Food Photography on Fujifilm X: Lighting Instant Noodles

· 18.July.2018

On a steamy morning in early July, I trekked down to Fujifilm Korea’s head office to pick up a box of Fujifilm’s newly released Provia Simulation Instant Noodles. Each year, Fujifilm Korea does a summer promotion involving some kind of useful gift for its customers and this year’s gift was ramyeon (instant ramen). So, I sat down to think what I might do with this gift and it hit me. What could be more fun than a cook-off with fellow Fujifilm photographer Roy Cruz?

The two different images that resulted from this afternoon of shooting provide good examples of how your interpretation influences the final result. They also give a good look into two disparate ways to light food using flash. Let’s talk about these two elements today.

Before setting off, we established some ground rules for the competition to make sure our imaginations didn’t run too wild. The rules would be as follows:

1. You must include the ramyeon and also the packaging.
2. A budget of 10,000 KRW (about $8.80) was allocated for additional ingredients.
3. Anything we could find in the cupboards was also fair game.

After getting our inspiration and energy from a bowl of noodles at the convenience store (a common way to get those in Korea!), we headed home to style our images. Roy lost our game of rock, scissors, paper and was allocated first chance to make his image.

Shot 1 – Roy Cruz

Roy started by choosing a high key look. To this end, he set up a white sweep of paper on our table and lit it from camera left using a 43” shoot-thru umbrella with a Godox AD200 inside. He mentioned that although the power of the AD200 was not at all needed for his shot, it was a flash he was comfortable with, which meant one less thing to think about.

The position of his light was slightly behind the food to give texture to the image and also create the small highlights you see on the top of the chillis. Next, he added a reflector opposite his key light to provide fill for the dark shadows and keep the high-key look of his shot intact.

Finally, he chose the XF50mmF2 as his lens for this shot, noting that it is extremely sharp and can focus quite closely. The focal length is also great for a single or small group of subjects. He stopped down to f/5.6 to ensure the Fujifilm logos and text on the noodle cup in his image were legible. Finally, he set the power of the AD200 accordingly and prepared his noodles for the final shot. You can see that below.

Fujifilm Food Photography - Instant Noodles

Shot 2 – Dylan Goldby

I watched Roy’s image come to life with slight trepidation. It was an excellent execution of his idea and very similar to what I had in mind before we began the challenge. But, limitations breed creative solutions and I decided to go with the exact opposite feel to Roy’s image. I would style a low key image and work with a steaming bowl of noodles.

My first steps were to replace the background with a black sheet and change the modifier to an SMDV Speedbox 70. This modifier was chosen because, unlike the umbrella, it restricts the direction light can travel. This gave me more control over where the light would hit as I could feather the softbox away from things I didn’t want to be illuminated. As my image was more about where I didn’t want the light than where I did want it, I would also use a flag to block some of the light hitting in front of the noodles.

I switched out the flash as well to a Godox V860II. This was necessary as the Speedbox does not have a mount for the AD200. In the end, I didn’t even need all the power from the speedlight, so the AD200 would have been overkill anyway. The final power of my speedlight was 1/16, and I was able to make the image at f/0.95, 1/2000, ISO 200 in order to black out the ambient light in the room thanks to the Godox system’s support for High-Speed Sync.

I styled the noodles in a black coffee cup and the ingredients on a charcoal plate I found in the cupboard. Using the same white bowl Roy had used would have completely undermined the low-key look I was going for with this image. Once everything was ready, I locked my composition in by putting the camera on the tripod. I did this to make the three images I would combine for my final shot.

Instant noodles very rapidly absorb water, so I knew I wouldn’t have much time to get the shot of the noodles themselves right. That’s why I decided to get that first, then get a shot for the flagged foreground, and finally wind up with a shot of some steam to composite in later. Steam, especially with the light at this angle, can be very difficult to capture in camera. So, I decided to use incense to create the illusion of steam for this image. You can see those three images in the video below.

The result of combining each of these into one image is what you see below. You might notice the extremely narrow depth of field. For this shot, I wanted to differentiate my image from Roy’s even further by using the ethereal look produced by the Zhongyi Mitakon Speedmaster 35mm f/0.95 when used wide open.

Fujifilm Food Photography - Instant Noodles

We both chose to process our images using the Fujifilm Provia Film Simulation to pay our respects to Fujifilm’s effort to recreate the film canisters for their ramyeon cups. Personally, I feel that the low key image actually looks better with Classic Chrome, but for this shoot one of our rules was Provia!

Fujifilm Food Photography - Instant Noodles

I hope that our fun shoot has been useful to you. Please let me know if you have any questions below. I’ll be happy to explain things further for everyone. Do head over to YouTube and let us know which photograph you liked more. The stakes are high and we’d love your input. Have a great week!

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