Poor man's lighting!
I don't know why I chose the title, but this method of lighting is quite nice and gives you studio quality shots. You could use a torch or candle for all I care. Use anything that produces light for around 15s.
Rich man method:
Get a couple speedlites and softboxes and strobes. Make it 1600 W and get a DSLR and shoot the photo. You can get some awesome food shots for around $1000 equipment.
I got this idea from light-painting. I use this method to get an uniform lighting without shadows. For the food shots, I used a simple daily use flashlight. You can buy the whole shop full of those flashlights for $500.
I set the camera of tripod and set exposure to 15s. I took the shot and within the 15 sec, I sort of "painted out" the food by moving the light around it, eliminating all shadows and getting a proper exposure in the second attempt itself. The auto noise reduction then reduced noise too and gave me a clean and nice 14.1 MP photo with proper exposure.
To be honest, I don't like the food shots. They are boring and might never sell. But those are my first few shots. I'll improve. So please don't look hard at the subject matter, just notice the lighting that cost $3. No wonder food was much more expensive than the lighting equipment.
Make sure you set the white balance properly. The method would work on both compact camera and DSLR units. It may be frustrating at first. I don't know how but I just got it right in the second attempt.
Another trick: Set your camera to shoot 2 15 sec shots continuously. Move the light around during the whole two shots. Then put one in Photoshop and on a new layer, put another photo above the first. Set the opacity of this layer to 50%. That deals away with whatever stray shadows you might have left.
For the experts:
You could even produce images with lighting as good as these two images with horribly cheap and really non-professional equipment. All you need to do is, use your flash in combination with a long exposure and get someone else to do the lighting for you. The powerful flash makes sure the hand gets exposed right away and subsequent movements and blurs don't show up. Then the flashlight deals with the harsh shadows. Both of the shots with hand in them are long exposures and have been made by doing some shadows/highlights in Photoshop as post processing. Don't complain. You're already saving a few hundred bucks.
Here are those two shots:
I'm sort of impressed with my own technique. haha! It is working too good for me. I hope you get it right too. Especially the newbies. I'm new to stock but I'm quite experienced with techniques, so people new to everything might find it hard. Try it!
Also, please ignore the EXIF fields. The information is inaccurate/false. I use an HDR plugin and then an EXIF remover which assigns random values to the fields. Most of my photos have wiped out EXIF or strange values.
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Photo credits: Pratik Panda.