; take two minutes and check out photographer David duChemin’s portfolio from his recent Mongolia trip. Absolutely wonderful images that will totally make you want to go to a workshop there. Here’s the link.
  • If you’re anywhere near the Washington DC area; don’t forget that Jeff Revell over at “” has an “everybody’s invited” photo walk coming up on Saturday, March 8th. The walk is in this very trendy, hip little neighborhood and for two hours the group is going to shoot whatever looks interesting, and then afterward, it’s off to a local haunt to do some serious “chimpin” (looking at your, and your fellow shooters images on your LDC’s) while you have some pie or “photo walk” food, or whatever you eat and drink after a photo walk. Sounds like a great way to spend a spring Saturday to me. Here’s the link with all the details.
  • If you’ve been in this business a while, you’ll probably remember a plug-in that did pro-level auto image enhancements called “ImagePrep Pro.” It was really brilliant; you told it what your final output was (newsprint, offset press, etc.) the line screen, etc. and it would automatically color correct, sharpen, resize, set the resolution, and do pretty much everything for you lickity split (even the AP wire service used it worldwide for years). It was so good, I figured at some point Adobe would buy it and just build it right into Photoshop. Anyway, the color wizard behind Image Prep Pro was Herb Paynter, and he’s just launched a new “Color blog” dedicated to getting color right (here’s the link). It’s great to see Herb back in the saddle again!
  • We proclaimed today, leap-year day, an “un-official day” at Kelby Media Group, and we gave the crew the day off, so I’m staying home to play with the kids; shoot some more food shots, maybe hit a few golf balls, and even go tinker around over at the studio for a bit. Hey, this day off thing could really catch on. ;-)

Have a great weekend everybody, and we’ll see you on Monday.


Last Day for $100 Off Early Bird Photoshop World Registration

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

OK, so since today’s the last day to sign up and get the $100 off Early Bird Registration to Photoshop World, I thought I’d post a “Photoshop World in 30-seconds” video to remind you to lock in your conference pass today.

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Classes I’d Love to attend at Photoshop World in Orlando

by Scott Kelby  |  1 Comments


I used Dave Cross’s ingenious “Photoshop World PDF Planner” to pick which classes at the upcoming Photoshop World Conference & Expo (on April 2-4), I would take if I wasn’t teaching any classes myself, and could attend a different class the entire conference–just like an attendee (see the graphic above, which was generated from Dave’s planner). Now, these aren’t my suggestions for everybody else; these are just the sessions I would catch if I could (although I am going to do my darndest to catch at least one class per day—that’s much harder to do than it sounds with my schedule).

If you’re going to Photoshop World, go to Dave’s site and download his free planner—you will love it. If you’re going, but you haven’t signed up—there’s only two days left to take advantage of the $100 off early bird registration. If you’re not planning on going…why the heck not? I checked Travelocity last night for some flights to Orlando, and here’s what they listed as their cheapest fare (cheap!):

(All roundtrip airfares)

  • From Charlotte, NC: $148
  • From New York’s JFK to Orlando $158
  • From Chicago O’Hare $200
  • Boston $193
  • Atlanta $166
  • Cleveland $186
  • Detroit $213

Hotel rooms are fairly cheap too, because the conference is so close to Walt Disney World. I hope I’ll see you there! (Here’s the link for more info, or to register).


Lastolite’s HiLite Background gets a “Scott Thinks It’s Hot!” Award

by Scott Kelby  |  8 Comments



Yesterday I was shooting some shots for a project I’m working on (see top image–click on it for a larger view), and I got to use Lastolite’s Hilite background, which gives you, about as simply as I can imagine it could ever be, a perfectly lit, shadowless white background for high-key shots. I got a live demo of the HiLite background at the Imaging USA expo in Tampa back in January, and I bought one right on the spot, but this is the first chance I’ve had to shoot with it. It was so easy to set up, so easy to use, and just so darn clever, that I knew about 5-minutes into the shoot that it was going to get my “Scott Thinks It’s Hot!” Award.

This background is incredibly portable—basically, it just pops-up (when it’s collapsed it looks like a large collapsible reflector), and it’s free standing, so you don’t have to carry any stands or supports for it. You just stick a strobe in one end (as seen in the bottom photo above; (photo courtesy of Lastolite), or both ends (I only used one strobe on one end) and that’s pretty much it. You pop-it open, pop a strobe in the side, and that’s it—you’re ready to shoot high-key, even in a very small space, or on location.


I took the top photo at the top of this post, featuring model Stevie Lynn, on the HiLite background (there are no other lights on the background). My Main Light was a Elinchrom RX-600 strobe with a 53″ Elinchrom mini Octa softbox, mounted on an Avenger rolling C-Stand, and I fired the strobes using Elinchrom’s Skyports (more on them later this week). It was shot with a Nikon D300, at 1/60 of a second, at f/7.1 at 200 ISO. The lens was a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens at 102mm. So, the set-up was one main light, and the light inside the HiLite background—that’s it. (click the photo right above for a larger view of the shoot; that’s me on the far left–photo by RC).

The HiLite Background comes in two sizes; a 5′x7′ and 6′x7′ (by the way; get the 6′x7′ model—you’ll thank me later), and B&H Photo has the 5′x7′ for $376 (link), and the 6′x7′ for $428.95 (link). For more info on the Lastolite HiLites, click here.


It’s a Tuesday News Thing

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments


Howdy folks. Here’s what’s going on:

  • Let’s start with some photographic inspiration, from photographer Joe Felzman. This guy has some very cool stuff. Start your Tuesday off right by clicking here.
  • I just got the 2008 spring/fall catalog of classes from the Santa Fe Workshops, (the cover is shown above) and since it’s just a listing of their upcoming classes, I guess I wasn’t expecting to see so much incredible photography, but…it’s filled with incredible photography! It’s a beautifully designed catalog that makes such great use of photography that I had to sit there with it for a few minutes, and just let the images soak in (here’s a link to download a PDF version of the catalog). While I was looking through all the classes, I thought to myself, “If I could take just one class at Santa Fe, which one would it be?” Without a doubt, it would be Karen Kuehen’s “Mastering the Portrait” class coming up this June. She is just flat out incredible!!!
  • My wife is an absolutely incredible cook, and I’ve been trying to convince her to create her own cookbook. Since I’ve been really getting into food photography lately, I’m bugging her about it a little more than usual (in fact, I’ve taken to making her sit down and dictate the recipe to me right after she makes one of her incredible dishes). Anyway, I came across this site called “” that lets you create your own custom cookbooks, using their templates (or even their recipes, if you like). They even let you upload your own food photos to accompanying your recipes, but at this point, what’s keeping me from using them is that you can’t upload your own cover photo, or the full page section opener photos (you have to choose from their stock photo collection). If and when they let you upload your own cover shot, and section openers—I’m in—big time! It’s still worth checking out just to see what can be done (and it’s affordable enough that you could create a custom cookbook as a gift). Here’s the link to Tastebook’s site.
  • I mentioned a few weeks back that Joe McNally was doing a special session and book signing at B&H Photo’s Event Space at the New York City store. Well, not only did Joe pack the place—-he broke the Event Space attendance record! Way to go big Joe! In other “Joe News,” did a review of Joe’s book, “The Moment It Clicks” and here’s the link to it. Also, make sure you catch Popular Photography’s feature story on “The Moment It Clicks,” complete with excerpts from the book (here’s the link). Lastly, if you haven’t added Joe’s new blog to your daily routine, ya oughta (here’s that link).
  • This is the last week to save $100 by registering early for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo (early bird registration ends Friday, Feb. 29th, 2008). One of the classes I’m teaching in Orlando this year combines, and updates, two of my most-requested sessions from previous Photoshop World’s; my “Lost Art of Typography” and “Designing With Type.” This class is really aimed at photographers who want any type they add to their images to improve the image, to support it, and not take away or distract from it. These classes have really struck a chord with my students over the years, so I’ve updated and tweaked it, and I hope I’ll see you in my session. Click here for more info on Photoshop World.
  • Adobe’s Lightroom Evangelist George Jardine has just posted two episodes of his Lightroom Podcast, including one where he interviews famous photographer Gregory Heisler. You’ve got to check these out (here’s the link).
  • Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas for “alternative news sources” based on my “Depressing News” post from last week. I’m now checking out (I’m amazed at how little we cover world news in the US), along with (which has a very customizable site, with hardly any sensational personal tragedy junk), along with, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and (which is very cool), along with a few other great news sites that are now on my watch list (thanks to you).
  • My thanks to the Pro Photography Roundtable–on last week’s show, one of their five “Picks of the Week” was Vol. 2 of my book, “The Digital Photography Book.” Many thanks guys!

That’s it for Tuesday. I’m doing a couple of studio shoots today, and then shooting my son’s basketball playoffs tonight. Go Hawks! :-)

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