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Impromptu food shoot

My wife and I decided to have diner at our local Ruby Tuesdays. We love the food, love the atmosphere, and we had a coupon. So after a hectic day of shopping, we headed to the restaurant.

One of the great things about Ruby Tuesdays is that the chefs there pay as much attention to presentation of their food as the taste. Considering it is not a high end restaurant, this is pretty impressive in itself. The other thing I like is that they have those cool looking square plates. All the makings for an impromptu photo shoot.

The first thing I have to stress is that you cannot expect to get fantastic shots by shooting with available light while sitting at the table in a busy restaurant. No way, no how. But, you can get fairly decent ones if you plan it right.

In my bag I tend to carry a bunch of stuff I may or may not need. One item I carry that I tend to use a lot is a laminated half sheet of white paper with ruled lines on one side. I use this with a dry-erase marker to write notes to myself during a shoot. I jot down whatever I want to save then take a photo of the note. In a pinch it also serves as a quick and dirty bounce card or mini light reflector.

I went up to the salad bar, grabbed one of those nice square plates and made myself a carefully styled salad. Back at the table I adjusted the blinds on the window, positioned the plate and fired off half a dozen exposures. Because I didn't have the room to stretch out I kept the lens selection to my handy 17-50 mm zoom. This is the resulting image. The shot was taken at f2.8, 1/80 sec at ISO 800.

Considering that the light was not ideal, I thought the final look was good enough to create a really useable image. A large aperture opening was used to blur out the background but consideration was taken control depth of field on the food itself.

I took a few shots of the main entree, but because the plate had so much going on and the light could not be controlled enough to get a decent shot, I forwent playing with my food to eating it.

The dessert, however, was another story. The look and presentation of it was too tempting to resist. In retrospect I wish I had moved the fork a little off to one side. As it is, the portion on the fork blends in too much with the main slice. The shadows cast on the right side is too much also. Again, working with available light and lack of proper lighting tools offers up a unique challenge.

So, next time you are planning to visit your favorite restaurant, consider taking your camera with you. With a little thought and some playing around, you just may pull off a couple of useful images. You never know.


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