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Tips & Tricks

Behind The Scenes of Modern Food Photography

By Joseph Cha on September 24th 2013

Modern Food Photography

Food photography can be as easy as taking a picture of your plate with your iPhone, but for professionals it can get much more complicated. Nathan Myhrvold wanted to capture food with a modern approach. The problem is, how do you modernize food photography? Well the answer is simple, and the results are extraordinary.



The Setup

Shooting on Black: One of the studio setups shown in myhrvold’s book, this one is for subjects on black backgrounds. Photo: Chris Hoover/Modernist Cuisine LLC

[REWIND: See the Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum E-Book Review]

A. Background
“A yard or two of black velvet from a fabric store makes a fantastic black background that reflects almost no light,” says Myhrvold. “Just make sure you keep your light sources’ output from spilling onto it.”

B. Tabletop
For sexy reflections on a black foreground, use a sheet of black Plexiglas as shown here. For more mirror-like effects, Myhrvold recommends a sheet of glass whose reverse side you’ve spray-painted black.

C. Lights
“When shooting translucent food like this grapefruit, it’s fun to light it from behind,” says Myhrvold. “In microscopy, they call this ‘dark field shooting,’ and for translucent subjects, the light should be hard [no softbox or diffuser] and typically come from the back and at an angle. This technique is frequently used for glass subjects.”

D. Computer station
Myhrvold recommends shooting tethered to a nearby computer. “We love the immediacy of it. You can tweak your lighting in real time, and know when you’ve got the shot. The way you look through a viewfinder is fundamentally different than the way you see with a computer screen.” And in the end, there will be far fewer unpleasant surprises.







I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Johny


    Interesting, though not entertaining. I feel that the concept of new age arithmetic is a problem more than a solution. Why do we need to reinvent everything, when we can’t even standardize things of the now?

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    • Maarten

      I agree, we should ban creativity and originality all together once and for all!


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