Continuing on with our “Food” Photography, we decided to give something a bit messier a go: Chocolate!

We need:

1. Chocolate: Check
2. Plastic… lots of plastic: Check
3. Cool Model: Check!
4. Assistants: Check!

This was our first try at chocolate, and to be honest, it’s not quite as simple as I hoped. The chocolate needs to by runny, but not too runny, it need to be slightly translucent, and shouldn’t crystallize too fast. Then, who’d have thought – running, wet, dark chocolate is HIGHLY reflective.



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Our first tests showed that soft light (from 3×4′ softboxes), although very nice for the model’s skin, just doesn’t look right on the reflective body. and also, because it makes shadow areas softer, we lost a lot of depth on the model’s body. In the end we went back to the old trusted Glamour light: The Profoto XL Silver Giant Umbrella.


Using the Giant brollie, we could “focus” good light on the model’s face and have a nice fall-off going down her body, with the added benefit that the reflected hotspots had a much more organic shape. Our fill light, was a 2×3″ un-diffused softbox. We left the diffusion panel attached to the bottom, which acted as a reflector, but also changed the shape of the light reflected on the model, so we had a hotspot with a soft tail at the bottom. The heads we used was a Profoto D1 on the small open softbox and a Profoto ProHead on a Pro7a generator for the XL Silver Umbrella. We needed very fast flash recycle times because the chocolate was running and dripping, and you don’t want a slow recycle be the reason you missed a shot! The Profoto’s were perfect for that with consistent light output all the way!


With our light modifiers sorted we could get on to business. We had a MUA (Suzanne Van Wyk) on set and standby to make our model pretty, Hair was there (Chantelle Taylor Honiball) to add to the Make-up – we wanted an almost “evening wear” look, and then we had two chocolate “assistants” to mess it all up!


Our assistants for the day are both very experienced in the photographic industry and the great thing about having people know about light and poses and photography is that they had a pretty good idea of what the shot looks like from where I was standing, and anticipating problem areas. A good assistant is worth their weight in gold! We had everything set up with them beforehand to be in reach and they had various tools to ply their trade. Some brushes for a quick base cover, spatulas for when stuff started getting thick and cups to pour with to get the drops and long stretched chocolate “wires”.


Luba was behind me directing poses. The Chocolate moved so fast that I was just doing focus and shooting and waiting for drops to run or fall… like this there is no time to direct poses, so Luba relayed my requests and when I didn’t speak, kept on placing our awesome model into new poses and twisting her out of proportion. Also, we couldn’t really stop and discuss because the chocolate crystalized very quickly once it was out of the bottle, making a layer and cracking, creating a rough texture.


While on the topic of posing. In the BTS video you will see a pair of medium high heel shoes the model was wearing. We didn’t intend to shoot feet or lower legs at all but instead, this was to help her get more of a shape in her legs and an arch in her back. (Little tip there for those new in the industry).



Chocolate Body – Behind the Scenes from ShootsImaging on Vimeo.


As for our model, what a star! It’s great when a model trusts you to try and get the best possible shots out of a shoot. When they have a great sense of humour and remain super professional, no matter what you ask. Chantel arrived in the studio with a tub of ice-cream for the remains of the chocolate sauce for afterwards! We anticipated using about 10 litres of running chocolate sauce, but in the end, we can attest that a standard model’s body takes about 4 litres to cover completely.


The background was our standard white Vinyl backdrop. Because very little light fell on it, we could manipulate it quite a bit as far as exposure and colour was concerned by simply changing the WB a bit in one direction or another. As this was a test for what is possible, we tried various tones (Blue, brown, grey, green and some texture) to see what compliments the colour of the chocolate.


Pretty happy with the results at the end of the day, and once again proof that some shoots just cannot be done without a great team!


Photographer: Sean Nel

Model: Chantel Nilson

MUA: Suzanne Van Wyk

Hair: Chantelle Taylor Honiball

Pourer and Sculptor: Norma-Jean Honiball

Pourer and Sculptor: Carlien Haywood

BTS Video: Nanette Grebe

Creative Director: Luba V Nel

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