Strobist Boot Camp 2

Finished the second boot camp assignment yesterday. As with the first assignment, I learned a lot. Details after the jump.

The assignment this time: photographing food. Specifically, food that would get David Hobby — the runner of the contest and blogger who runs the strobist site I mentioned in my previous photo posting — to break his diet.

OK, so how to differentiate my entry from what is likely to be hundreds of other entries? Well, for sure, it has to be tasty, since it has to tempt Hobby away from his diet. It also has to be well-lit, of course, since the site is all about lighting. Finally, it has to be interesting to look at. That might seem to go without saying but how to find something to photograph that other entrants wouldn’t think to photograph? Or failing that, finding a way to photograph something in an original way?

After much thought, I decided that pictures of nasty Hostess snack cakes had possibilities. Iconic, colorful, with some potential for humor. So I decided to shoot Sno-balls, Hostess Cupcakes and, of course, Twinkies.

But no matter what I did, the results were unsatisfactory. And why? The light, of course. It looked exactly like what it was: snapshots of junk food.

So I started looking through the strobist site to see if I could find any inspiration. And what do you know, there it was: the $10 Macro Photo Studio, essentially a cardboard box in which three of the sides have been replaced with paper. You put your subject in the box and your flashes outside the box and they shine through the paper. The paper softens the light and spreads it evenly throughout the box. I don’t have multiple strobes so I used hot lamps.

If you can’t quite picture what I mean, here is a shot of the setup.

Wow, what a difference. The white background was very dramatic and the light was beautiful.  The only issue was actually with what I had hoped would be the centerpiece of the shot:  the Twinkie. No matter what I did, it looked terrible. Well, more terrible than even a Twinkie should look. Washed out, weirdly uneven in color and full of nasty pits. Disgusting.

Time was running out and I didn’t have any other Hostess products available so I improvised. I had a Diet Coke can at hand so I decided to shoot that and pretend it was the plan all along.

Here are the results. I am pretty happy with it. More importantly, I learned a lot.