When a photographer was asked to present food in a natural yet humorous manner, Dwight Ashleyman and his team brought this concept to life with a series of well-lit, colorful and stylish photographs for the Lidl supermarket chain.
From concept to photo studio
Ashliman has developed a way of working with a strong team to achieve consistent results for his clients. One such client was the German multinational retailer Lidl, who approached Ashliman through the advertising agency VMLY&R.
In addition to its own team, which ranges from a studio manager with “the best lighting schemes on the planet” to an experienced retoucher, the project also introduced a key talent – a food stylist. Anna Kevill Joyce. The main idea was to add a touch of humor to fresh produce while avoiding an unnatural look or over-manipulation, with the caption “suspicious images of food at suspiciously low prices”.
“What was unique to Lidl was that we faced very formal challenges to get the concepts to work,” says Ashliman. petapixel. “For example, how do you make a banana look like the Loch Ness monster, but still look natural?
“If the executions weren’t subtle, they simply wouldn’t be funny,” he adds.
Working with food on set
According to Ashliman, a common approach to shooting very short shelf life products is to carefully pre-light with doubles. This allows the team to focus on styling rather than lighting when food arrives on set for the characters.
“I think the biggest problem with fresh food ingredients is that you’re working with something that doesn’t normally interact,” he explains. “Not only that, it doesn’t last long. However, working with good ingredients is refreshing for the same reasons.”
The process can be unpredictable, but at the same time it brings something unexpected. For Ashliman and his team, this sets expectations aside and encourages effective work.
Bringing the concept to life with the right settings
The bright yellow background is an integral part of the series and an instantly recognizable brand characteristic, but it’s not always easy to work with such a bright color on set.
“In as many cases as possible, I prefer to shoot with the final background color,” he says. “Often, as was the case in this case, the final background color influences the color too much for this approach to be used.”
“In situations like this, we shoot against a neutral tone and shoot color effect plates,” he continues. “This approach allows us to have an authentic color impact without giving up control.”
Using a PhaseOne XF camera with a PhaseOne IQ4 digital back, the team shot the series with an LS 120mm f/4.0 macro lens and Broncolor lighting. For studio shots like the Lidl project, the team usually uses a mixture of hard and soft light.
The entire project took two days of filming with an additional half day set aside for pre-lighting the set. The team almost failed to complete all of the planned concepts on time, but eventually managed to successfully complete the plan.
“For a while it seemed like we would have to drop one concept. In the end, however, it all came together,” says Ashliman.
Image credits: Photography by Dwight Ashliman and Eschliman Studio.