In this series I’ll be showing you some very simple steps to take your food photography well beyond those simple instagram snaps and on to more professional images you’ll be proud to show off. I’ll also be showing you how you don’t need to spend money on a lot of expensive gear to make all this happen. For the first installment in this series I want to discuss lighting. Now most people are probably imaging a studio full of flashes, light boxes and assistants. All those things are great but lets be honest most of us don’t have that as a option and guess what? You don’t need any of it to make great images.
1. Source It
If you want the most beautiful food photos then hands down natural light is the way to go. A north facing window will provide you with the best indirect light you can get. It gives you that perfect soft glow that really makes your food photos pop. When setting up your work space remember to turn off any nerby lamps or overhead lights as you don’t want their color temperature to have any effect on your photos, you only want that sunlight coming in.
2. Filter It
If you don’t have a good source of indirect natural light don’t panic you’ll just need to soften the light you do have. Most professionals use what’s called a “scrim”. You can easily make your own out of some commonly found materials you probably already have at home. Some semi sheer white curtains work best but you can also hang a thin white bed sheet or if it’s a small area a large linen or cotton napkin would do the trick. If your wanting to make a more solid scrim for use over and over again I would recommend doing this. Find a old picture frame (minus the glass) large enough to cover the area your shooting then simply cut the curtains to fit and affix to the frame. Now you have something that can be easily pulled out and set up for each shoot.
3. Bounce It
Ok so you have your studio space set up and some nice diffused light coming in. There is one final step to help take your pictures over the top. When you have light coming in from one direction you risk some pretty strong shadows on the opposite side of your subject. While these shadows can add drama and some artistic flair to your photo, let us get the basics down first.
So how do you prevent these shadows? We are going to use a reflector to “bounce” the light back and “fill” the shadow areas. The simplest and most cost effective item to use as a reflector would be a solid white piece of foam board. If your like me though and would like to be able to pack your reflector with you for other projects then I’d recommend going for something like this and at less that $20 it’s a real deal.
4. It’s a Wrap
My last beginners tip would be this never ever use the cameras built in flash aimed at your subject. I know the urge will be there but just don’t do it. It will give your food images awful highlights and terrible shadows. If you feel you must use a flash go with a off camera model and point it at a white wall or a 2nd reflector to bounce the light back into your scene and soften it up. However if you follow the simple steps listed above to set up your home studio I promise you that you’ll love the images that your now able to produce.
Kris L Cox