Sometimes just one prop will inspire me to do a photo shoot.
That’s what happened here. I was on a great food and wine tour in Cambria, CA that a friend of mine was giving (future post), and one of the places we toured was an olive oil company. I found this beautiful olive oil dish in their tasting room/shop. The dish is from Mary Judge Designs. As soon as I saw this I just had to have it. She has dipping dishes and snack plates – all super cute (this is NOT a paid endorsement, I just like them a lot).
You’ll notice an olive tree branch in the top and bottom of the shot. I actually had one of the ladies at the store give me the branch from her display. I proceeded to drag it all over the Paso Robles region with lots of harassment from my tour buddies and the bus driver.
Building Your Story
My good friend and Prop Stylist, Amy Paliwoda (we teach classes together), says to use your props to create your story. So my story is about olive oil and olives as if we’re outside having some horderves. That’s it. It’s not a novel. I love olive oil with bread. I really could eat only that for dinner, bad, I know. The olive oil in the dish is from my friend George Menzelos. His company is the Arriana Trading Company which imports their olive oil from Greece. I did a product photography shoot of his products a few weeks back. That’s my story, and I did eat the olive oil with bread right after shooting it. Very yummy.
I already had an idea of how I wanted this shot to look. I actually thought of it when I saw the dipping dish.
This was the very first shot I took to see how things were lining up. There’s no food yet. I like to get things in position as much as I can, then add the food. I’m also checking my lighting and seeing if the tree is in far enough on top, which it wasn’t.
Here, I’ve added more props and the olive oil to see how it looks with the light. The highlights on the oil are way too distracting, so I did several more frames working on the lighting that’s on the surface of the oil.
Now I’ve got the light on the oil close to how I want it and I changed my focus to be more to the front of the dipping dish.
The wood surface to the left of the dipping dish was in focus and bothering me, so I decided to put an olive branch there instead, which I like much better. Then I added the olive tray.
Learn How to Edit Your Props as You Work
I realized there was just too much going on here, even with the selected focus I chose (f5.6), so I took out the brown bowl on the left side behind the dipping dish (I was going to put salt there as I often salt my olive oil), and I also removed the dark brown bowl behind the olive tray on the back right.
And again, the final shot.
I added more leaves/branches to the back of the shot, along with the cornichon pickles, tore the bread open in the back, and then used olive leaves to garnish the food.
Here is my set.
I had to use strobes in the studio that day because it was extremely windy outside, so I couldn’t shoot with natural light with my roll-up door open. The light in this shot is from my work light – not my strobes lighting the shot, but I just wanted you to see my set. The white thing coming in from the right side is actually a scrim. We call it a Dot. The scrim completely softened the distracting light that was hitting the olive oil on the top. I use these all the time to help modify my lights.
The final image of the olives was taken with my Canon 5d Mark II and a canon 100mm macro lens.
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