So this was a super fun project with my good friend, Chef Debbi Dubbs. Debbi made a cute book called A Little Book of Cheese, (just click on her website link above for the book) about how to buy and store cheese, how to create seasonal charcuterie boards, how to cook with cheese, and more.
As Debbi is a good friend, we decided to shoot at her house. Debbi prepped for several days before our shoot to get all these goodies you see here for this charcuterie board. We wanted really colorful, easy simply foods for the cheese board so that anyone can do this at home. No fancy food styling here at all. It was just me and Debbi.
Table of Contents
Photo gear for the shoot:
I got to her house at about 10:00am. I already knew what Debbi had in her house, so I planned on shooting on her coffee table in the living room. Here is what I brought with me – some of the links below are my Amazon affiliate links. Should you buy an item, I will get a small commission at no cost to you.
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 7D Mark II (as a back up and for some BTS snaps)
- Canon 24-105mm lens (shot with this)
- Canon 100 mm macro lens (non pro, no “L” lens – back up lens just in case)
- Canon 17-40mm lens for the 7D (it’s a cropped sensor camera so I’m using a much wider lens)
- Cable release – this is for your specific camera model
- Tether Tools tethering cable for camera to computer
- My wooden surface
- Tether Tools
- One center cross pole to mount the camera on (with the stands above)
- Sand bags for the background pole stands
- Tripod (didn’t use)
- Various grip equipment like A-clamps and Bogen super clamps – used the Bogen super clamp to mount the camera to the overhead pole
- Speedotron 1205 strobe pack (thank God, see below)
- Speedtron 2403CX strobe pack (couldn’t use, see below)
- Phottix Wireless Flass Slave Triggers (these are brand specific so these are Canons)
- Two Speedtron 202VF strobe heads with 7″ reflectors, 11″ reflectors, several soft boxes and speedrings for the soft boxes.
- Several light stands – two used for the Speedo heads
- 5 in 1 discs for filling light into shadows if needed
- Small folding table
- Laptop computer
- 5 in 1 discs
- External monitor (I’m using a Mac monitor no longer made)
- External hard drive for backing up files
- APS Battery back up unit for surge protection
- Styling kit with brushes, oils, wedges, etc.
- Box of extension cords (not power cords)
- Light meter and color meter (I always bring them for a “just in case” thing – please note that my meters are older models made by Minolta no longer made so the links are the closest equivalent available)
WHAT I TOTALLY FORGOT TO BRING – THE POWER CORDS FOR THE STROBE PACKS!
In all my years of shooting, this is the first time I did this. I totally forgot to bring all the power cords for my power packs. They are all in one box clearly labeled, somehow I totally forgot to pack them in the car. Senior moment for sure, which is happening a lot these days!
Normally when I shoot on location, I have my “Location Equipment Pack List” that I go through. For this shoot, as we were just doing one shot for the day, I knew how I was going to light it, I didn’t print out my gear list. Big mistake. After all these years, you’d think I’d know better. As soon as I started unpacking the car, that’s when I realized my “power box” was not there.
So I told Debbi what was going on and I called Speedotron right away. They made my strobe pack. They are a small Chicago company, been around for forever and they still answer their phones. I asked their tech support guy what would power the smaller 1205 pack. Speedotron has special fittings for their power cords, so you can’t just plug in any extension cord into them. I would never find a replacement cord for the bigger pack – the smaller pack was my savior.
I knew that I would not find a power cord for the bigger pack because it draws a lot of power and has a very uncommon shaped power cord fitting. So I figured I could make things work with the smaller 1205 pack which needs less power and has a more common cord plug shape. Sure enough, the Speedo tech support guy told me that any power cord for certain printers and computers would work, so Debbi and I went to Staples just a few blocks away and I found my cord!
So we had a lunch break to relieve all the stress :), went back to Debbi’s and started working on our shot.
Our Set Up
While Debbi started preparing the food, I set up all the equipment and calibrated my external monitor.
I had one main soft box light to the right, and an ambient fill light pointing into the ceiling at about two stops less light than the main light. I also had a smaller camera monitor so that as we were building our cheese board, we can see what we were doing live as we were placing things in the shot, because the big monitor was the farthest from the kitchen and hard to see from the little set.
The camera is rigged overhead with two stands and a pole. There is carpet in the living room, and this is why I did not use a tripod and went with the two pole/overhead rig to try to make things more stable. But even with that set up, if anyone walked by, the camera would move a little bit. Carpet really makes for an unstable set up, whether on a tripod, or an overhead rig like this.
So, I had one main light, which was the soft box, and then I had a strobe head with a 7″ reflector bouncing up into the ceiling for a soft ambient fill light.
I shot at F/8 at 1/125th of a second, and had the camera white balance set to daylight for the strobes, but I always warm that up a bit in Capture One Pro, anyway.
I’m shooting tethered so that I can zoom in and make sure that my shot is totally in focus, and so I can zoom in and look at all the details through the whole image.
Just this one set up took at least three hours with all the food styling. I used strobes because I didn’t want to be stressed about losing the natural light, and I wanted the shots to be consistent in case I had to do any composites later. We shot past sunset. Natural light will shift in white balance, and exposure as you shoot through the day.
The boys, Debbi’s husband Frank and my fiance Scott, were there for moral support, watching tv while Debbi and I worked on the shot.
Then…. we ate the whole thing, and did a very nice happy hour after we were done.
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