On the first Friday of 2020, we at Fotodiox welcomed the new year with a pancake breakfast for the staff. As everyone ate happily, a single question was asked: "what's another name for a pancake?"
There was a collective groan in anticipation of an inevitable, incoming pun: "A Flapjack!"
And thus, we had the idea of taking pictures of pancakes using one of our FlapJack LED Edgelights. Food photography is a genre that seems straightforward in concept, but ends up being much more involved than one could imagine.
1) For lights, we chose the smaller FlapJack LED C-200RS. It's a nice, compact, and balances well on one of our Pro Mini Tabletop Tripod. When space is at a premium, a smaller light provides more flexibility with the set-up.
We also like the Flapjack for food photography, because the well-rounded light is soft and diffused, which helps food looking appetizing. The soft light also leads to softer shadows, which keep the image from looking dramatic.
Opposite to the light, on the other side of the pancakes, is a reflector, to help fill in the shadows that the light casts.
2) The second thing we did was make sure our white balance was set correctly. The image to the side is definitely not right (unless you were doing food photography for Dr. Seuss, perhaps).
Most cameras have a means to do a custom white balance, and when used with a white balance cap, you can get some pretty good results.
Other photographers use the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport (a personal favorite of mine).
Since our FlapJack C-200RS has an operating range of 3200K to 5600K with a high CRI and a narrow margin of error, we simply set the camera's white balance to 5600K.
See that? Much better. I'm definitely more likely to eat this one.
3) Composition and styling are key components in food photography. While I personally tend to eat my pancakes plain, others eat them with berries, butter, syrup, or a mix of all of the above. Adding all the extra ingredients adds some other aspects for a viewer to focus on, while also giving us a chance to add in some other colors and textures.
The fruits were fresh from the produce aisle of our local grocery store, but were dry to the touch. Even to the eye, they did look dry, to us. One of our techs, who also does food photography on the side, suggested brushing the fruits with oil to give them some gloss and sheen.
We wanted to add syrup as well, but we figured the best time to add this is while we were actually taking the image. By doing this, we can ensure the syrup hasn't soaked into the pancake before we're even ready to take the picture.
4) For camera choice, we chose our A7R II with our Fusion Plus adapter, so we could use a Canon 40mm f/2.8, a popular pancake lens (that's the last pancake pun; I promise). We kept the aperture at around f/7.1, to give some depth to the image, and we left the ISO 800, since the camera is plenty forgiving at that range.
The 200RS gave us plenty of light, letting us shoot at 1/30th of a second. We weren't worried about motion blur, since we were using a tripod, but we did want to shoot on burst mode, so we could get some good options for the syrup on the pancakes.
Here's a slideshow that shows a few of the options we had:❮ ❯
However, all of the quick prep, hard work, and 26 shots later, we arrived at my personal favorite:
Overall, it was a fun time, despite being a last-minute idea. It certainly helps to have others on-set, since a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes can certainly help spot things that one person alone wouldn't notice.
Gloves are recommended, unless you don't mind your camera/lighting gear getting sticky. It's also a good idea to keep cleaning supplies handy (accidents happen, and the last thing you need is a bad spill in a rental space).
A final plus is that once everything's all done, you have a snack waiting for you at the end (as long as you didn't tamper with the food too much).
- Fotodiox Staff