Sunday, September 07, 2008

How grapes are made

When I was about to leave work yesterday, I found a raisin in the sink. It had been there for some time, so it was soaked in the water. It had expanded and actually looked like a small grape... It was this discovery that gave me the idea for this shot.

I bought a couple of boxes with raisins on my way home (my first time ever, I hate raisins) and thought about how to shoot it. My kitchen bench is well-shot so I wanted to try a different background. I knew that red often fit well with green, so I found a piece of green poker tablecloth and hung it on the couch. Apparently, I was in a poker mood because I also used some pokerchip cases to lift the glass plate to create some distance from the edge of the plate to the bakground (see photos below). The beer cans (also poker related:)) were used to stretch the cloth.

The strobe setup
A snooted Speedlight for background light was mounted on the microphone stand, pointing downwards. This is to separate the subject from the background. For the main light, I used a Speedlight in a translucent umbrella above camera left, pointing down on the bowl.

After a couple of test shots manually, I ended up with these settings:

Background flash:  1/32 power at 85mm
Main light: 1/4 power at 24mm
Camera: 1/200 at f/8, ISO 400 (I forgot to set it on 200....)
Lens: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D AF

I tried different apertures. The 50mm works best on medium apertures (f/4-8). I wanted a large aperture as possible to blur most of the background because the tablecloth's surface was pretty rough. Still I ended up with f/8 to get all foreground details in focus. The background wasn't blurred as much as wanted, but sometimes you'll have to deal with compromises.

For the first time I remembered to shoot the excellent grey card that was inluded in on of Scott Kelby's Photoshop CS3 books. By using this I can get a perfect read-out of the WB and use this temperature value in the other shots. On this grey card, the Adobe Camera Raw WB reference is on the top right quadrant.

When I clicked on this quadrant with the WB tool in Camera Raw I got 5640 Kelvin and tint +4. I copied this setting to all the other shots and voilĂ : Perfect WB. Highly recommended for ALL photos!

I asked my wife to pour the raisins in the bowl. I wanted the box and her hands inside the frame while the raisins were shot falling into the water. This was much more difficult than I expected. Since I'm a raisin novice, I didn't take into account that the raisins are sticky. So the raisins came out of the box in an uneven pace. But I just continued to shoot, and after three boxes I finally got a shot that I was pleased with (photo below). (That's way the bowl is almost full of raisins in the final shot:))

Unfortunately, I wasn't happy with my wife's hand and arm position. They didn't look as "relaxed" as I had in mind and I wanted it to enter the frame from above... So after a total of five boxes of raisins, it came out like I wanted (below):

I had to do some post-processing on this final shot. I ended up with a square crop and had to increase the greens and reds. There was also a specular on the bowl that I cloned out. Added a slight vignette.

The result:

How grapes are made
How grapes are made

What I could have done differently:
  • The thing I'm least happy with is the dark shadow on the left on the background. I should have centered the bowl in this cone of light that was created. I feel that it's a bit distracting and that the picture is unbalanced because of this.
  • Instead of snooting the background flash I could have tried to put a flag between the flash and foreground, so that the background light would be more even.
  • Since I ended up with a pretty tight square crop, I could try to increase the space between the background and foreground. In this way, the background would become more blurry.

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