One of the challenges of shooting in several locations all in one day is keeping yourself mobile. By doing so, it is inevitable that you leave some (or most) of your equipment at home and just bring the bare necessities. Over the years, I've learned that my bare necessities are my camera and tripod. If situation calls for letting me choose between my tripod or my lights, I'd pick my tripod easily. It's more practical.
In one such occasion, I only had my camera and tripod since the assignment would require me to go to several places to shoot. With this assignment I had to shoot the interiors of a restaurant and of course, the house specialty cake.
Normally (under favorable conditions), I would shoot food with a minimum of two lights, one light as key and the other as fill. But for this shoot, I didn't have time nor the space to set up lights (well, I didn't actually bring any). Quick fix? Use my tripod and available light!
To set up for this shot, I chose a window where the light coming in was diffused. I didn't want direct sunlight since this would wash everything out. This window was perfect and it would serve as my main light. I placed the cake in such a way that the light hitting it will be coming from the 1 to 3 o'clock position of my frame. This is a good way to light for a food shot since backlighting brings about more texture to your subject and it gives you your rim light. And since the window is big enough, it covered most part of the frame. To set my exposure, I metered for the jam on the cake (in shooting cakes like this, it's a good idea to meter for the darkest part). But since there was too much contrast in tones, metering for the darkest part over exposed everything else. To correct this, I underexposed the jam for 1 stop and this gave an acceptable exposure for the rest of the frame. To compensate for the underexposure, I threw in some fill light using a white plate which I borrowed from the waiter. This fill brought back the normal tone and color of the jam and it also provided fill for the shadows of the cake.
There you go, a very simple and practical way for a food shoot on the fly.
Hope this helps, happy shooting!
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