Multitasking all too often creates more problems than it solves, but all the same, there are many times when I wish I could have three hands. Especially true when it comes to food photography, an extra hand could make it possible to take the picture, steady the camera, and handle something on set. By placing food on a spoon or fork, you’ll bring much more depth to the whole picture, and give the viewer a clear and interesting focal point- a good way to add excitement to a plain old pile of pasta- but it’s not always easy to make that happen. Short of having some radical and bizarre surgery get a grip on that utensil, I’ve found a number of alternate solutions that are vastly more practical.
First off, remember that nifty timer function that your camera has, that is usually employed during family portraits when the photographer wants to squeeze in as well? If you time things correctly, you can use this to keep one hand free while the camera closes the shutter automatically. Personally, I hate dealing with this, especially if there’s any motion in the frame, but it’s a good technique to keep in mind if all else fails.
Sometimes, if the item in question is fairly large, won’t make a huge mess if its accidentally dropped, or partially resting on the table, I’ll just reach my own [left] hand in there and shoot with my right. Ideally, the camera will be on a tripod to steady it, but knowing my laziness, it’s usually just balanced right on the table or on my knee, should I be squatting on a chair next to the set. The has worked out in many cases, and led to some of the most hilarious mistakes in others. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the set itself, and remember where all of your props are in correlation with one another, as the distances tend to look difference through the viewfinder. Otherwise, your luscious splash of soymilk pouring over a bowl of cereal might end up looking like this:
Should any member of my family be around while I’m shooting, I take
advantage of their kindness ask them very nicely to lend a hand. Arguably easiest because it’s technically no longer an issue that you need to worry about, allowing you to focus on just the photography, it does have its drawbacks. Be sure to use a fast shutter speed and take many pictures in a row, because no matter what, the majority of your pictures will be blurry. Such is the nature of hand-held objects!
In a perfect world, one would have professional clamps which would be attached to articulated arms, which are rooted onto a monopod or tripod that are completely stable and capable of holding anything in any position. Since the whole outfit of these items cost more than I’m willing to spend right now, I’ve come up with a decidedly low-tech solution for the other situations that require a stable grip for a longer period of time. For example, do you remember that shot of the banana creme pie from my Mission: Impossible Pies ebook?
What kept that slice elevated as if about to be served was actual a simple rig of a small box filled with something heavy to keep it rooted in place, and then taped open at the angle that worked best for the shot. The server was then tapped to the top in many places so that it didn’t slide off.
All you need to worry about now is placing the slice of pie so that it’s centered and won’t topple over. Much better than juggling the whole set, if you ask me!