BTS: How I shot a scoop of ice cream in the middle of a Philippine summer afternoon

How it actually looks behind the scenes
How it actually looks behind the scenes

The other day, I stumbled upon this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NB74oogL9c) on food photography that discussed “styling to the camera”. It was a very interesting concept that really made sense when it comes to setting up your shot to get the minute details set one little step at a time. Luckily, an internal company contest was announced just a few days after watching the video so it presented the perfect opportunity to try this workflow out!

First off, let’s talk about the basic setup I had for this shoot. I shot with my D7000 and Tamron 60mm f/2.0 Macro lens (I RARELY use a different lens these days) set on a tripod that I’ve already pre-framed. I was also shooting tethered so that I can see the images pop up on a bigger screen as soon as I shoot them. I find that shooting tethered is so much easier when you’re reviewing the images.

For the prep work, I always try to make a quick sketch of the final image that I would want to build for the day of the shoot. Especially for something like this where I’m shooting just one item, it makes things so much quicker once I actually start preparing the “set”.

A quick sketch that I did a few days prior to actually shooting to help me plan the image out as well as for me to identify if I'll be needing any additional props
A quick sketch that I did a few days prior to actually shooting to help me plan the image out as well as for me to identify if I’ll be needing any additional props

Now on to the actual shoot! I’ll just show the sequence of images and have the explanations in the captions. Enjoy!

Frame one: Light seems fine. Sack looks good in that spot. Time to add the coffee beans in the sack!
Frame one: Light seems fine. Sack looks good in that spot. Time to add the coffee beans in the sack!
Frame two: Coffee beans are already in the pouch. It's a bit too far off to the left from the original placement.
Frame two: Coffee beans are already in the pouch. It’s a bit too far off to the left from the original placement.
Frame three: Much better! The beans inside are still a bit dark. I'll throw some extra fill light in a bit. For now, time to add more coffee beans.
Frame three: Much better! The beans inside are still a bit dark. I’ll throw some extra fill light in a bit. For now, time to add more coffee beans.
Frame four: Beans are now
Frame four: Beans are now “spilling out” of the pouch. The front of the frame still looks a bit empty though so I’ll add some in front.
Frame five: I like the beans on the little plate! I decided to add a bit more.
Frame five: I like the beans on the little plate! I decided to add a bit more.
Frame six: The plate looks better now! The right side of the frame looks a bit empty though.
Frame six: The plate looks better now! The right side of the frame looks a bit empty though.
Frame Seven: The beans look pretty good already. Now it's time to add a bit more fill light to get a nice gleam to the beans inside the bag.
Frame Seven: The beans look pretty good already. Now it’s time to add a bit more fill light to get a nice gleam to the beans inside the bag.
Frame Eight: The additional flash that I bounced off the ceiling did the trick in exposing the pouch beans better. Now I noticed that the cup doesn't really stand out that well from the plate.
Frame Eight: The additional flash that I bounced off the ceiling did the trick in exposing the pouch beans better. Now I noticed that the cup doesn’t really stand out that well from the plate.
Frame Nine: Separation between the plate and the cup now work better. The cup still looks a bit dark so I could add a bit more power in my fill flash.
Frame Nine: Separation between the plate and the cup now work better. The cup still looks a bit dark so I could add a bit more power in my fill flash.
Frame Ten: This one looks much better with the clearer label. Time to bring in the actual product!
Frame Ten: This one looks much better with the clearer label. Time to bring in the actual product!
Frame Eleven: I wasn't too sure about the handle jutting out like that. Let's try turning it the cup a bit to have a different angle.
Frame Eleven: I wasn’t too sure about the handle jutting out like that. Let’s try turning it the cup a bit to have a different angle.
Frame Twelve: Now it just looks like a tall cup/bowl. Not too sure if I like this more. I feel that it still has to be clear that the vessel IS a cup.
Frame Twelve: Now it just looks like a tall cup/bowl. Not too sure if I like this more. I feel that it still has to be clear that the vessel IS a cup.
Frame Thirteen: I think this really does looks better with a little bit of the handle showing. Awesome!
Frame Thirteen: I think this really does looks better with a little bit of the handle showing. Awesome!
Frame Fourteen: I was pretty happy with the image when I noticed that the ice cream scoop was not in the picture! Took out the scoop again and included the scoop this time. Not too keen on the angle of the ice cream scoop and the amount of cup handle showing.
Frame Fourteen: I was pretty happy with the image when I noticed that the ice cream scoop was not in the picture! Took out the scoop again and included the scoop this time. Not too keen on the angle of the ice cream scoop and the amount of cup handle showing.
Frame Fifteen: Twisted the cup a bit and moved the scoop closer to the cup. Now it feels a bit tight. I should give a little more breathing room between the scoop and the cup.
Frame Fifteen: Twisted the cup a bit and moved the scoop closer to the cup. Now it feels a bit tight. I should give a little more breathing room between the scoop and the cup.
Frame Sixteen: Moved the scoop too far to the right that it's cut off from the frame.
Frame Sixteen: Moved the scoop too far to the right that it’s cut off from the frame.
Frame Seventeen: Moved the scooper a bit closer but now it feels a bit disjointed from the tub and cup. Just a little bit closer.
Frame Seventeen: Moved the scooper a bit closer but now it feels a bit disjointed from the tub and cup. Just a little bit closer.
Frame Eighteen: The final image! I was pretty with how this one came out. I like the wrap of the light across the mug, how the ice cream scooper is angled and positioned relative to the tub. This one works for me!
Frame Eighteen: The final image! I was pretty with how this one came out. I like the wrap of the light across the mug, how the ice cream scooper is angled and positioned relative to the tub. This one works for me!

I really hope this was a useful breakdown! The image didn’t look exactly like how I planned it in the sketch but the main elements were there. If you do have any questions, do ask away in the comments section below. Cheers!

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