It’s time to talk about the key ingredient in all your photos; the lighting. Take your dish out of the kitchen, put it next to a window with natural light and you will see a huge improvement in your photos within seconds. This is the first rule to illuminate your food correctly, I recommend that you start with natural light or a special artificial light. Next you need to learn to read the light and how it affects our food. All of this is explained in this blog post: Food Photography 7 Lighting Tips. Good lighting helps food look real and appealing in photos.
1.Use natural light whenever you can.
2.Don’t be tempted to use the flash on your camera.
3.Don’t worry if your photos have a yellowish or bluish tone
4.Start by illuminating your food from the side, it is easier.
5.If using an artificial lamp, make sure that you pick up a special light
6.Use a diffuser to soften the light.
7.The light that illuminates your food doesn’t only come from a light. The background and the reflectors may also bounce light.
If you have completed any workshop in photography or photography course you will be familiar with the next quote: ‘light is the key to photography’. Whether it is a landscape photo or a photo of your food, light is what really matters. If you don’t trust me try the first rule and take a photo of your dish under your kitchen’s lights and then another with natural light, you will really notice the difference. I used to struggle with getting the correct lighting in the beginning. I spent more time playing around with the yellowish lights of my kitchen than shooting and the result was never as good as I expected. After 5 months I read some articles about using natural light and I decided to try it out. The result was much better, the photo was really sharp, the food also looked more appealing and the colours were more accurate. So keep away from your kitchen once your dish is cooked because most kitchen lamps are just crap !
Let’s look at these Essential Food Photography 7 Lighting Tips in more detail…
1.Use natural light whenever you can!
From now on the windows of your house are your best friend, and if your windows are south facing you are very lucky because they receive more daylight. However natural light changes throughout the day. I recommend that you shoot early in the morning when the light is soft or during the last few hours of light when the light is soft but can still light up our food without creating too much “brightness” in the scene. To soften the light use a diffuser like a white curtain or cover your window with a piece of parchment paper. Play around with different materials to diffuse the light and to get different effects in your photos. Remember to turn off all other lights in the room when using natural light.
2.Don’t be tempted to use the flash of your camera
It has a similar effect to kitchen lights because it splashes light directly onto your food which makes it look flat and the light is too bright. There are some tools that can help bounce light on to food and I have also my own ones, but I don’t recommend that you buy them. It’s a waste of money because the food will never look as good as it does under natural light or with a good artificial light.
3.Don’t panic if your photos have a yellowish or bluish tone
It is probably due to the light you are using. Whenever you are shooting under natural or artificial light the tones can be easily corrected in post-production. There are many programs and ways to achieve this, but if you want a very accurate adjustment of the colour I highly recommend that you shoot in RAW format because then you can use this file to adjust the colour with a lot of precision. I’ll post an article talking about colour temperature and how to correct these colour alterations in the photos. This bluish photo is the original photo I took, the one on the right is after correcting the colour temperature in Camera Raw.
4.Probably the easiest way to create a good lighting in your scene is to illuminate your food from the side. Once you have mastered this technique you can go to the next level and light it from the back (photo on the left), what can be trickier.
5.If the light is too intense use a light diffuser to soften it.
When you use natural or artificial lighting stick a piece of parchment paper with some tape on the windows or cover your lamp with a cloth. I sometimes use a semi-transparent shirt to cover my lamp.
6.If you are using an artificial light make sure it projects enough light in to the scene. It is easier to control an artificial lamp than a flash which only light up the food when you press the bottom.
7.The light that your food receives is a mix between the direct light (natural or artificial lamp) and all the light that is bounced by the elements around the dish. As an example try the same photo with a white background and a dark one. Clear colours bounce more light onto the food than a dark background. To have a bit more of control use reflectors. A polystyrene panel is a good reflector to extra light over the food to help lighten the colours without too many white tones. This is my favourite tool, it makes such a huge difference.
You don’t need to buy expensive Lights or anything like that, it is all about paying attention to the lighting in your scene and learn to control it. If you find these post useful I’ll be very happy if you share it with your friends.
If you want to find out what’s my Food Photography Gear don’t miss this blog post: Essential Food Photography Equipment