How to Capture Motion in Food Photography

The typical formula for good food photography involves tack sharp focus, lots of natural, diffused light, and picture perfect styling. But food photography can go beyond still life. Steve Hansen demonstrates how to capture food photography with motion:

The ingredients for this demonstration are used for a traditional dark Mexican mole. They come in all varieties and colors, and just like many other Mexican dishes, this one has a lot of chili in it. The rest of the ingredients include chocolate and pumpkin seeds and make up for a nice fluffy feel as an assistant drops them from a height for the shot.

food photography with motion

Ready for the drop

Hansen uses a yellow background for the shot as the ingredients are dropped from a height with the strobe firing and the camera on continuous mode capturing as many frames as possible.

Hansen didn’t use high-speed sync and thus, his exposures were limited to the 1/250 second mark. He used an aperture of f/16, which is his len’s sweet spot. Beyond that, lens diffraction sets in. Even at f/16 the depth of field is somewhat small—only 3 – 4 inches.

Two 12 x 50” strip boxes make up the lights for the shot. The left strip box has an egg-crate positioned to the far edge to prevent light from spilling to the back.

The other strip box has the front diffuser taken off. This produces an edgy kind of a light for the scene.

The left light is positioned slightly toward the front, while the right light is pushed back a bit to create what Hansen describes as a slightly oblong lighting scenario.

lighting setup for food photography with motion

Lighting Setup

As for composition, Hansen suggests making a base frame that’s as all-encompassing as possible. This will give you a solid platform to build the rest of the image. With the base frame done you can then use different elements to start growing the image.

Here are some of the frames he later composited.

food photography composite

A frame used in the composite

Another composite frame

Composite frame

Finally, this is the composited shot.

photographing food dropping

Final composited image

This takes food photography to a new, interesting level!

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