Home Photography Ideas: Use an offset lens for sharper food and product photos

With all the time we’re spending indoors right now, this is a great opportunity to dust off your tilt / shift lens – and these optics are perfect for fantastic food photography and cutting edge product shots.

Close-up photography is all about capturing the details. Whether the image is a macro shot of a plant in a natural setting or a magnified product image, the goal is the same: to represent elements of the subject that are not easily visible to the naked eye alone.

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A characteristic of close-up images is the shallow depth of field, introduced by the close focusing distances used. While this can complement some subjects, along with commercial product photos or scientifically recorded images of natural subjects, this drop in sharpness is often undesirable.

Before: at optimum aperture of f / 11, depth of field does not cover the entire front subject when using macro focus distances (Image credit: Avenir)

After: By using full tilt on a macro-enabled perspective control lens, maximum detail can be captured without using diffraction-inducing aperture settings (Image credit: Avenir)

For this image of a food product, it was essential to make the element above all as clear over its entire surface. Although it is possible to extend the depth of field by reducing the aperture, the high f-number required would compromise the resolution of the objective due to diffraction.

This is where a tilt / shift lens comes in, as it is able to adjust the angle of the focal plane so that it covers more of the subject without stopping significantly.

This allows us to exploit the optimal aperture of the lens – which in the case of this Nikon PC-E Micro Nikkor 45mm f / 2.8D ED is around f / 5.6 – while still achieving the required depth. A tilt / shift macro lens is an incredibly powerful tool, allowing you to achieve high magnification as well as perspective and focus control.

01 Organize the scene

(Image credit: Avenir)

Arrange your articles, staggering them for more interest. Make sure there are no distractions. Here we used a large soft light from behind and a focused strobe from the side.

02 Adjust the height of the camera

(Image credit: Avenir)

Obviously, a tripod is essential to maintain pinpoint accuracy. While the depth of field is increased by shooting at 90 ° to the subject, here it was necessary to point the camera down at around 45 ° to capture the top surface of the product. This also controls the details of the background.

Step 3: Calculate the exposure

(Image credit: Avenir)

Since we will be avoiding small aperture adjustments, lighting control is essential. Use manual mode, set an appropriate shutter speed, and adjust the strobe output accordingly if using the flash.

Step 4: Compose the plan

(Image credit: Avenir)

Arrange the frame so that the subject fills the composition, using the macro capabilities of the lens. The angle here has restricted context to suggest a bakery setting, but with clear subject focus.

Step 5: rotate the lens

(Image credit: Avenir)

For vertical tilt, first press the rotation lock switch and rotate the front lens section to rotate it to the vertical position. This will allow the tilt and shift mechanism to move the lens up and down.

Step 6: tilt the lens

(Image credit: Avenir)

Rotate the control knob to adjust the positive tilt and align the focal plane with the subject. Use live view or the viewfinder to monitor the DOF as you work. Here a full tilt was needed for maximum focus on the dough.

Step 7: Adjust the focus

(Image credit: Avenir)

Use the manual ring to adjust the focal plane position, to make sure your subject is in focus. Here, the front of the front subject was used as the focal point to maximize visible sharpness.

Step 8: Customize f-stop

(Image credit: Avenir)

Zoom in on your LCD screen to verify that the front and back of the subject are also in focus. Adjust the aperture for more control over the depth of field – here you stop at f11 to bring out more detail on the rear subject.

Read more:

How to take product photos with a single strobe light
The best lighted tents for photography
The best books on food photography


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