Food Photography Lighting – Fujifilm’s Ramyeon (Instant Noodles)

Low Key Food Photography Lighting

When Fujifilm Korea announced they’d be releasing instant noodles as a summer gift for their customers, I jumped at the chance to have a little fun shootout with my good friend Roy from Roy Cruz Photo. After picking up a box of noodles from the Fujifilm office here, I headed over to meet Roy and hash out the rules for our competition. You can see the full video of this process and the shoot on my YouTube. In this post, I’ll run you through the process of lighting my photograph for the challenge.

First up, I knew I’d want a dark background to begin working on my low-key photograph, so I started with a small sheet of black paper. I quickly realised that this would not give me enough working room and found a black piece of foam core to work on, leaving the small sheet of paper as a sweep at the far end of my frame. This gave me a lot more working distance with which to darken my background completely.

The next step was to get my flash in the correct position and set its power. With┬ásome placeholder food in the bowl and the noodle package behind it, I began testing. Initially, I started with the flash off to camera left, but I wasn’t happy with the shadows this was causing. The noodles would be in a deep bowl and I didn’t want the shadow of the bowl casting onto the noddles. It was also very contrasty. So, I decided to try lighting them from above. This worked extremely well. I was able to light the food with no distracting shadows, keep my background dark, and maintain the overall low-key look. The first image below is with my flash set to camera left and the second image is with the flash directly above the food.

Side Light Food Photography

Top Light Food Photography

It is important to note here that I am using a small softbox over my flash. This gives a nice soft light (the softbox is still much larger than the food) and allows me to control the amount of light that spills onto the background. In this case, the modifier is an SMDV Speedbox 70. I love this for its soft quality and ease of setup.

Now that I had my light set up, it was time to get my Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 back from Roy (he was filming with it) and get started on my final composition. There were a few things to consider before bringing the final food in and making my hero image. The first is that I wanted some additional props so the scene wouldn’t be so empty. I picked green chillis to match the green of Fujifilm and a shitake mushroom as they go really well with these noodles. The second is that instant noodles absorb water very quickly so I would need to work fast. The soup would be the last thing to come on set. The final thing is that I wanted some steam in the image to give the sense that the noodles were piping hot. However, steam can be tough to capture, especially with the light in this position. So, I opted to lock my camera down on a tripod and make a separate image for the steam that I would composite in post-production.

Once all of this was set up and I was happy with my composition, I poured in the soup and made my first image.

Food Photography Lighting Noodles

One thing I was not perfectly happy with was the bottom left corner. I wanted to create a natural vignette that would serve to draw your eyes directly to the noodles. So, I held the black side of my reflector to cover the front half of my softbox and made a second image with a shadow in the bottom left corner.

Food Photography Lighting Reflector

As you can see, the noodles had already absorbed a lot of the water and looked inedible already. So, now it was time to make the image of the steam. In order to do this, I used an incense stick to produce smoke above the noodles and took several photographs until I was happy with the shape it was producing.

Food Photography Lighting Steam

The final step was to layer these three in Photoshop and blend the pieces of each that I wanted.

Food Photography Post Production

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this simple photoshoot breakdown. We had a fun afternoon playing with these noodles and challenging each other to make an image on a small budget with a simple scene. Don’t forget to watch the YouTube videos about this shoot!

Leave a comment