I’ve had this post in my queue for awhile now. I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about what to even make this entry about. Even now, I’m sitting here, eating pineapple sorbet, wondering how to proceed.
Usually that means I leave it alone so long that I have no choice but to delete the entry and forget I even took the photos.
However, I feel like there’s a lesson I learned that I don’t want to keep all to myself. As I am self-taught, I’m constantly learning from other photographers, from blogs, from trial and error… And I want to share my blunders.
It will seem so silly to most of you, but we’ll call it….
The Lesson of the $9 Studio:
Don’t Be A Lazy Photographer… Well, Not Too Lazy, Anyway
Awhile ago, I asked my friends on Facebook to name some of their favorite drinks. I had fun shooting the Gin Rickey’s last year, so I wanted to give drink shots another chance.
Since it’s not my livelihood, I can be a really lazy photographer. I’m even worse when I’m photographing food… Usually by the time I get around to setting up my tripod, moving the coffee table over by the window, plating whatever it is I’ve made, etc, I’m hungry. I should probably start snacking while I’m cooking, but I got out of that habit awhile ago and I’d like to keep it that way.
Since I can be Lazy, with that capital L there, I’m often disappointed with the end result. There is no better proof than when I attempted to photograph my favorite, albeit simple, rum drinks. For a frame of reference, I took 24 photos. I will show you three.
First up: The photos I hated.
Ugh. What the hell was I thinking? I didn’t even attempt to disguise my apartment complex. I tried multiple angles, but these were the two best photos with the least amount of glare. These, friends, are terrible photos.
I only liked one. One. photo from the entire thing. And you can’t even tell what I was going for…
what was I trying to show you? It looks like I’m showcasing that pastry that, by the way, I didn’t make. That’s not what I wanted, even though it looks appetizing enough. I went out of my way to provide extra props for this photo set up. I wanted something to accompany the drinks. I mean, it was a tasty pastry, with raisins and caramel and all kinds of goodness, but… C’mon, Steph. You can’t use that. It doesn’t serve a purpose.
So what did I do?
After a few days of feeling disheartened, I went on a mission to take some better photos.
Since this particular set up didn’t require any cooking, even if my recipes are beyond simple, it could be easily redone. And I didn’t lose any money on this. You can bet your hat I drank those drinks, and Dillon helped eat the pastry. Besides, even if I was just able to get one new photo that showcased the drink, then I would have succeeded.
And then… BLAM!
Now, obviously, there are problems with this photo as well. First, the Kraken bottle needs to be moved, or the glass needs to be moved, my backdrop isn’t flush with the table, etc. But… I did what I set out to do. I got a photo, a decent one, of the drink I wanted to show case (it’s Kraken and Ginger Ale, in case you aren’t paying attention, dummy.)
So, how did I accomplish this? Did I paint my wall yellow? Did I buy a table?
None of the above!
Here’s a more paired down photo to explore.
- That yellow background? It’s a poster from the Dollar Tree, where some things are even less than a dollar… in this case, $0.60 a piece for poster sheets. I bought three (yellow, black, and red).
- The poster board is taped to a piece of white foam board ($1.00 a piece). I bought 4.
- The table is another piece of foam board with wood printed vinyl shelf liner ($1.00 a piece). I bought two rolls of the shelf liner, one light, one dark.
- The red fabric is a folded up place mat ($1.00).
- There’s also a poster board to the side set up as a reflector.
- Are you keeping track? I spent $8.80, pretax.
- I used the rest of the $20 I had set aside for this task to buy a few other items for future shoots — a plate, a bowl, a few more place mats and napkins.
It looks like this when you’re done setting up:
If you’re limited on space, don’t worry. So am I. I used the top of my dog’s kennel to set all this up. And to store it? It’s all in the closet, neatly packed away for next time.
If you’re interested in getting amping up the food photography on your blog, I strongly recommend you spend this money up front. If you’re interested in getting more advanced than that, I’d like to point you over to Vanessa‘s recent blog posts about the creative and technical aspects of what she does. You should pop over there anyway. It’s an amazing blog with some really inspirational photos.