If you agree with me when I say light is the most important and key factor in food photography…then today’s post is something which will enlighten you on this topic. Being in a place where sun always play hide and seek, clicking food images become challenging. When you know the time and intensity of the natural light along with shadow direction, then you can take better pictures. It’s not just sun light it is whole new a sub-subject in food photography. Understanding the light and clicking accordingly is what we are going to do today. When I asked Arfi of Homemades to do a food photography post, she graciously accepted my invitation and sent me this fabulous post. Thank you Arfi for taking out time and doing such a fabulous post. Talking about Arfi, she is an super talented passionate food blogger, who I came across during Joy From Fasting To Feasting – I. Bowled by the charm of her food pictures and writing style. Here is what Arfi has to say to you…….
PAINT WITH LIGHTS:
One element of photography that is so important is lighting. Don’t think you will be able to deny it. Your photo will look absolutely amazing when the light is right, capturing details that stars the whole frame, illuminating curves of swirly cupcakes, the melting cheese in grilled cheese sandwiches, for instance. On the other hand, you won’t get a plus when your photo is underexpose or overexpose which may eliminate details that supposed to be presented.
Your lighting is your way to let the food speak by itself, letting the audience understand and feel what it tastes like, how good it looks, and how delicious it is to eat. With different lighting techniques, I can highlight the specific areas to be pronounced more than the less interesting ones. Sometimes, I let the shadow drop where it is, to create mood and to give dimension so that the photo won’t look flat.
I love using natural light in food photography, although sometimes I have to use softbox or speedlight to fill in the shadow for a change. Still, sunlight is my favourite light source.
Sun is my best friend, not that because I am a tropical girl, but it does have qualities in it. It provides a huge amount of light available for us to use. Whether it shines through your windows or French doors, or peek a little bit from your balcony or even larger amount of lights outdoor, sunlight gives its most quality of lights. Celebrate it by using as much as you can to produce good quality photographs.
Yes, sunlight is changing its quality almost indefinitely. At my place, 8am sunlight is diffused and white. So beautiful to capture breakfast in the morning. Yet, it will change again to golden colour when it is going past 11am. I often use this quality to capture lunch or afternoon tea. At 3pm, the sunlight is a bit tricky, as it turns out to be harsh and diffused interchangebly at a very slight changing of time. This happens when we have a hot sunny whole day. Unpredictable.
Each place has different quality of sunlight. You have to observe the light around you, so you can judge and use it accordingly. I’m lucky to live in a countryside in a 110 years old villa which has huge tall windows and wide tall French doors around the house that makes me easier to choose where to work in. I still favour our bedroom windows though, and it is facing north.
There are ways to choose and use lighting techniques, whether it is backlighting, side lighting, the combination of those with fill-in flash, perhaps.
It seems that many of us use backlighting as a fave way to achieve certain results. I love working with backlighting. It can illuminate details of food. If your backlighting is too harsh, you can diffuse it with old cloth to cover your windows/doors or whatever your light source coming from or you can use a diffuser from a 5-in-1 reflector kit.
Technically, backlighting is to light object from behind it using the light source, either natural light or studio light. The shadows will fall on the foreground, causing dark shadows in front of the subject. These shadows can be filled in. The light that comes on the plate illuminate details of rice, fried dried anchovies with the other elements, and also gives the shape of flowery-cut tomato on the background a shout.
To fill in the shadows I often use reflectors. I have 56cm 5-in-1 and 102x168cm 5-in-1 reflectors to use which are clammed on reflector hands. Other times, I just wear my white T-shirt or a styrofoam card that comes from electronic box.
I also sometimes use a softbox and speedlight flash to help filling in the shadows. Just see what the situation calls, really. In a bright sunny day, I would just use white or silver reflectors as the fill in card, on the other hand, when it is dark and I still need to work on some photos, I would find continuous softbox lighting kit a handy gadget and easier to work with.
Side lighting can give excellent effect on curves of food. It gives a dimension that illuminate details, like the details on the skin of roast tomatoes and vine on a baby rocket leaf on the left side of the plate. With a white card to fill in the shadow on the right down corner, the details of forked egg with runny egg yolk still can be gained and shown.
I also love working on moody lighting. To me, it is so special, not only it is challenging, but also involves deeper feeling and senses. High key lighting may be giving the sense of airy, light, cheerful and clean frame, while low key seems to appear moody, dark, and mysterious. Ploughing in that sense into particular setting is a mystery itself, although it seems moody light food photography often is underrated by many people.
Are there particular rules to apply moody light on food photography? I don’t know. I just believe it can be applied on some type of food, especially those which have deeper character and texture, dark and luscious, wintery type of food. I am speaking about sticky, gooey brownies, which is more an all-season food really. Or, a thick hearty casserole in a earthenware dish with dark backdrop of wintertime can be an option. A glass of wine with sourdough dinner rolls with cheese and silverware, perhaps. Even a basket of assorted autumn fruits can do too. I can go on.
Observing still life paintings on the internet, museum, books or gallery, I have found out that low light has been the chosen type of lighting to create mood most of the time. Have a look at the works of Cezanne, for instance, and you will know what I mean. Middle Ages and Renaissance still life paintings as well as modern ones are excellent source of ideas and observation on how lights can do on food to create mood.
Where there are ideas, there are ways to create. My motto. Have fun with your lights!
You can find Arfi @
Website : HomeMadeS
If you have missed any of the entry under this series, then you can check by clicking on Food Photography and Styling (Season 1).