pablo gil roast beef illuminated in a pool of light

A Feast for the Eyes

Pablo Gil

It all started as a request from the client that the image showed all of the ingredients in their hamburger - to show it was all natural and fresh.

That simple request sparked an idea in photographer Pablo Gil’s head; what better way to show everything inside the hamburger than have all the components separated and flying in the air?

It was a dramatic vision for a humble hamburger image, but in the highly competitive field of food photography it is being imaginative that can make your work stand out from the crowd.

pablo gil sony alpha 7RII components of a hamburger floating in mid air scaled © Pablo Gil | Sony α7R II + FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS | 1/125s @ f/5.0, ISO 200
Generally, I seek to tell the viewer something in my photographs. They aren’t just a single frame, but a whole story. I try and create a look, using composition and lighting, that gives you a sense of the food being the main character in the story. It isn’t just a subject or a prop, it is the hero.

What started with a hamburger recently spawned a second set of images advertising a range of drinks using the same technique. However, as well as levitating food to deal with, there was also the task of capturing moving liquid in the perfect position. Whilst many may think that the liquid is nothing more than a computer-generated effect, it is in fact real, and 100% captured in camera, through a very long and laborious process.

pablo gil sony alpha 7RIII components of a milkshake floating in mid air scaled © Pablo Gil | Sony α7R III + FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS | 1/250s @ f/2.8, ISO 100

“The creation of the image is itself a story of repetition. First, we create a sketch of what we want the final image to look like, including the movement of the liquid from the seemingly moving cup. Then we will take maybe 100 to 150 images moving the glass to try and imitate the angle of it falling. We want to imitate the angles of the falling, so we repeat the fall with an angle as close to the final angle. We repeat as many times as we need to, get the shapes of the liquid looking to be as real as possible, but of course it is liquid so it is completely random. We will keep moving the cup and taking an image until we have the liquid movements and drops looking exactly as we want.”

All of Pablo’s images are taken using a Sony α7R III. “The camera helps in many different ways. As I often have to take so many images at various different angles, I need a camera that is very light so I can hold it for a long time. The tilting screen is also great as it allows me to shoot comfortably from high angles, looking down on to the food. What first attracted me to the camera was the fantastic colour and dynamic range of the camera. It not only makes the food look great, but it gives me the flexibility when it comes to editing on post-production.”

pablo gil sony alpha 7RIII cup of hot chocolate in mid air surrounded by floating cookies © Pablo Gil | Sony α7R III + FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS | 1/250s @ f/5.6, ISO 100

To create the levitating effect, Pablo and his assistant, Monica Sanz, hang the objects from a frame to get them in the perfect position in front of the background.

The background is so important, it is the third part of the story. It creates the environment for the photo. It tells the viewer whether this is a modernist photo or a classical image or a rustic picture - it frames everything, literally and figuratively,” says Pablo.

The backgrounds are so important to Pablo that he and his assistant hand-make each one, so that he can get exactly what is required for the image. “We use wood, fabric, plastic, cardboard - whatever we need to get the background for each photo.”

pablo gil sony alpha 7RIII pan of milk suspended in mid air with cake floating around © Pablo Gil | Sony α7R III + FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS | 1/250s @ f/3.2, ISO 100

He continues to explain the importance of his kit, “lenses are important in food photography as you cannot have the food looking deformed or distorted. For this reason, I don’t use wide-angle lenses. I used to use the Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, it was my favourite lens for many years. However, I recently started using the 100mm STF f/2.8 lens. The bokeh looks incredible - it looks so organic. It is my new baby, my favourite lens!”

Whilst you can tweak an image in post-production, it is of course vital that you get the light perfect when you shoot the image. Like a lot of food photography, the light is quite simple in the Levitation series of images. A large softbox was used to create a soft natural light, whilst a reflector opposite helped to soften some of the shadows.

The combination of light, drama, background and colour creates a series of images that are good enough to eat, or in this case, drink.

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Pablo Gil

Pablo Gil | Spain

"An image never lies, mine may be"

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