Commercial still life photographer, Hudi Greenberger, takes us in studio to show us how to create a countertop still life resembling an early morning tea and breakfast scene. However, he’s using the Duo Boards a little differently. Rather than creating a countertop and wall set with the help of the Duo Legs, he’s adding a fake window and only hinting at a bit of the subway tile “wall” he’s created with a Duo Board.
This video is full of behind the scenes tips and tricks for food photographers. How does Hudi create steam without having to constantly reheat the cup of tea seen on set? And does the final image actually look convincing as a real window with morning light streaming through?
Stick around to find out!
Learn How to Harness Artificial Light
The beauty of learning how to harness the power of artificial light is that you can create imagery at any time of day without the limitations of natural light. As Hudi says, once you learn how to shape studio light it “doesn’t make a difference what’s going on outside. It could be snowing. It could be raining. It could be sunny. It could be the middle of summer or the winter…We can create a countertop set right here in the studio.”
Build the Scene
With a “marble” Duo Board as the countertop, a DIY white window frame, and a White Subway Tile Duo Board as the wall element next to the window, Hudi began building the breakfast scene.
Using mainly white-toned tableware to keep the scene fresh and bright, he chose a white tea kettle plus a white teacup and saucer with gold trim. A golden teaspoon broke up the sea of white and added a glinting bit of class to the scene. Of course, what’s a quintessential breakfast scene without a croissant and a muffin?
Then, a sheer white drape was clamped onto the edge of the DIY window for a “homey” effect, a small vase of blushing pink roses was added, and the scene was complete.
Time to get shooting.
How to Recreate Early Morning Window Light with Artificial Light
The next time you're sitting at breakfast with the sunlight pouring through the windows, stop and study the quality of the light. If the sky is clear, you’ll notice that morning sunlight is direct and quite piercing. So how do you recreate direct piercing light in the studio? By putting away your softboxes and using a bare bulb main light source. Because, well, softboxes make your light…soft. It’s really quite logical, all this lighting stuff. You’ll get the hang of it quickly if you’re new to lighting.
After placing a bare bulb main light on a boom behind the window frame, Hudi played around with the position until he found a spot where the light shone perfectly through the window. Placing the bare bulb fairly close to the back of the window allowed the flash to spread in a v-shape as it spilled through the panes. This position created perfect angles to resemble bright, early morning light with dramatic shadows from the window panes and tableware. And because food photography is all about the details and fine line tweaks, he even placed a lemon wedge just so on the saucer to beautifully catch the backlight.
Behind the window is a roll of white backdrop paper on a c-stand with a second strobe facing the paper. The only job of this second light is to blow out the white backdrop to create a bright, blown out “sky.”
Behind the scenes with Hudi Greenberger as he creates early morning window light.
Alright, Hudi. How Do You Create Steam in a Hot Drink Image?
As promised, how does Hudi create the look of steam rising out of a hot beverage without having to continuously reheat the drink? The answer? A simple trick that you’ll use in your food photography from now on.
Using a cotton ball, dip it in freshly boiled water, then place the cotton behind your beverage and let the steam coil into the air. Looks gorgeous, doesn’t it? Don’t be too mesmerized by the steam, though. Capture the scene before it disappears.
That’s real steam—it’s just not coming from the cup. ;)
Hudi’s Three Tips to Get the Perfect Rising Steam in Your Hot Beverage Photos
In order for the steaming cotton ball trick to work:
Make sure the water is steaming hot (preferably boiling) — obviously…
Backlight the steam in order for it to show up in the image.
Place a darker tone behind the steam to make it stand out.
And that’s it! Thank you, Hudi, for showing us a creative way to incorporate a Duo Board into a countertop scene and for sharing your steaming hot food photography tips with us.
Let’s take one last look at the scene to answer the question we had at the beginning: Does the image actually look convincing as a real window with morning light streaming through?
We say yes. Job well done, Hudi.
Now that we’ve whet your creative appetite, please feel free to try your hand at a countertop set of your own. We look forward to hearing about the beautiful scenes you’re creating. Comment below and let us know how it’s going.
Thanks for having tea with us. We hope you learned something new and valuable to add to your bag of tricks. Until next time, feel free to browse the rest of our resources. We’ve got over a 100 videos on our Behind The Scenes page with tips and tricks for photographers and videographers who shoot in all genres.