Working Available Light
When you own a bunch of lighting gear, the temptation is great to use it for everything. Hammers, nails…you know the adage. It’s important and very healthy for your skillset to back away from the fancy strobes and use the available light regularly. When you’re traveling with only your camera, you’re forced to do so, as I was when attending a conference early in December.
My father, who spent 35 years writing for a chemistry news magazine, is a veteran of many conferences, and almost always returned with a disparaging word about the food. (He summed up most meals as “chicken and peas.”) By contrast, they pulled out all the stops for the conference I attended, including the delicious lunch pictured above. I thought it deserved not just any picture, but the best picture I could manage under the circumstances.
Food often looks best when backlit by a large soft source, which brings out the texture in a subtle and appealing way; fill may be added to adjust the shadows to taste. I was in luck here: I was sitting at the very back of the ballroom, which was outfitted with large indirect ceiling lights, and behind me was a white or light-gray wall that did all the fill I needed. I shot RAW and didn’t even try to get white balance correct at the time; in post I sampled the edge of the plate until I got something more or less accurate.
I didn’t have time to refine the composition as well as I liked, but I hope this picture communicates my enjoyment of that day’s lunch, both for the taste of the food and the pleasant surprise of something so good.