product photography – ham sandwich

Product photography sample the ham sandwich Background – white foam core. Key light – Alien Bee 1600 Light Modifier – 24×24” softbox (60x60cm) Camera Nikon D800  ISO 100, 1/200 sec, […]

Product photography sample

the ham sandwich

product photography - ham sandwich

Background – white foam core.

Key light – Alien Bee 1600

Light Modifier – 24×24” softbox (60x60cm)

Camera Nikon D800  ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f16 Manual mode, 105mm Macro lens, Camera Position Approximately 3’ (0.91m) from subject. I manually focused at front edge of top bun.

Prepared Sandwich and microwaved for 30sec to start cheese melting. I then added condiments.

The bun was very dull so I brushed the top of bun with light coat of cooking oil to add a slight gloss. Accidently smeared the mustard on the lettuce. This would have called for reinstalling the condiments but I was out of lettuce.

I’m not a very good food stylist and only had a scrap of old lettuce and rotting tomato.

I Positioned Alien Bee Strobe Key light at 1:00 from sandwich at about 30-45degree elevation and about 20” (50cm) distance.

I Metered exposure and adjusted light output for F/16 (I tried f/8 but the back of sandwich and tomato was out of focus – Depth of field for 105mm lens F8 and 3ft (0.91m) is a maximum of 1.7cm, (3/4”) approximately.  Plainly not enough.  The choice is to move the camera back another meter or make the lens aperture smaller.  F/16 worked. This gave me about 3.4cm or 1.5 inches of DOF. An enlargement will show the back edge of the tomato and the back part of the plate starting to get soft.

There has been a trend for photographers to use shallow depth of field on food where the front edge of this sandwich is in focus and the tomato would be totally out of focus.  Some may like this but it disturbs me to look at something blurry when I feel it should be in sharp focus.  If there was other objects at the back of the plate, like a salt shaker or cup of coffee or tea I have no problem with them being out of focus because the subject of the photograph, the sandwich, is in focus and the props are just adding atmosphere and depth.


The First shot, the front of the sandwich was way too dark.  I Thought about a fill card but decided to try the built-in pop-up flash for fill.

I also had to remove the lens shade as I was getting a cast shadow from it.

I Set camera flash to ½ power but the key light would not fire.

Seems the hot shoe is dead when the popup flash is being used, so an on camera trigger to fire my strobe would not work.

So, I disconnected the radio trigger from the strobe and activated the light sensor by pulling out the 1/8”jack from the back of the Alien Bee.  Now, the pop-up flash should trigger the Alien Bee, key light.

It worked.

Made a couple of adjustments for flash compensation to get about a 1:2 ration between the key and fill light.

Note the hard edge shadow at the front of the plate. This is caused from the pop up flash as there is no diffusion. Next to the hard shadow is the softer shadow from the softbox.  Had I used a fill card instead of the popup flash the hard flash shadow would not have been there and there would only be a soft shadow if any.

This Photo is the actual image from the camera with no editing.

Total time: 1 hour.


NOTE: If this was for a client, I would have gotten some good lettuce and tomato and spent considerably more time styling the sandwich but I was hungry and this was my lunch.  So, I shot it, and ate it.


Tomorrow…French toast and sausage links.


Richard Rynkowski

Image Zone Photography


(505) 507-1972


About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and