When it comes to still photos, I’m the type who doesn’t know exactly how to shoot something but I know what I like to see and go for that. I don’t shoot a lot of stills for clients, mostly machines and warehouse interiors. But what I’ve learned from watching real pros, like my friend Jonathan Daniel of Getty Images, informs my shooting of products for video: still lifes, if you will. Especially food.
I recently shot a video for Yelp at Slopes Restaurant, located inside the new, fabulous Waldorf Astoria at The Canyons Ski Resort in Park City, Utah, about 20 minutes from my home. I do lots of these types of videos but I’ve found I particularly enjoy capturing the art and mastery of the meal in its finished state- by “finished”, I mean before it’s eaten. The light at this location was rather low which is fairly typical for restaurants who like to control the atmosphere or “mood” of the interior. This made shooting the finished dishes a little challenging. But the gain (or ISO for you still folks) of my Panasonic HPX500 is good so the closeups in the restaurant itself turned out rather nicely using just natural light and +6 db.
The shots in the kitchen were better lit but it was a crazy mix of white, ceiling fluorescents and orange, low incandescents which made it difficult to color balance. Because I only have one hour to shoot the whole thing, I balanced the camera to a spot that had a good combination of both so the subjects and background were close to the right colors instead of one being exact and the other being really blue.
While I enjoy watching moving, Glidecam-type shots of stationary objects, I find them more distracting than beneficial. The viewer should be encouraged to focus on the subject- in this case, the food- rather than the cinematography. I think a well-lit, non- or only-slightly moving picture of something conveys more information with less distraction. Isn’t telling the story of the subject, not the photographer, the idea?
I hope my new camera- either the RED or Canon C500- will make these pseudo-stills look even better by being able to shoot them in up to 5k resolution. But as usual, whether it’s a beautiful mountain or mountain of french fries, if you have great ingredients, the rest is easy.