When photographing food, adding a utensil in the scene can imply the action of someone getting ready to eat the food, which can “humanize” your photograph and make it more relatable. However, in many cases it is difficult to hand-hold the utensil in the frame, and also keep it still (especially in low light situations). And if you’re like me, you may even be doing everything solo, which would make it nearly impossible to set up and photograph without having any trouble. In these situations I find that pre-positioning the utensil with a Manfrotto Magic Arm to be the best way to set things up.

For this setup, I used an off-camera speedlight to back-light the food with a diffusion panel in front of it to soften the light. I also added a black foam board in the background, and positioned a piece of white foam board off to the side to fill in shadows in the front. I used a hand steamer to add the steam to the pasta, and was able to “freeze” the steam using a combination of a fast shutter speed and the light from the speedlight.

Here’s the list of equipment used with this setup:

  • figure_7_36cCamera: Canon 7D
  • Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS
  • Exposure: 1/250 sec at ƒ/7.1, ISO 100
  • Canon Speedlite 430EX
  • Lastolite TriGrip Diffuser
  • Black foam board for background
  • White foam board underneath and also to the left for fill light
  • Small reflector for fill light
  • Manfrotto Magic Arm to hold fork (w/ Gaffer tape)
  • Small clothes steamer to add steam to the food

Click on the images below to view them larger:

Nicole S. Young is a photographer and author living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several books and eBooks, and operates the Nicolesy Store, an online store for digital photographers.

You can read more of Nicole’s articles here.

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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Very nice! The steam makes the shot mouth watering! How about a shot with a big juicy meatball 🙂

  2. […] Source: Behind the Scenes: Pasta on a Fork | Photofocus […]

  3. Great work Nicole. Especially interested in the background to the shot. I often shoot macro pictures of orchids and may look at using an extra flash for backlighting the petals.
    Thanks for the info.

  4. Very cleverly thought out execution, particularly the diffused main light from behind and above providing back lighting to make the past translucent, the secondary frontal fill light from the folded card, and the tertiary fill light from the gold reflector to warm the image slightly.
    How much did you have to fiddle with the speedlight power?
    I might have attempted this image with continuous frontal lighting, rear reflectors, and much longer shutter speed. But, I doubt it would have succeeded as well!
    Thanks for sharing the technique.

  5. Looks wonderful Nicole. I would like to know what the item is that is holding the fork. I have looked for something along that line for a while to no avail.

    • Hi Marcia
      Under List of Equipment used Nicole lists it as a “Manfrotto Magic Arm to hold fork (w/ Gaffer tape)”.
      Other Companies make similar units. I have many times looked at buying one of these myself, looks like a handy unit for Macro work.


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About Nicole S. Young

Photographer, author, entrepreneur. I love photographing food and landscapes, and have several published books on Photography, post-processing, and creative inspiration.


Food, Photography


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