We are often approached with different questions about the technical side of our work. Everyone finds their own path and style when it comes to photography, but we always find it helpful to share some of what we do. Hopefully we can help people progress and create wonderful things.
What camera do you you use?
As commercial photographers, we own a couple different camera systems based on their advantages. We use a Leica S camera system for most of our studio needs. The Leica S is a medium format digital camera that we feel will offer the best image quality possible. Image quality is not just about resolution and reading a spec sheet. Color rendition, tones and dynamic range are very important too and should always be considered when testing a new camera. We also use a Nikon system for our handheld photography because of its versatility and low light abilities
What are your preferred lenses for food & drink photography?
We like to be selective with our compositions and like the feel of images when using standard and telephoto lenses. Our most used lens is the Leica 120mm f/2.5 CS (Equivalent to about 100mm in 35mm dslr terms). This lens has the feel we like and also has macro ability for really closeup photos. From a studio lighting standpoint, the CS (Central Shutter) ability gives us a flash sync speed of 1/500th sec. Our other favorite lens is the Leica 35-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar and the equivalent range by Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 VR. This is a nice range for versatility and covers us for larger table layouts and traveling. Zooms are nice but we don’t always recommend them for those who are starting out because of too many options while learning about focal lengths. We recommend 50mm, 85mm and 100/105mm lenses for dslr cameras so you can learn what each focal length offers. These are called prime lenses and we have these along with our zooms because of their special abilities that zooms don’t have. They may not have the versatility of zoom lenses but they usually have better optics and larger aperture openings. The larger aperture allows you to get faster shutter speeds if needed. It also allows you to obtain a more shallow depth of field that creates a nice effect for some applications.
Do you prefer natural window lighting or artificial photo lighting?
We use both depending on the situation. Natural lighting is nice and can be modified easily if you have enough time with daylight and weather outside is working for you. As professional photographers, we are expected to provide optimal results regardless of location, light sources, time of day or weather. We like to use Profoto strobe lighting with all kinds of diffusors and modifiers. Our strobe lighting setups can create whatever quality of light we desire while keeping colors consistent. We especially like this lighting for drink photography so we that can control highlights and freeze carbonation bubbles in action. There are many other reasons to use strobe lighting but this covers some of the basics. Just remember that using strobe lighting involves an investment and sometimes a steep learning curve but will definitely enhance and expand what you can do.
Are the food and drinks in your photos real or altered?
All food is real and our drinks are real except for ice in some of our images. Ice melts and moves a lot so we sometimes need something stable such as acrylic ice. We prefer to use real ice that is specially made to look clear, but you need to be prepared and move fast. Real ice will have some imperfections and we really like that look because it’s more authentic. Sometimes the fake ice is too perfect and lacks in character.
Where do you find your props and how do you organize them?
We are constantly shopping for props and store them in a dedicated room next to our kitchen. We are very fortunate to have a lot of antique shops in Bucks County, PA and it pays to check regularly and visit the ones that are farther away from highly populated areas. Glassware can definitely make an ordinary drink look great so we tend to place a lot of investment there. We come across surfaces here and there but particularly like a local place that sells barn wood.
What are some good resources for learning food & cocktail photography?
You can learn a lot by just searching the internet but most content is very basic. You’ll have to dig deeper if you are intermediate or advanced. Creative Live is a good resource and covers a range of courses ranging from beginner to advanced levels. If you are looking for advanced techniques, we suggest assisting a professional photographer who has the quality of photos you like. This is what we did when starting out and it helped to assist a few photographers because they all approach things differently.
Another bit of advice is to follow photographers you like on Instagram. Some show behind the scenes of their photoshoots. We find this helpful because once in a while we pick up on something interesting that enhances our own photography.
To see more of Paul’s food & drink photography, visit www.paulsbartholomew.com. Also, connect on Instagram to see what’s going on in his world of photography.