How To Set Up Lighting For Food Photography

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Are you new to food photography or looking to accelerate your lighting techniques? This article takes you through how to use existing light to your benefit every bit well as how to create it yourself. Both approaches will yield similar results, but each has its ain unique advantages. Information technology’south up to yous which path to take.

Natural: Piece of work with Window Light

The simplest way to photograph food is to shape low-cal that already exists. Beginners benefit because there is no cost for using the lord’s day and natural calorie-free. It’s best to set up your surface adjacent to a large window in your home, or even have the set exterior. You don’t desire your calorie-free to be ruined by the low quality of an average light bulb indoors. These uncorrected bulbs can create bad-mannered shadows, and the color temperature volition be catchy to balance properly.

Peach Salad. This image was captured using natural light from a window and a single white card as a reflector to fill in the shadows. By looking at the shadows you can easily determine the direction of the light, a good trick when studying your favorite photographers.
This image was captured using natural light from a window and a single white reflector carte to fill in the shadows. Shadows point the management of the low-cal—a good rule for studying your favorite photographers.

For this style, prepare up your shot so the light streams in from behind the subject—also known equally backlighting. Specific instructions should accept yous place information technology directly reverse the photographic camera, though a slightly off-centrality placement works, too. It is an easy expect to reach and works with most kinds of food, making information technology a great place to commencement. If information technology’s a sunny solar day, you will desire to have some form of diffusion to soften the light. You don’t need anything fancy. Only become an affordable sheet of improvidence that tin exist set quickly and cover the window. All you need and then is gaffer tape to hang it up and you’re ready to outset composing.

The next piece of equipment yous’re going to need for this method is a fill card. Heavy white paper or a white sheet will do the trick. If you’re looking for something more than permanent, I recommend a collapsible reflector. Y’all can cull silver or white, depending on how much fill the shot needs. White is softer, while silver renders a brighter and harsher reflection. The linked five-in-1 set likewise has a translucent option, which can exist used for improvidence, as mentioned above.

With a window off to the left of the frame and minimal fill you can create images with stronger contrast.
With a window off to the left of the frame and minimal fill you can create images with stronger contrast.

However, if you want something more serious or need a stand-alone selection, the scrim and c-stand up route allows for steadier command of the light, depending on what time of day you’re shooting. It’south also far superior when it comes to stability.

Finally, a tripod should be used here. The shot itself might exist quick, but the light can modify quickly, so it is best practice to use a tripod for more control. You lot likely won’t exist able to handhold the camera unless you want to bump the ISO mode upwards and use a faster aperture.

Artificial: Creating your Own Soft Light

If y’all’re looking for a slightly more than consistent method or y’all don’t have access to a lot of natural light, the artificial arroyo is for you. This style involves creating the same consequence/look every bit natural low-cal using continuous lights or strobes and modifiers. Luckily, at that place are budget and investment options then everyone can try it.

A flash with a softbox can create nearly the exact same look as natural lighting.
A wink with a softbox can create about the verbal same look as natural lighting.

The affordable option uses LED bulbs optimized for photo and a couple of softboxes. The linked kit includes everything you demand. You tin can go abroad with using a unmarried light with a softbox, but two tin aid add some brightness, if you demand it, or can piece of work as a fill light instead of using a reflector. All you have to do is place the cardinal lite and modifier in position behind your chosen subject, opposite the camera, to mimic what a window would do, and then add a reflector or make full calorie-free to burnish the shadows. You should exist using a tripod here, as well, because information technology is difficult to handhold the camera with this kind of light.

Beginners to using bogus lighting should know a couple of basic principles when setting up these lights. The offset is that the larger the lite source is, the softer the light volition exist. The second is that light drops in power based on the Inverse Square Law, meaning that every time you double the distance between the light and the subject area, the power is only 25% of its original strength. For food, where soft lighting is a mutual expect, getting your light closer to the discipline is e’er beneficial, as long as you can continue it out of the frame.

If you lot want to make a bigger investment in your lighting, then consider some video-oriented lights, such as the Aputure Lite Storm LS C120D Ii LED Lite and its Lite Dome Softbox. The benefit of going with continuous lights, fifty-fifty every bit an advanced user, is that they will notwithstanding work if you lot opt to outset shooting some video or want to take a quick snap with your phone for Instagram.

Another path you can take with artificial lighting is to invest in strobe lights. Strobe lighting is great because information technology’due south fairly easy to observe relatively affordable strobes that give off a lot of ability. You don’t have to worry as much most shutter speed either, because when the wink fires information technology freezes motion in a way that continuous lighting is unable. The take chances of paw shake is eliminated because of the speed at which the shot is captured. So, if you want to move speedily or shoot more angles more easily a wink is the way to get.

Yous tin utilize nearly whatsoever type of flash, but monolights are great choices. These self-contained units are like shooting fish in a barrel to set up and work with many common modifiers. An affordable and solid two-calorie-free kit is a good starting time. If you want to have a professional futurity in photography, investing in higher-finish lights is always a good decision. My personal light is the Profoto B1X. It’s a higher-end lite which comes with additional costs, just I’ve constitute information technology has more than consistent color than less expensive lights, and the Air Remote system works very well. Now for how to utilize them.

Using a 2 x 3' softbox on a monolight and pushing it as close to the subject as possible can get beautiful soft lighting.
Using a 2 x 3′ softbox on a monolight and pushing information technology as close to the subject area as possible tin go beautiful soft lighting.

For this style, you’re too going to desire to tether to the computer as you are shooting because you lot won’t be able to see the full outcome of how the strobes interact through the photographic camera back lone. You volition need a cable and shooting software such equally Capture I or Adobe Lightroom. An extra benefit of tethering is that you can pick and choose images to edit in Photoshop if you like specific details in separate images. You will want to apply a tripod if y’all’re going to composite images together, for consistency. You tin read more than virtually tethering hither.

Hopefully, this is enough to get you started and experimenting with food photography. Some props such as glassware and polished utensils crave more specific lighting to avoid hot spots or reflections—another topic for some other twenty-four hour period.

Exercise yous want to learn more about food photography and styling? Have some of your ain advice to add together or a specific issue you need addressed? Get out a annotate, below, with your thoughts!

And for more than of what we’re cooking up every bit role of Food Photography Calendar week, including alive sessions on YouTube, find united states on social media at #BHFoodPhotoWeek!


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