OUT - out, damned spot!Sherry helped me replace my glass shooting surface (about 24" X 40") with some darker smoked glass. It helps some, but I really need some black acrylic plastic for these shots. When you're shooting with strobes and precision macro lenses (Sigma 105 EX macro, in this case), every detail jumps out at you, every missed hair, cloth fiber, small imperfection and piece of dust imaginable. I try to get them all with an anti-static dust cloth before I shoot, but if I don't look with a magnifier, it all leaps out of the screen in excruciating detail later when I get the shot on the computer. Almost every piece of macaroni had some kind of imperfection on it. I used food coloring on the two colored pieces and then dried them in the oven (said drying leaving its own imperfections, sigh).
I used NIK HDR efex pro (single-image mode) to "pop" the reflected macaroni at the top of the bowl. I then layered-in that part of the image heavily, and lightly layered the HDR on the actual noodles. This shot used 2 Sunpak 611s (old hammer-handle, high-power flashes) in small softboxes to get a soft lighting effect on the noodles. They were great, cooked.
Re-process of an old shot