Photo Fridays: Behind the Scenes

by Shawnda on July 22, 2011

in Photography & Props

A few weeks ago, a reader left a comment asking about what it looked like behind the scenes. This is what it looks like when you take 5 steps back. On a good day.

Behind the Scenes

On a more normal day, there are a gajillion toys on the floor in the background and a toddler trying to climb on the table to get at the goods. She’s either screeching with excitement about the thought of sinking her hand into a bowl of guacamole or she’s… just screeching.

Landry Kate

Taking a picture for the blog goes down pretty quickly. It has to. I try to work during naptime. I get the brightest light in the living room and all screeching toddlers are quietly sleeping upstairs.
– I decide which of the four DIY tabletops surfaces look the best with the dish (you can probably tell I’m partial to the blue & white ones).
– I go through my box of misfit dishes, thrift store flatware, and remnant bin fabrics and assemble some supporting characters.
– After arranging the shot on the tabletop in the kitchen, I carry the whole thing to the coffee table in the living room and drag the table over to the window.

The tabletops are about 2ft x 2ft. Some shots work better landscape, others portrait. The decision to shoot straight-on, 3/4, or overhead sometimes takes a couple of minutes to decide but I usually know what I’m going to do when I’m arranging things in the kitchen.

I’ve been using the same $2 foam core board for… 4 years? And it shows. It bounces the light back onto the shot to fill in the shadows. Because I like “girly light.” And shadows are evil in “girly light” :) I also have black poster board that kills the glare.

The clamps came from the garage. They were initially purchased for a DIY poker table project 6 years ago. (6 years!) I can always use an extra set of hands, but when he’s at the office, the clamps will do. When I shoot back-lit (like this shot), I use the clamps to hold a cheap white sheet onto the curtains to diffuse the light.

The tripod in the background wasn’t used for this shot. I use it in low-light situations so I can slow the shutter speed way down. When I use the tripod, I usually shoot tethered – my camera is connected via USB cable to my laptop and I pull the trigger in Lightroom. I have both hands free to clean up the shot and move things around. And usually I can see right away when I’ve accidentally included the toe of my show in the photo. Or the eggshell I decided not to use but forgot and left it in the shot anyway.

Behind the Scenes


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lauren at Keep It Sweet July 22, 2011 at 3:52 am

I love seeing how other people set up their shots. Yours are wonderful so thank you for sharing! Your window set-up looks perfect.


2 Notyet100 July 22, 2011 at 5:11 am

Wow thnks for sharing this:)


3 Kita July 22, 2011 at 5:19 am

Great post! Thanks for all the useful tips and help!


4 Jenn Williams July 22, 2011 at 5:20 am

Very interesting! Thank you so much for sharing!!!


5 Krissy Roszell July 22, 2011 at 6:27 am

Thanks for the “behind the scenes” look, your photos are so inspiring!


6 The Little Welsh July 22, 2011 at 6:44 am

Hi, this is a fab post, always cool to have a behind the scene shot! Could you do a post on how you made the tabletops please?


7 foodiebride July 23, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Yes, I will!


8 Cara July 27, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I was going to ask the same question. Looking forward to that post! Thanks so much for this little peak!


9 patsyk July 22, 2011 at 7:11 am

Thanks for sharing how you set-up your photos! I learn so much from what others are willing to share and truly appreciate it!


10 Abby July 22, 2011 at 7:28 am

this is great! i always look at specifically at the table top for some reason…and wonder how all these people have such neat tables/counters…duh! build your own!


11 Melissa Jackson July 22, 2011 at 8:07 am

A post on how you did the table tops would be fantastic! Like Abby, I always wonder how people have such great surfaces to shoot on. This is a great tip!


12 Christen July 22, 2011 at 8:15 am

Great post! You always have the best pictures. I think I’m going to borrow your foam idea, thanks!


13 The Slow Roasted Italian July 22, 2011 at 8:24 am

Thanks for sharing this great post!


14 Susan at Our Family Eats July 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

I’m always amazed by what other food bloggers can accomplish and enjoy seeing how they do it. Such a great post – thanks for sharing!


15 Elina (Russian Bites) July 22, 2011 at 8:56 am

Your pictures are so inspiring. Thanks for sharing a bit about what goes into them. I’m not sure if you’ve ever done a post about that, but do you have any tips on the styling part? Once in a while I get it right but usually I’m totally lost!


16 Krystal R July 22, 2011 at 9:09 am

I love your behind the scenes…my small request, how about another post on DIY on your boards? I absolutely love your aquamarine one, the color, the aging, the tarnish…it’s simply breathtaking. Plus, when you take your food shots on it…it’s soooo fabulous! I’m working on DIY yellow-summery one – and could use any advice. ;-)


17 Heidi @ Food Doodles July 22, 2011 at 9:25 am

Love seeing your set up! And glad to know I’m not the only one to experience the screeching toddler too, haha.


18 Christy July 22, 2011 at 11:12 am

Thank you, this is so interesting.

I’m starting to add more recipes to my mostly baby blog and this is very good info to have.


19 the little kimchi pierogi July 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

Can you tell us how you use the black board to cut the glare? I constantly find myself in a battle between bright glaring light that washes things out and underexposure…thanks!!!


20 moowiesqrd July 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Love this post! I love seeing how other people shoot their food photos and it’s always great how there’s so much more to the photo than the final product. When I take mine, instead of a cute baby, there’s a big doggy snout sniffing away.


21 Katrina July 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for the inside scoop! Love this post :)


22 Amy {The Happy Tulip} July 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for sharing a little behind-the-scenes look. I’m always curious to see how other people work. You do a great job!


23 Marla July 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Shawnda I LOVE watching other photographers approaches to get the shot. Love this post & I know what you mean about the kids ;)


24 mis-cakes July 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

This is great. When I first started blogging I just figured every blogger had white counters and special tables lol. I think it also shows how much effort you really put into every post. It isn’t just the baking/cooking it’s the set up, the picture taking, editing and finally the blogging.


25 Maureen July 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Wonderful peek into how it really is :)


26 Gloria July 22, 2011 at 11:05 pm

What a cool post! Thank you for sharing a peek into the inner workings of your beautiful photos!


27 Ali B July 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Thanks for sharing Shawnda! I took your advice and used a white posterboard to bounce light back onto the object I was shooting – it made great use of what little natural light was coming through my dining room window. Also, the DIY tabletops, what material do you cover them with? Thanks again for sharing!


28 Lauren July 23, 2011 at 1:08 am

I was the reader who requested this post. I was SO excited when I saw it come across my GR. Thanks for indulging my curiosity- you rock!


29 Carolyn July 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

My set up is something like this, except I use a toy bin to hold up whatever cloth I am using as the backdrop, and it’s on my dining room table! And yup, I work during naptime too!


30 Wendy July 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Thanks so much! This is great. I agree with the others who would like a post on the diy tabletops.


31 Michelle @ Michelle's tiny kitchen July 24, 2011 at 6:29 am

Thanks for sharing!! I am a complete dope, never imagined that there was this much behind-the-scenes action. I’m looking forward to trying some of this out. Love the shot of foodie baby stealing some chocolate peanut butter pie!


32 Lisa @ The Cooking Bride July 25, 2011 at 11:59 am

This post made me smile – sounds like my house. My photo shoots are limited to Saturday and/or Sunday, when the husband is at the gym and the baby is taking a nap. The baby isn’t walking yet, so I don’t have to worry just now about him sticking a little finger into the middle of my rapidly melting frozen dessert. However, I do have a curious cat that frequently likes to crash my scene.


33 tara July 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Wow thanks for the post. Its so interesting to see the behind the scenes info ! Thanks for sharing. Photography is NOT a talent i have so i really appreciate those that do !


34 Jasmine B September 5, 2014 at 11:53 pm

do you have anything over the window?


35 Shawnda September 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm

If there’s direct sunlight, yes. I’ll tape a piece of white tissue paper (the gift wrap kind) on the window.


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