French Toast Sausages: Behind the Scenes

French Toast Sausages Diptic

Since this is the day after the Rose Parade and Mondo and I are about to head out to see the floats, I’ll keep the french toast sausages shoot short and simple.


I wanted to do an easy menu shot for Foodgawker and Tastespotting along with a few shots for the post.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of trouble getting these to look right.  Maybe I was just tired from the holidays, but my lighting was a mess.

Getting it together

After futzing around for a few hours trying to make boring menu photographs I thought Foodgawker would like, I finally started to make photographs that I liked.

Since I was having trouble, I shut down everything except for one light and went back to the basics. This was a textured object, so I setup  a light panel on the left and scraped light across the surface of the object.  I then placed a white board on the opposite side of the light to reduce contrast.  That’s it.

With this simplified setup, I got a few shots I liked, and called it a day.

french toast sausages lighting setup


Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 125
Aperture: f/16


How to Crop a Photo for Tastespotting & Foodgawker

How to crop a photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker: Lightroom Catalog

When I need to crop a photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker, my tool of choice is Adobe Lightroom.  In addition to being an amazing image cataloging program, Lightroom has a super simple cropping tool that makes it easy to get your images ready for the web.  If you don’t already have it, check out the Adobe Photographer Program and give yourself an early Christmas present.

Why Bother?

The crop tools provided by Foodgawker and Tastespotting are nice, but Lightroom is better and you have complete control over your images.  In addition, you can add sharpening to compensate for the jpeg compression.  Finally, with Lightroom, you only have to crop once and the job is done for all the social media sites.

The Requirements

Foodgawker recently moved the cheese and updated their image requirements to accommodate the Apple retina displays.  Tastespotting is going to do the same, so you should check out the latest info.

Here are the pertinent pages:

Tastespotting image submission guidelines
Foodgawker FAQ page

As of December of 2013, the image guidelines to crop a picture for Tastespotting and Foodgawker are simple:

Tastespotting – 250 x 250 pixel image

Foodgawker – 550 x 550 pixel image

How To to Crop a Photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker

Step 1

Select the desired image in the catalog and move into the Development module.  Find the image adjustment tools under the histogram and select the crop tool.

How to crop a photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker: select image catalog.

Step 2

In the crop tool window, select an aspect of 1×1.  Manipulate the highlighted image until the desired crop is achieved.  Hit Enter.  If further manipulation is required, select the crop tool again and readjust the image.

How to crop a photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker: crop tool selected.

Step 3

Move back into the library module and click on the Export button.  To create a Tastespotting/Foodgawker acceptable image, setup the Export setting as follows:

How to crop a photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker: export settings lightroom

File Settings

Format: jpeg
Color Space: SRGB
Quality: 100

Image Sizing

Resize to fit: Check Mark with Long Edge or Short Edge
Size: 550 pixels for Foodgawker/250 pixels for Tastespotting
Resolution: Leave as is

Output Sharpening

Sharpen for: Screen
Amount: High

Click Export to create a jpg

Wrap Up

Cropping a photo for Tastespotting and Foodgawker is a bit of a chore, but it’s worth the effort.  With Lightroom, cropping is a snap and you have a wide range of tools to make your images look their best.

Perfect Baked Potato Photo Shoot: Behind the Scenes

Perfect baked potato with hard light diagram

For the perfect baked potato, I put the plane on autopilot and used the same hard light setup from the classic cornbread post.  I’ve been diggin’ those cornbread shots the last couple of weeks and wanted to play with the light a little more.

Hard Light

I’ve never been of fan of hard light, but on the classic cornbread shoot, I went that direction and liked the results.  It’s a bit of a throwback to the 1990’s when everybody was using the big Fresnels, but nothing shows off texture like a hard light scraping across the surface of a subject.  The only problem is the mess of specular highlights that crop up when it hits anything reflective.

How to Control it

To control the highlights created by the hard light, I used a couple of methods:

A Gobo – A gobo is any solid object that goes between your light and the subject.  Once the light is blocked, it no longer creates a specular highlight.  For the solo baked potato shot, the gobo was my hand placed in front of the light 6 inches away from the potato.

The Angles – Light is like a pool ball being knocked around on a table.  Everything works within a family of angles.  The highlights on the top of the potatoes in the group shot were a little blown out, so I simply changed the angle and moved the camera up a few inches.

Let’s Go Back a Step

So how did I create the hard light?  I moved the main light back 4 feet from my normal position.  The quality (soft or hard) is determined by the size of the light relative to the subject.  Light hitting a subject can be described in many ways, but at the heart of the matter is this simple concept:


If a light is pulled back, it becomes smaller relative to the subject and is harder.  If a light is moved up, it becomes larger relative to the subject and is softer.  Every lighting manufacturer likes to tout their latest miracle modifier, but the physics of light is steadfast.

Wrap up

On the final shot with the group of ingredients, I got tired of fighting the hard light and moved the key light up to overcome the blown out specular highlights.

This is my original test shot with the lighting setup shown above:

Perfect baked potato ingredients with hard light

You’ll notice that the highlights and shadows are very hard.  After seeing this, I pulled the handle on my ejection seat and went to the much softer lighting setup shown below:

Perfect baked potato with soft lighting instead of hard light

Perfect Baked Potato Fixins

Finally, with a nice big light, I had a technically acceptable shot and called it a day.  It was time to eat some perfect baked potatoes.


Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 125
Aperture: f/11