I was so disappointed with the complete failure that was my first take on A4 that I really wanted to reshoot to create a set of images I was pleased with.
Having now looked at the work of Irving Penn I was much more drawn to the white background photographs than the originally planned Edward Weston inspired black background ones. But I did prefer the viewpoint of Weston’s images vs the more above and flat viewpoint of Penn’s Apples – which was the original inspiration for looking at more decayed food this time than with my first shoot. I do like the simplicity of the white and feel it will help emphasise the various colours of the beginnings of decay within the food.
Recognising my lack of studio / lighting experience I read up on various online guides and watched a few YouTube videos to see how other people achieved studio style images without studio equipment or any budget to create one! It seemed there were many different methods and so I took ideas from lots of them to apply to the equipment that I had to use.
Although I still didn’t have a macro lens, I was able to borrow a 28-75mm telephoto which had much better macro capabilities than my 35mm prime. I also hoped using 50-75mm range would create a less distorted and yet flatter image of the fruit.
I would have liked to have created a DIY lightbox to try and provide consistent and even light, but I decided it would be easier to create a mini studio on my dining table. In practice this proved to be even more makeshift than I expected; I used my childrens’ art easel and paper roll to create the background, my old reflector I dug out of storage which was far too big for the space, only one of my husbands two soft box lights worked so I had to substitute the other with an angle poise lamp, and the diffuser for the working one was missing so I had to get creative with a shirt.
I struggled with the lighting variations during the shoot. Not having a controlled lightbox to use and shooting under a large skylight which provided a flood of light from above, there were intermittent clouds that altered the lighting. As I was shooting on a tripod I adjusted the shutter speed to try and counteract this as much as possible and was able to shoot at much lower speeds than I could have achieved hand held. While this helped keep the level of light relatively consistent, the differences in Kelvin between the daylight and the artificial light are very apparent against the white coloured background, as well as in the variances between the images themselves.
I debated editing these further in post to create completely flat white backgrounds, but actually I quite like the gradients within most of the images, and I like that it adds a sense of reality and depth to otherwise quite clinical photographs.
I shot wide open at f2.8, and found this created a nice depth of field through the images. At times it meant that I missed my focal point and was surprised to see how shallow the depth of field was and how important it was to ensure my focus laid on a point of interest on the fruit.
I actually shot 4 items of fruit and veg but with the brief specifying 6-10 images for the set, I decided to omit the orange images as I felt that they were the lowest quality of all the photographs and the least consistent in terms of detail and lighting.
I was unsure about including the onion in the series, as originally I wanted to just use fruit. But I was so intrigued by the colour of the onion and the different textures and layers within it that I just wanted to photograph it! I actually feel it works well within the set and created more interesting images than those of the orange, and it provided the set with a variation in colours, so I was pleased to have included it.
I think now that I’ve put the grid together and seen the impact of the purple of the onion, I would have liked to have used a green apple to provide more colour variation between the apple and banana. I debated putting the onion images on the middle row to break up the yellow tones, but I like the shape of the banana being used in the middle of the grid to create a nice balanced layout with the round objects along the top and bottom.
Incidentally the banana is the only item cut through a different plane to that it was ripped. The reason for this was two-fold; firstly, with the exception of the orange (& banana), all the other items were cut after being ripped – meaning I could provide a clean cut through the same piece of fruit / veg used in all three images, and secondly having snapped the banana in two and liking the way the banana shape now bent backwards in the torn image, I wanted to return to the original shape and composition of the first image to balance the mini series out. I think had I cut the banana in two in the same way as the tear, the two images would have been too similar and the only variation would be the gooey mess made from tearing it. Cutting it lengthways also provided more interest as it’s unusual to see a banana cut in this way.
I took care when composing to try and position the fruit centrally and a similar size within the frame on all images. I think this paid off when all the images are viewed together in a 3×3 grid which was my intended layout from the start. I wanted each fruit/veg to have it’s own mini series within the grid, similar to how I ended up presenting my first set of A4 images. I knew I wanted each item to have a photograph of it whole, another cut cleanly to show the inside and then ripped open to create some more natural textures in keeping with the decaying process which has already started.
Having also now incorporated vegetables as well as fruit, I would like to extend this series further to include more vegetables. I would look to shoot 5 types of fruit and veg, in a variety of colours, and entitle the series “Your 5 a Day”. Using even more decayed food in this series and then the use of ‘your’ in the title would provoke slight disgust, which I think would be interesting against the clinical nature of the white background and the clean cut images would look like the rotten food was being prepared to eat.
I positioned the 9 images in a 3×3 grid and then created that grid as a PDF. I love how this looks as a document as I can picture it as a print. I would love to see this printed in a large size on glossy paper, or as a whole page spread within a book.
When viewed individually as large images, I am pleased with how each photograph has come out. I have tried to balance the highlights and shadows to avoid hotspots or loss of details and I think I have achieved that.
I particularly like the ripped apple image for the detail of the little droplet of juice near the top of the fruit, and I love the texture of the skin in the whole onion photograph.
I later chose to use this assignment as an example of my creative work. My presentation can be found here: