One minute you’re using a semi controlled heat gun to melt popsicles, and the next moment they’re melting too fast and you’ve got a mess on your hands and floor, with only a few spares to recapture. Sweaty? Melty? Runny? There’s only a few seconds between those states of liquid when working with iced things apparently. My first foray into the photographing the cold solid, things got sticky quickly.
We had 16 popsicles and 8 had to be used at a time, which is basically a practice run and then the real shot. Not ideal. With food you want to have at least 3 full plates of the item ready to go, if not more. There are circumstances where that’s not possible, and apparently this was one of them.
You can’t just pull out the popsicle and photograph it. I mean you can, but it will just look like garbage. When it first comes out you’ve got that white freezer burn around it. So the question is, what do you do? You have three other dishes that need to be photographed that day and you’re not entirely sure how long it will take to have the popsicle start to breakdown. The thing is, once it starts, it’s a quick moment. There’s a small window between freezer burn, slightly sweaty, which is ideally what we wanted, and then cut to now it’s just plain old melting.
Then there’s the frame/scene, light and lens to capture. All of this has to be setup before the popsicles leave the freezer. Do you have a portable or reliable freezer? Something to think about. And then, how close are we getting? With product work I shoot with a 120 macro lens. To be specific the Schneider Blue Ring F4 120 macro on my Phase One iQ4, for you gear guys out there. Macro photography it a world unto itself. I use the 120 because you can get extremely close, while the lens is super sharp from corner to corner and flat.
How to melt the popsicle
Well you could wait and let the room temperature take its course, but you’re literally watching time melt away. You could take one of your warm strobe lights and melt them via the modeling light. That’s a solution but not great, since you can’t feather in the heat. Essentially the modeling light is a wide swath of light/heat that isn’t controllable. Or, you could use a hair dryer/heat gun to speed up the process, but by then you’re off to the races.
In the end we managed to get it with a little time to spare. Ideally you’d have all day to experiment with solid to liquid state change, but there’s never enough budget and time these days. But wait! Where was my portrait?
As several of my teachers have told me over the years, don’t forget to get your shot. Seems silly, but it happens. You’re caught up in all the drama of getting the specific shot for the client, you forget to get the image that will work for your own portfolio outside of their needs.
I’m not a food photographer, just as I am not a race car driver. I have driven race cars, and I have photographed food, but a master of those I am not. However, I do love a portrait and a prop. Now with the popsicles in full melt, all bets are off and we can get creative. But wait! I still have 3 other dishes to capture, ugh.
Ok, Amberlyn, stand here.
Our food stylist and resident fashion model molded her body into a quick position and bam. Hold that. Let’s try to not get the juice on my bazillion dollar lens. Snap Snap with the 120 lens and that was it. Time and the popsicles melted away and it was off to the next setup.
3 Hours of prep for 20 seconds of photo.