Yin and Yang: the making of

The Yin and Yang symbol

The Yin and Yang symbol

We all know the Yin and Yang symbol (may be we don't know it's name, but we have all seen it in one way or the other) and what it means.

I recently started pushing my food photography to a more conceptual level and so I had this idea to reproduce the famous Yin and Yang symbol using ingredients having some sort of contrasting characters.

Being Italian and a coffeeholic, the first symbol I made was the coffee/tea Yin and Yang below.

My Coffeeholic version of the Yin and Yang.

My Coffeeholic version of the Yin and Yang.

Because this photo stirred quite an interest online, I have decided to show how I made it. 

I guess that something like that can be done perfectly in photoshop quite easily, but I like to craft everything for real, as much as I can. So I took one of the circular compartments used to cook different foods in my vapour cooking machine and I placed it upside down on a translucent 500x500x2mm piece of plexiglass.

I then removed the bottom from the compartment and with an A4 sheet of paper folded along its long side I made the shape of the internal division between the Yin and the Yang parts. Two rolled up pieces of paper (or the tubes from rolls of toilet papers) were used to shape the circles inside each part of the symbol.

I filled on side of the symbol with coffee beans and the other side with tea leaves and filled the paper tubes within each area with the opposite ingredient. 

Once removed the cylindrical compartment and all the paper, what remained was a perfect Yin and Yang, ready to be photographed.

Here is a tip: because I have only two flashguns, I sometime need to work to have true white as background of my image. The key to get it mostly right in-camera, is to illuminate with the flashguns all the white/translucent surfaces you want to render pure white. For this photo, I did exactly this: I placed a flashgun inside a small softbox directly underneath the plexiglass on which I've crafted the symbol, as you can see in the photo below.

My setup to photograph the coffeeholic version of the Yin and Yang symbol. Note the second flashgun underneath the plexiglass to render it mostly pure white already in the raw file.

My setup to photograph the coffeeholic version of the Yin and Yang symbol. Note the second flashgun underneath the plexiglass to render it mostly pure white already in the raw file.

After this one, I made the same symbol with milk chocolate powder and scraped coconut (as I could not find the powder from white chocolate). This time I took some photos of the making of process and of the photographic setup

The process of making and photographing a chocoholic version of the Yin and Yang symbol.

The process of making and photographing a chocoholic version of the Yin and Yang symbol.

Because I wanted to highlight all the imperfections and the subtle texture of the Yin and Yang surface, I needed to use low, side lights and then photograph it from above as usual. Because I have only two flashes, I could not lit the plexiglas properly from below to render it pure white, so I did that by painting the background with a exposure brush (value +4) in Adobe Lightroom CC.

 Below is the final shot.

The final image for my chocoholic version of the Yin and Yang symbol.

The final image for my chocoholic version of the Yin and Yang symbol.

I have purposely left the imperfect border of the symbol to convey the feeling that you are looking at something real, not just something properly and perfectly done using photoshop. I think those imperfections  really add character and realism to the image.

I hope you have got some inspiration to spice up your food photography and, as usual, thanks for reading.