I am lucky enough to be chosen as a guest judge for the No. 1 culinary TV show, MasterChef Indonesia. My task was obviously not to taste the looking-good food (that would have been a total disaster), but to see how well the plating or presentation of each contestant’s creation was.
This is how it works. Each contestant has to use the same ingredients, cook them in the same way, and create free presentation for their food, based on each imagination. So they cook, I photograph, continued with the 3 main judges taste and comment, and I eat the rest of the food as soon as the TV cameras stop rolling, because I was so damn hungry in the middle of the night during the shooting.
One of the most important things of creating a great presentation is about the grouping on the plate. The chef has to decide which ingredients of the food are the main actor, and which are the supporting acts. The other crucial part is composition. It will be very pleasant to have photogenic food that looks good from many angles. It will make us happy, and also the other person who is sitting in front of us. Mutual admiration might trigger a discussion over the dish, which will make it famous and become the talk of the town.
That’s about the plating. Now, the lighting. I tend to use simple lighting set-up for my food photography. See below.
I use two flash heads in soft-boxes, tilted down at 45 degree. One is placed beside me, as the main light. It generates soft general light from the side, so we have the contrast and dimension of the food. That would help our audience to understand the textures of the dish. The other flash head is positioned on the opposite side, more to the back. This will give nice rim-light on the food (yes, the bright white highlight on the scallop. Yum!). Be careful not to have its light leaks into your lens. Use the lens hood. You may want to add a reflector to distribute the light more evenly if you think the shadow areas are too dark.
As for the lens, I usually work with my macro lens, a 100mm fix lens. It generates awesome blur backgrounds, and the sharpness is very satisfying. Plus, I can get very close to the subject.
Cook well, eat well, shoot well. Bon appétit! Selamat makan!
PS. I shared my photographs with no watermark. Please do not abuse the good faith and the copyrights.