27 January 2012

Donna Hay Photo Challenge

Simone of Junglefrog Cooking has a monthly photo challenge. She picks a photo (and recipe) from Donna Hay Magazine and challenges us to replicate the photo as closely as we can. The object of this exercise is not to copy someone else's work (ew) but rather to sharpen our skills in food styling and analysing the light in a photo. Why? So that we can be better photographers and do our own work better.

I'll admit that I don't normally gravitate to food challenges. However, after the Plate to Page workshop I began to think about how to do a better job of styling and photographing my recipes, and this challenge seems to me to be the perfect way to continue the learning that I started at P2P. 

So. Here's the photo we're trying to replicate. The photo is by Ben Dearnley and the styling is by Justing Poole. The photo is from Donna Hay Magazine No. 51: 

First I thought about the props. Hmmm... I have a rule that I don't buy things just for my blog. Could I break this rule? Hmmm... Ok, I bought a piece of very dark felt. I had a piece of plastic that looked like slate that I used for the base of the photo, and added the felt on top of that. I also bought some blue wire to wrap the spoon (why? What did that add to the photo? Not sure, but it sort of balanced all the dark stuff on the left, I think.) The rest was stuff I had.

As it gets dark here veryvery early in January, I decided that I'd have to set this up with artificial light. I used a diffused light source from the right side with a black card to absorb light on the left.

The first thing that I did was set up the photo without the soup. My bowl was blue, and the papers that I used were also blue. Here's my first shot, showing the true colors of the bowl and the paper. Can you see me reflected in the bowl?

To get the lighting I wanted, I set the exposure to -2. I used a Nikon D-90 with a 50mm prime lens, and shot at f2 and 1/250. In retrospect, f2 was probably too wide open. It could use a little more depth of field, I think.

Here's my final photo:

At one point I realized that the two drops of soup in the DH photo were an important compositional element, and I tried to replicate that effect with two pieces of the parmesan topping on the soup. Unfortunately (and I didn't realize this till later) the focus of all the subsequent photos was those two white spots. By the time I saw that the soup was gone and the props were dispersed. A good reason to shoot tethered, eh?

All in all, this was a wonderful exercise for me. I'm not entirely happy with the final result, but it was worth the effort—I learned a lot, and that was the point! I'll do this challenge again. Soon. 

Thank you, Simone!


Lynn said...

Nice job Kate! You inspire me ;-)
I just got a new camera and am in the process of learning.

Junglefrog said...

Yes! You managed to participate! Glad you did Kate... I always have the excuse when buying props 'that I really need it for work'... which is not true ofcourse but I love to fool myself. On your take on the soup; yes it is out of focus but hey, I can definitely see the two pcs I hate it when that happens. I had it once with some little tartlets that I wanted to shoot quickly for the blog. Didn't pay attention, was too quick and they came out all blurry but by the time I found out; they were all finished. o well, that happens.. :)
Apart from that I think your image looks remarkably like the original so great job on the lighting and well done on getting it to work as a gradient! I think you did best of all entries in that respect.. :) Thanks for joining in this month!

Susan Lindquist said...

Very impressed, Kate!

Susan Lindquist said...
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Linda said...

I am so impressed...I am also ashamed about how little I know about my camera! Good on you girl! Btw....I really like your pic...a lot!

Raymond Delhaye said...

Bel exercice, que je recommande toujours !
et beau résultat !

Kristen said...

Oh wow - your interpretation of the photo is spot on... I love it! You should be pleased with it!

Aparna said...

Unfortunately the focus is on those two bits of cheese. :)
But otherwise your composition and styling looks good and you've got the light pretty spot on.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

So happy that you have taken part in this Kate. It's a lovely way to practice. It will make you assess and reassess all the small details and you will see that practice does make perfect. Proud of you!

Barbara said...

I think you did a super job, Kate. Love Donna Hay mag and the photos are truly beautiful.