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 /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: