Food Photography: Light – By a Beginner, For the Beginner, Part 1

I do not claim to be an amazing photographer like the experienced, creative and popular food bloggers, food stylists, or food photographers around the world.  I am nowhere close to professional and still consider myself a newbie since I began blogging in 2011.  I have not attended any photography workshops or bought any of the brilliant books on food photography.

But as a self-learner, I have read tips and tricks on photography sites, observed numerous food photos on websites and personal blogs, and watched plenty videos.  I made notes as I learned anything new from anywhere and used trial-and-error as time passed.  And even though I may not have applied most of the learning and observation, I know I still have a long way to go and enormous room of improvement.

So, why am I still writing this post?
Because I like to share what I know, and I’m only sharing my notes and opinions here on a few basics of food photography so that it may help another beginner click better as we learn and grow together.  The explanations are in my own words from my understanding and they may not necessarily be the photography jargon.

Light
Light, light, light – natural daylight has been written all over as the most important element of food photography.  But how do you make good use of that light?

  • Choose a place near the window (or door) in your house (or on your patio, perhaps?) where you get ample natural light.  This will be called as the ‘source of light’.
  • Place a small table (or chair, or ottoman, whatever) there.  This will be called as the ‘surface’.
  • If the light is sharp or if the sunlight is harsh, put A4 sheets on the window, or a white cloth.  This is called ‘diffusing’ the light.  This way the natural light softens out (is not too harsh on the subject), plus it spreads equally without having shades (say, because of the blinds) or shadows (say, from the trees outside).
  • Then place your plate of food on the surface, and click a picture from ALL sides and different angles of the table.  I like to draw an image of it on paper before starting, so that as I click each photo – I might draw an arrow or write the settings after each photo so that I don’t have to remember details when I compare photos – just the way you used to write data after each experiment in your chemistry/physics lab, remember? (at least SOMETHING learned from labs in university helps!)
Transfer your photos to computer and see the difference that a source of light from one angle but shooting with camera from different angles makes on the food that’s on the same spot.

  • Next, if you place a ‘reflector’ either direct opposite the source of light or at an angle that’s suitable, you will notice the food brightening up, because the ‘reflector’ will help the light ‘bounce’ back on the subject, and give more clarity.
  • A plain white A4 sheet, a white foam board, white cardboard, white polystyrene (Thermocole or Styrofoam), aluminum foil, a tin can, or a stainless steel plate – anything that can reflect light can be used as a ‘reflector’.  Yes, a mirror, too.
  • Either you hold the reflector with one hand and click with the other (or use a self-timer or a remote) or you support the reflector with any object, then click, zoom-in, zoom-out,  have fun, and move yourself and the reflector around as you change your angles.
Transfer the photos to your computer and see the difference the source of light, the camera shots, and the reflector makes on the food – and compare them to the previous pictures you took without a reflector.

Only this kind of experiment can best help you understand how light works on food and what angles makes YOU think makes YOUR photo stand out.  And whether the source of light is from the back, from the side, from the front, or from under – it’s also about experimenting shooting from different angles and positions – because no matter where your source of light is … a shot from the left-right-center, or a top view, or at eye-level makes a huge difference in your photo.
Do you see the effects and difference in light, shadow, angles, reflector, and zooms?

Sometimes light from the side (side lighting) works on certain food, some other times shadows from sunlight make it look better, sometimes very subtle ‘moody lighting’ may give a charming effect, or may be the light from behind (back lighting) may make the food look tasteful.

So, that was my take on lighting.

Message to the expertswill you correct me if I’m wrong?

Question to the beginnersdid this post help you?

I have other posts planned on topics like a) basic settings of camera, b) simplifying some terminology, etc, c) very basic Photoshop tricks, and d) links to certain blogs I follow that I think have superb photos.

But, but, but.  That will happen ONLY if you, the reader, liked and understood this post, learned something new, thought it was worth your time, and will leave a comment below to let me know your feedback.  Otherwise, this series stops here.

Update: Thanks for the feedback, readers.  Here's

Part 2:  Makeshift Props on a Budget
Part 3:  Small Changes, Big Differences
Part 4:  Behind-the-Scenes

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Connect with Spusht via: Facebook  |  Email  |  RSS  |  Twitter

26 comments:

  1. really very helpful and informative post dear....thanx 4 sharing

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is super helpful! It really really makes a difference to have good pictures on your blog. It's the sad, but people DO judge your content within the first few seconds of scanning your pictures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. Even though we've heard not to judge a book by its cover, we actually always do!

      Delete
  3. This is so helpful for a beginner like me, I always use natural light too, but I never knew that you could 'diffuse' harsh light with a piece of paper, thanks for the useful info :)!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad, thanks for the response :)

      Delete
  4. this is really helpful dear, especially for people like me who manage the blog amidst busy office schedules. I hardly get time to research on food fotography. So sweet of you to share this

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm happy you find this helpful, thanks Ramya.

      Delete
  5. Nice post! And even if you are by your own words a pro, I am sure more experiments like this will get you there fast enough :) enjoyed the strawberries in all the moods and lighting!

    ReplyDelete
  6. makes for a very interesting read... u have done such thorough research & taken so much of effort. cant wait for the other photography tips :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to know, Deepthi. Thanks for the encouragement!

      Delete
  7. Great post. Very useful.Please continue with this series.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the thumbs up, Fathima! Now will sure do :)

      Delete
  8. I am glad you posted this. Waiting for more of these.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks to this post I finally managed some pics that earned me some rave reviews from my critic, my daughter. In case you are curious its the baby corn stir fry and hot cross idlis.
    Thanks. I will love some more posts like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to hear. Really appreciate your feedback, Archana! :)

      Delete
  10. Hey, I enjoyed reading about it, grt effort and really informative.

    ReplyDelete
  11. a very very useful post.. specially about the reflector!!1 thank u .. appreciate your willingness to share evrything.. worth more than 2 cents definitley:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's all worth only if it's helpful, and thank you for letting me know that it is! :)

      Delete
  12. Thank you for writing on lighting for food. It is very helpful for the beginners.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yum Strawberries :D You have so much of patience to write what you have observed! that shows up your Helpful nature! Good! Diffusing the light and using reflectors is a great idea... This post is very helpful especially for the beginners like me and please come up with your series! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. very clear and to the point post fir a beginner- heading over for part two now!

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to drop your comments - opinion, ideas, correction, suggestion, related memories, discussions or questions - anything that makes me & this blog better or helps you & others is welcome!

SPAM MESSAGES, ADVERTISEMENTS, AND COMMENTS WITH LINKS TO YOUR BLOG & EVENTS WILL BE DELETED.
Please keep the space clean, keep it SPUSHT! ;)

I can also be reached here if you want to write me a quick message. And hey, thanks for dropping by! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...