Monday, September 7, 2009

PB & J — Through My Lens


As any of my "regular" readers will know, I like to take lots of pictures — of food, my various relatives, as well interesting flora and fauna. Through Twitter, I found out about a fairly new website called Culinary Snapshot, founded by Kristen of Dine & Dish. It's a great resource for food bloggers and people like me that aren't necessarily food bloggers, but like to take and post pictures of food. You get to see before and after shots of food setups, the camera equipment used, the type of lighting and the nuts and bolts settings of the shot. I love seeing the process and the way cropping, lighting and post-processing all effect the final outcome.

One of the new features on the site is called Through My Lens where an "assignment" is posted and anyone that wants to participate makes the required recipe, then takes a photo of it. The first assignment was swirled chocolate chip cookies. Assignment #2 is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As Kristen writes on the site,
"Easy to make, but I think it will be a challenge to photograph! Imagine that you have been hired by a magazine to photograph a simple PB&J for them. How will you interpret that assignment?"
So I decided to give it a try. I've been wanting to make the BBA English muffins again, this time as actual muffins, and use one for my PB & J sandwich. I made them last night then assembled everything this morning. I decided to include apple slices and a glass of ice cold milk, since those seem like the proper accompaniments to a good PB & J. I also used the homemade blackberry jam Dwight whipped up a few weeks ago. Mmmm...


Here is everything ready to go. I gathered all of the parts and arranged it on my usual shooting table. I have the good fortune of being able to use a spare room as a make-shift studio. The table is up against the North-facing windows and is about the only place in the house with good natural light.


At first, I had a white table cloth draped over the clothes rack I have behind the table for just such a thing. I should have ironed it because it looks like a wrinkled bed sheet in the shots. Not attractive.


Here's a shot that I kind of like, but the wrinkled tablecloth is distracting.

pbj horiz

So I went into Photoshop and painted over the cloth in the top of the photo and cropped it just a bit. Better. But I thought it needed more contrast, especially against the milk and the white plate.

pbj horiz blowout

I decided to try without the tablecloth and use a checked towel instead, letting some of the natural wood of the table show.

I took a number of shots with the sandwich open-face. You can see those along with their before and afters at Flickr.

This is the shot I settled on.


Here are the technical details:

Camera: Nikon D80
Exposure: 1/20 sec at f/4.5
Aperture Priority mode
Focal Length: 35 mm
Focal Length in 35 mm film: 52 mm
ISO Speed: 200
Exposure Bias: -0.3
Flash did not fire
Photoshop CS2

I used a tripod, as I almost always do, since the natural light is fairly weak and using an on-camera flash pretty much makes anything look like crap. Sad but true.

The lens is the Nikkor AF-S DX 35mm 1:1.8G. For those shooting with D60s or D40s, this lens is perfect for you. It has a built-in motor, which I technically don't need shooting with a D80, but the focal length is perfect and it's fast at 1.8.

Here is my SOOC shot.

I adjusted the white balance and some exposure settings in Camera Raw. Then, once opened in Photoshop, I ran (the original) Pioneer Woman Action Set 1 "Fresh and Colorful" with the "light" layer set to 25% and the "soft light" layer at 24%. I tweaked the default "saturation" adjustment created by the action by setting yellow back to 0 and added +18 to the red saturation slider. I then did a "brightness/contrast" adjustment layer with the brightness set at +3 and contrast at +6.


Now you've seen a little of what I do Through My Lens. You can check out more of my photos at my Flickr photostream. I've got sections for food, the BBA Challenge as well as family shots and the various flora and fauna I alluded to earlier.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see more of this kind of thing in the future!


  1. Great post! I love Culinary Snapshots and Kristen! Did you love the BBA english muffins? I thought they were great, maybe one of my BBA favorites so far.

  2. Maris- The BBA English muffins are SO good. I've yet to have one toasted, though, because I was too impatient to wait!. :) I made the dough into regular sandwich buns, which we'll have tonight. I'm hoping they hold up as buns because they're so simple and fast.

    Thanks for stopping in!

  3. I love this post, though I'm lost on the camera technical stuff... still it's nice to see how you set up your shots and what you're thinking as you do so.

    And the PBJ looks yummy! :) Hope you enjoyed it.

  4. Susie - I'm pretty sure you're my biggest fan, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. :)

    Jodi - It was delicious! I had it for breakfast on Tuesday. :)


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Please note that I moderate comments so yours won't show up right away, but do know that I read all of them!

I will gladly answer any questions you have right here in the comments. If you would prefer a reply back via email, just let me know and include your email address. Or you can email me directly at info_kellyluna {at} frontier {dot} com.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...