How to photograph slices of fruit and veg with 1 light
In this post we will look at a simple method for photographing slices of fruit and veg (and other objects) using just 1 light. For this you will need a few basic items. First of all, you need a sheet of transparent Perspex or glass. I prefer to use plastic as it doesn’t have the sharp edges you tend to get with glass and often isn’t as heavy. You also need a light source such as a studio light or a speedlight (flashgun). This needs to be fired through diffusion material. So, you could use a softbox, beauty dish with a diffuser fitted, or possibly the inside of a reflector, for example.
Set up your see through sheet so that it is a fair distance off the floor – e.g. 50-70 cm. I do this using clamps attached to light stands. You might be able to balance the sheet using the backs of two chairs if you don’t have anything to clamp it with. The light goes on the floor under your Perspex/glass with the diffuser pointing upwards. So, when you look straight down from the sheet you should see the white of the diffuser.
Choose your subject. The easiest to get started with are things that are reasonably transparent and easy to cut a thin slice off. You don’t want to use too thick a slice or the light won’t get through it. The slice needs to be thin enough that you can get a good view of the texture when the flash below it fires. You might like to try lemons, thinly sliced apple, orange, grapes, onions or other similar sliced fruit and veg.
Unless you have a tripod that allows you to fix your camera pointing downwards (off a horizontal arm) you will probably have to shoot hand-held. So, try a shutter speed of around 1/200th of a second. Keep your ISO low (around 100-200). Adjust your aperture according to the thickness of what you are shooting and how near your camera is to your subject. Thicker slices and closer magnification tend to need smaller apertures (larger f numbers). Do a test shot to see if you need to change the power of the flash.
As you can see from some of my test images shown here, if you don’t get your slice quite even you will end up with some bits brighter than others. This is because it is harder for the light to pass through where it is thicker. You should find that your background appears clean and white. If you find you can see some of the texture of your diffuser in your images then try moving it further from the Perspex/glass sheet. If you can’t lower the light or raise the sheet and still shoot then I would suggest removing the background later in Photoshop.
You can also use this technique to shoot leaves, flower petals and other objects, for example. Here is a composite image I created from a series of objects shot using this one light from below technique:
If you have enough room on your see-through surface then you might like to arrange items on there to form an interesting composition. Otherwise, simply shoot each item separately and then bring them together in Photoshop.
© Joe Lenton, June 2017