Backstage Pass | Why Once in Awhile You Want Your Camera's Flash!

So for a long time I was a no flash girl because I didn't have a good flash and bad flashes (the ones that come on your camera) make bad pictures.  Once I got a good flash, I still only used it later at night when I absolutely needed it.  I'm still that girl.  I still prefer to bump ISO instead of using a ton of flash.  HOWEVER, I am no longer a "no flash" girl, just a "not very much flash" girl.  Sometimes though...a flash can be awesome and today I'm giving you a backstage pass to check out why.  Over the next week or so,  I will be sharing posts that were photographed all in under an hour one afternoon.  Of course, I didn't want all the photos to look the same, so I had to change things up without taking up a lot of time (those babies were going to wake up before I knew it!).  So how do you change things up dramatically when you are shooting everything on the same table?  Flash!!!

This photo below looks like a whitebox photo for 2 reasons.

#1  It is taken on a white table and from slightly above so you can't see any background.  Just white.
#2  I used fill flash.  What, HUH?!  Fill flash fills in the light so that all areas of the subject are getting a little light love.  In this case, the items are backlit from the window (on the tomato side) and I used a flash pointed up towards the ceiling to bring some fill flash to the avocados in the front. 

Natural Backlighting and Front Fill Light   |  No Editing

While I like the look of the first photo, I find it a bit sterile and I want my other photographs for this set to show a bit more life.  I want to see the way true natural light and shadows fall on objects so that people looking at my photos get a sense of an environment surrounding the food.  I want them to picture what it might be like to eat at my house.  I want to create an artistic product.  So in the next photo, that same light is coming from behind, but notice how I haven't balanced out the light.  There is shadow on the top of the soup bowl.  There are shadows on the fronts of the avocados.  There are shadows in the folds of the towel...all things that give the sense that the light is low in the sky (as it was), the day is coming to a close and there is a warm, spicy bowl of soup waiting on the table to eat.  Totally different story from picture #1, yes?

Natural Lighting   |    High Editing for Layered Art Look
Switching gears, I wanted to take a few photos of the lavender scented playdough we had made earlier in the week.  I didn't want to take a sterile photo, but lavender play dough also doesn't really scream "moody backlighting" photo either.  SO -- I took my classic favorite photo.  I do this technique all. the. time -- almost to a fault.  I have to stop myself from shooting everything in this exact same way because it is so beautiful to me.  This photo is taken with natural light from the back, I am almost in line with the object showing a bit of shadow play across the top of the playdough to give depth, but without creating deep dark spots.  I upped my exposure compensation to +.03 to overexpose slightly, blowing out the white background and creating a "dreamy" light look and focused on the detail of the tag.  My camera was set to 1.8 aperture in Aperture Priority mode and I just die.  This is the perfect picture for me.  Beautiful, light, dreamy, wispy, girly and you can see why I overdo it.  You can also understand why I have to step back and remind myself to get shots from further away, shots with higher apertures and more detail, etc. etc.

Natural Light From the Left, Low Aperture
So you want to see where the magic is made?  Well, you have seen it before.  My office desk moonlights as a whitebox and photography studio :)  Here is what it looks like during a photoshoot.  You can see the playdough bowl in the middle and all of the light is coming from those windows back there.  You can see the food stuff thrown to the side and my regular office stuff moved around to make room.  There is a second lens on the table in case I need to switch to wide angle shots.  Otherwise I have my 50mm on and don't take it off for product photography.  The desk is from IKEA, the stools from Target, the lamp from Walmart?, that lime green statue in the background from a market, knitting needles from the trash and the lovely orchid from my lovely husband.

Many of you have asked about the desk, so if you would like to buy one, it comes in 2 pieces at IKEA and you can mix and match the tops and bottoms.  I adore this desk and almost bought a second one for the basement because I love it so much.  I purchased mine off craigslist for $60, but you can get your very own at IKEA

If you are looking for a good flash that won't fit the wallet right out of your pants, the SB 400 is what I use and it is the best value for a good price.  It allows you to angle the flash out and up, and uses AA batteries.  You support this blog when you buy it through this amazon link and I never recommend something I don't love and use consistently. 

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Shawna said…
Hi Amy... your guacamole post isn't in here! I wanted to let you know that next time, instead of using milk or cream to thin your guacamole, use mayonnaise. It adds a nice taste without overwhelming the mix. If you aren't a big mayo fan you can also use sour cream, but I find mayo adds a nicer zip to it. I also stop mashing my avocados before they are complete paste so there is still a bit of chunkiness to the mixture.

Hope this helps... I adore avocados but can't eat them anymore since my husband discovered he's allergic. It just wasn't fair for me to eat them if he can't enjoy them too...
abby said…
I also came looking for your guacamole post! Not to brag... but my guac is out of this world and it made a cute boy I liked decide he wanted to marry me. I bet you'd enjoy it, too.
My recipe is here -

c.w.frosting said…
Thanks for sharing! I'm also a no-flash girl but will be reconsidering. I think I'll also need a white table. My current photos are shot on a striped ottoman, cream colored table cloth, coffee table, or outside in front of garage door.

-caroline @ c.w.frosting
Amy Renea said…
Thanks girls!! SO many ideas for the guac I will be trying out ;)

CW...your backgrounds sound fabulous...if you blow out the light backgrounds it can read as white!