Food Photography for Lexington House Los Gatos

I did some recent work for The Lexington House in Los Gatos. They are a charming restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue. It’s also a great place to come for Happy Hour. The bar is small but quaint and you’ll never know what friendly Los Gatos local you’ll run into while sipping down on some nice handcrafted cocktails. Food photography on location can be quite challenging, you don’t have the full studio there with you and sometimes working with reflections from the windows and interior lights can be a little daunting. Whenever possible it’s best to use natural light sources like being close to a large window. When those favorable conditions don’t exist then I also carry a set of wireless studio lights to light the scene. I typically like to light food photography from behind which gives it more dimension and those deep dark contrasty shadows. The lights I used for this set are the FlashPoint XPLOR 600 PRO and the Evolv 200 also made by Flashpoint. 

Van Halen logo not original? If only Jimmy were alive right now!

It seems an image of Van Halen’s logo has surfaced, except, the logo appears to have been originally designed by Jimmy Hendrix. It was on a poster made back in the 60’s. And all this time I thought Van Halen came up with the original concept. Check out Jimmy’s logo below from the 60’s compared to Van Halen’s logo. You be the judge…

Shooting for Catalog

Being that my main focus in photography is shooting fashion, it was long before I would get the call to shoot for fashion catalogs. Iv’e been quite the fan of fashion catalogs, especially with brands like Free People and Anthropologie, you can’t help but notice all the beautiful imagery and thought that goes into one of those spreads. I think they are more like small fashion editorials revealing that latest styles in a very clever and story like way. Another great catalog to check out is GUESS. They are usually easy to find, just walk into and GUESS store at the mall and you should find a few copies. IT doesn’t get much better than this catalog, very well thought out with plenty of content to read and photo to enjoy.

My catalog start began with a local designer based in Palo Alto, CA, Ruti. She’s an Israeli born fashion designer that carries some beautifully crafted garments. She has 5 stores located throughout California.

A typical day in a catalog shoot consists of between 60-90 garments that need to be shot on a model. For Ruti, I shoot with an all white background, this allows the images to seamlessly work with her website look and feel. Most will tell you that lighting for an all white background to shoot full body is no easy task. First, the space needs to be considered as you need alot of room to place the lights precisely where they need to go. The intensity of the light hitting the background needs to be controlled so that it does not spill onto the model and create a hazy, milky effect.

On set we typically have a model, makeup artist, the designer and a few of her team members. One may steam clothes on the rack while the others watch the images as they come in and begin the selection process of which shots are keepers. Shooting tethered is a must when shooting for catalog as the client wants to see how the garments are looking on the screen.

The process is very basic and repetitive. 8 hours is a very long day for a model when she has to put and and take off over 60+ garments. It’s even taxing as the photographer as I’m constantly focusing and composing the shots to the last inch. Some shots are taken below the lip or under the nose and getting it right in camera saves alot of cropping in post production.

Once the shooting comes to a close, the finals selections are made and it’s off to post production. This is where it’s really important to get the best shot out of the camera as you possibly can, including keeping that background and floor white. Now we all know that given the conditions that ma not always be possible. In my case, I may end up with areas that are not 255 white on some areas of the floor around the models feet. When you need to deliver 150+ images from a days worth of shooting, I strongly recommend staying away from Photoshop. The best way to handle this is using the adjustment brushes in Lightroom. Increasing both the exposure and highlights on an adjustment brush will come a long way to bumping those almost pure white values to where they need to be.

Shooting for catalog may not be the most exciting shoot for fashion but it’s a great way to learn precise lighting and really get the practice of working with the client, understanding clothing and textures, the workflow, and much more.

You can never be too careful

The day started off really well. Got the morning coffee at the local Starbucks down the street and headed to my 11:00AM shoot with my makeup artist in tow. The location, the light grid studio that I had only heard about but never actually shot there. The concept is really cool actually, there are 4 grids, each with a Profoto head on a track that is being controlled by the iPad. At first I’m not really convinced and I feel very anxious that I won’t be able to tweak my lights the way I’ve always been used to. It’s not an ideal time to try and learn this system when my client is about to walk in. One cool thing is that they have a few predetermined light setups that you can choose and the lights will automatically take shape. After fiddling around for a few minutes and making Austin (studio tech) stand in for some candids, I started the shoot with an additional beauty dish to give the light some direction and it’s opposing shadows. We had 2 hours to get a total of 7 shots.

At the halfway point the shoot is going great, models are on point, minor technical issues, which are expected, and the rest of the team all doing their part. The shoot area clears out for just a moment, I sit there, solo, waiting on the next cast, I decide to get up and check on them, bad move. Perp comes in through the side door and away he goes with my Macbook Pro and 2 external hard drives carrying a couple of years worth of work. Why he didn’t take my Pelican case that was sitting next to my bag is beyond me.

I have learned my lesson and from now on I will keep my belongs very close to me and be more strict on having a closed set during my shoots. If you walk out or leave the building, you’ll have to knock to get back in. Doors will be locked.

I want to take a moment to thank the entire crew of yesterdays shoot that went above and beyond to look for my laptop bag. 2 hours of searching, every couch was moved, every nook check once and twice, it wasn’t until we reviewed the footage that we stopped the search and came to a realization that it was stolen. An inside job. It’s really sad. I hope that karma kicks you right in the ass buddy.

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