How I Shot Sushi and Seafood Photos

Sushi PhotosWe are now accepting guest posts on food photography, food styling and related topics. If you are interested in writing for LFP, go to guest post page for more information.

This guest post and all the photos are from Martijn Smit, who lives in The Netherlands and is a semi professional food photographer and owner of and In this post, Martijn explains how he shot these “naked sushi” photos and gives background about the thought process behind these wonderful photographs.

How I Photographed “Naked Sushi” and Seafood

Recently I shot a series of food photo’s in a friends restaurant. This friend is one of Hollands better cooks. He worked in several Michelin Star rated restaurant and really knows how to cook AND how to style it.

First we discussed what kind of food he wanted pictures of, especially structure and color was important: Shellfish, meat, vegetables and fruits was it, i.e. everything what’s used in the kitchen.

Sushi Food Photos

I proposed to take a black mirroring underground and a black background which gives beautiful contrast with bright green vegetables and orange color of cooked shellfish.

For the underground I took black plexiglass because it’s pretty cheap, easy to clean and light to carry. For the background I took black velvet. Velvet is the best to get real black backgrounds.

For the lighting I used a simple setup with only 2 monoblock flashheads which gives good effects, especially in combination with the shiny underground.

I used two flashes (I use Elfo monoblocks 600Ws each), one softbox 50x90cm, lifted pretty high as a fill-in light. The second flash had a wide reflector and was positioned left behind the still life table at table top level, for a nice striking light. This is what food pictures gives this typical food photo radiation.Naked Sushi Photos

To achieve a real black background, which was the meaning here, it’s important that the background is at least 1meter from the subject, better is 2m but we didn’t have that space. 1m of distance equals 1 F-Stop so 2 metres of distance results in the background to be 2 stops underexposed. This is a general rule which also goes for portraits photography or packshots.

I wanted to shoot with F16 an 1/125s: 1/125s because of handshaking, F16 because of DOF (depth of field). I shot with a Canon 1DS Mark III + a 70-200 F2.8 @ f150mm. F16 seems to be much DOF but if you use a calculator ( you can see that DOF is only 5cm at this aperture!

This setup requires the softbox to be 1 stop less than the striking light from left behind. So very important is to measure you light setup with a good flash meter, I use a Sekonic 358.

Food Styling for Sushi

First I switch off the softbox, point the flash meter exactly (!) to the camera and light the striking flash. The flash meter will indicate how much light was transmitted by the flash.  As the shutter speed is fixed at 1/125s it will display the F-number in 1 decimal, for example F11,4. This means that you have to lower the flash energy with 0,4. On digital flashes this is easy to set.

As the softbox must be 1 stop lower this one has to be set to F8, same way as we set the striking light. Don’t forget to switch off the striking light otherwise it will influence the light measurement. When this is finished the shooting can start.

Another Sushi Picture

Important with a reflecting underground is the lower the camera is the brighter the reflection is. So pay a lot of attention to composition and point of view. This is not a matter of just clicking, take time to take the best shot and have a nice composition.

For this picture I took the lowest possible point of view. Don’t forget to clean the plate as with this low point of view you will see every tiny part of dust.

If you would like to write for LFP, please go to guest post page for more details.

What Do You Think?

Did you like this post? What did you think about these shots and Martijn’s story of these photos? Do you have any questions? Leave your comment below to get answers.

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  • Liz@HoosierHomemade

    Wow! Amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention How I Shot This – Sushi and Seafood Photos | Learn Food Photography & Styling Blog --

  • Joan Nova

    Stunning! I’m reminded I bought a black tile for that purpose and haven’t made much use of it. Got to dust it off.

  • plop the owl

    Great post and superb photos with tips. all too often beginners or those with a keen interested are left ‘in the dark’ when it comes to setting up shots like these and your post has a lot of useful advice – thanks a lot!

  • Mt.F

    It looks delicious! I was wondering, would you mind if I used your sushi photo for a menu? I’m just trying to find sushi with a black background! Thanks for sharing!

  • Stilton Blue

    I am at a loss for words at how wonderfully taken those sushi shots are…not to mention how it captured my craving for jap food at this time! Great photos..thanks for sharing this!

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    It would have been helpful (to me, anyway) to see the lighting set up. Thank you for this valuable information.

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