Food photography is an art form all its own. Even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer, some basic principles will help you produce better images for your portfolio. In this post, we’ve broken down the best lighting tips for food photography so that you can create jaw-dropping images every time. From using natural light to playing with coloured backgrounds, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to take stunning pictures of your culinary creations.
The Golden Hour is the time of day when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, so it makes for some flattering light. This period can vary depending upon where you are located, but for most of us living in North America, this is between 11 am and 1 pm. It’s also worth noting that if you’re photographing food during this time of day, you want to make sure that your kitchen isn’t too dark—and if it is dark, try adding additional lighting onto whatever food/background setup you have going on to make sure everything looks great!
Basic Lighting Techniques
There are two common types of lighting to consider when photographing food: natural and artificial. Natural light can create soft, even illumination without a flash—but it’s not always ideal for creating the effects you want. Artificial lighting is generally easier to control, but it requires additional equipment and setup time.
Here are some tips for using both types of light:
- Use a tripod. A tripod will ensure that your camera’s exposure settings remain consistent from image to image, helping you make sure each shot looks precisely how you want it.
- Use a remote trigger or self-timer (if available). Even if your camera has built-in timers, they may not allow enough time between pressing the shutter button and taking an actual photo—or they might cause unintentional vibrations if set too low on its most extended setting! A remote trigger allows total control over when each shot is taken so as not only to avoid shaking but also to get perfect timing between exposures without having someone else holding up their hand like some high school kid waiting outside class doors before being let in; this means less messing around getting ready plus fewer chances at making mistakes like forgetting which direction led them down a path where they needed lead others instead.
Using Reflectors and Bouncing Light
There are a few ways to use reflectors to bounce light. The easiest is to buy a freestanding mirror with a white side that can be used as the primary light source and an opposite-coloured side (usually silver) used as the fill light. You can also make your own by taking three pieces of cardboard, cutting them diagonally, folding them in half, and taping them together to have two large triangles with one edge open. This will create a bounce surface for your flash or on-camera studio lights when you shoot outdoors, where there’s plenty of natural light around.
Another way is to use any white surface as a reflector—even if it’s not perfectly square like your good friend Steve Jobs would’ve liked—and position it next to your subject to bounce some of the light onto their face or body from behind. This works well if there isn’t much ambient lighting around but an abundance of reflective surfaces (like glass doors and windows). Remember: If you’re using only one artificial source (like an overhead fluorescent bulb), don’t go overboard with this method because filling in shadows caused by harsh overhead illumination will give everything an eerie “underwater” look.
Using Continuous Light Sources
Continuous lighting is best for food photography. The main reason for this is that it’s much easier to control the quality of light. You can also adjust its intensity, which will make it possible to create different types of shadows on your food items without having to move around a lot or change your position. The continuous light sources will provide even illumination and help you create uniform lighting throughout the frame. This way, you won’t get any dark spots or splotches where no light falls on certain parts of a dish.
If you’re using a flashgun or other high-powered flash, it’s vital to soften the light by using a diffuser. This can be as simple as an inexpensive white shower cap that you can pick up in most supermarkets. If you have more money to spend, many diffusers are available online with different degrees of softness.
If you’re using an external flash that doesn’t have any built-in diffuser (or your camera doesn’t support TTL metering), placing something between the light and the food will help soften its harshness. A piece of tissue paper works well for this purpose when working at close range with small items like cupcakes or muffins; however, if shooting larger objects such as cakes or plates, then opaque material such as tracing paper may be needed due to its greater surface area and ability to reflect light onto itself rather than just reflecting off onto other surfaces such as walls or ceilings which might otherwise cause uneven illumination patterns when placed too close together (a common mistake made by beginners).
Use colored backgrounds to make your food pop
Use colored backgrounds to make your food pop. A colored background can help make a meal look more appetizing, whether it’s a brightly-coloured tablecloth or a slice of red pepper in the background. It also helps showcase dishes that may be difficult for the camera to capture on their own, such as green salad with white lettuce and tomato slices or slices of avocado on toast that is otherwise lost against a white backdrop.
Photos are the essential things for food photographers.
As a food photographer, your photos are the essential part of the image that you’re trying to create. The only way for your audience to understand what you’re selling is through these photos. So you must make sure that they look good and convey the message you want them to!
Now that you’ve learned about all of these different types of lighting, you’re probably wondering which one is the best for food photography. The truth is there is no answer! Each method has its own merits, depending on what type of shot you want to take and how much time you have to set up your photo. If we had to pick only one of these (although we wouldn’t suggest making that choice), the best choice is natural light using reflectors since they are simple to use and produce stunning results.