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407 Central Avenue
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New Orleans and south Louisiana commercial food photographer, Matthew Noel, shares his journeys finding flavors using HD video, food photography, and hdslr cinematography.

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Matthew Noel blogs about food, food photography, photography, and the food scenes and culture across south Louisiana including Houma, New Orleans, the surrounding areas, and travel across the world.

How To Photograph Gumbo

Matthew Noel

I was recently hired by W. L. Gaiennie Company to photograph for the Lafourche Parish Tourism board's new campaign "Dig In".  What was needed was an enticing bowl of gumbo for some of their upcoming marketing and ads.  Turn around time was tight.  I think it was two or three days total.  With the deadline looming my wife, Becky, and I got to work.

After going to the supermarket and a quick scouting trip for props, I remembered my Grandmother had a wonderful set of gumbo bowls with illustrations on the sides.  They bring back a sense of childhood and the old New Orleans that I love.  Now it was time for Becky to start styling the food while I set up the lighting and camera gear.

I used a Nikon D700 camera and two SB-600 flashes controlled by Nikon's Creative Lighting System (CLS).  The main speedlight (key light) was in a Lastolite ez box 24" softbox and I used a shoot through umbrella with the other flash as a fill light.  I put my camera in manual mode (M) so I could control the rooms ambient light.  I set my shutter speed to 160th of a second to turn the room dark.  Now I was in control of where I put my light from the flashes. Below is a shot without the flashes firing.

 

Now I added fill and key light to see how it would fall on the bowl.   When lighting food you need to show texture so I positioned the key light slightly back right of the bowl. 

It was a start.  I could tweak it a bit later.  Moving on.  I had Becky bring in the background elements which would give the gumbo a sense of place and freshness.  Over the next few photos we discussed what looked better and refined the overall shot.  This is where the communication between the food photographer and stylist is key.

Below is the final shot.  Everything was moved closer to the bowl.

Next is with W. L. Gaiennie Company's copy and graphics dropped in for a full page ad in Louisiana Cookin magazine's December 2011 issue.