Curves, lines and shadows – light up the table

My work is giving me some opportunities for food photography so I’ve been brushing up my skills on lighting and exposure.  I’m comfortable with straight-forward documentary types of food images showing off details of texture and color.  Styling however, making the food look appealing by placement and arrangements, is a skill I’ve just not developed a knack for yet.  Most of my efforts looks far too staged to be appealing.  Fortunately I have people around much better at that than me so even though I would really like to be the ‘artistic’ person I think I’m better off making sure the image looks right technically.

That being said, lighting and composition can lend drama to the simplest of subjects.  Edward Weston has a series of famously sensuous photographs of bell peppers, using light and shadow to show us aspects of the vegetable most people probably never notice.  I’ve heard some of the hardest subjects to photograph are the simple, everyday objects we see around us.  Sounds like a challenge.

What can be more simple than a bell pepper?  Smooth skin, rounded surface, deep color.  You have to wonder just when Weston was inspired to make this a subject.  Was he standing in a grocery store one day and suddenly saw produce in a different light?  Was he looking around for something to test new lights with and grabbed what was first in the refrigerator? I’m sure there’s a back story somewhere (anyone out there know?) but the result is what intrigues us.  That’s a bell pepper?

I’m thinking my workflow is probably just the reverse of Weston’s.  As much as I try to pre-visualize, it seems my better images come from trying something, making adjustments, then trying again.  With a healthy dose of Photoshop thrown in.  Still, after a bit I do start to see a little of what drew Weston to this.  It’s a great way to connect with a master.


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