If you’re anything like us, you’re obsessed with food and when you look at a dish, you scrutinize every single tasty detail of it, which consequently makes you drool with lust. Being the generous person that you are, you want to share its beauty with the world, so you get your phone or camera out to take a picture of this heavenly vision. And yet… it never quite looks the same, does it? The ingredients look bland, the lighting is off and it really just ends up looking like a puddle of mudd. We feel your frustration; we’ve been there, too!
Photography skills regrettably don’t come all inclusive with great appetite, so to help you out, we’ve asked a few of our favourite food photographers how to make nutriments look as good as their taste –without the help of natural light.
We all know that natural light is the best choice for any great shot. Sadly, we’re not always available when the sun is, as that unfortunate thing called “work” always seems to be food-blocking us.
If that still doesn’t amount to much, the food snapper’s best alternative is to buy a small portable hand-held LED light from Adorama.com for about $100 or roughly £60 that is battery operated. For restaurant-addicts, we understand that you may not feel too comfortable walking around fully equipped with your gadget entourage and in that case, Daniel suggests to ask a friend to use the flashlight application function on their smartphone and direct it towards the dish you are shooting to help light it up! And, if you’re on the go? Use the Snapseed application to effectively edit images.
Just like us, food & Lifestyle photographer Stuart Ovenden (@StuOvenden on Instagram) struggles with lighting during these dark wintery days and consequently always carries an Elinchrom flash head to create light where there isn’t. According to him, artificial light should really just be compared to natural light, where your flash head is just another window, which light is efficiently diffused with the help of soft boxes. The latter can really do wonders and transform what may have initially been a dead photograph to a bright hit.
The pro also strongly encourages avid learners to use an entry level DSLR camera, as it is the best and easiest starting point when using off-camera lighting. And as your base, Stuart’s tip is to favour soft light, as it is always easier to add contrast and punch during the editing than it is to remove it.
Food and still life capturer Andrew Scrivani (@AndrewScrivani on Instagram) prefers snapping dishes with back or side lighting, as it tends to give the photograph added depth, as well as making it look more natural. Be careful though, as the color of the food does matter lighting-wise. Darker colored aliments, such as brownies or broccolis, are best lit from the front or side, as back light would create too deep of a shadow and ruin the outcome. Either way, the light you use should be softened, as hard and direct light always results in an unappetizing shot.
And lastly, FBC photographer extraordinaire Sarka Babicka (@SarkaBabicka on Instagram) has been coined the master of manipulating light for good reason and shares that whenever you shoot with artificial light try to stick with just one type of light source. A combination of different light sources creates ugly colour cast that can’t be easily fixed in post processing, especially if you shoot into jpegs.
You don’t have to invest in expensive professional lights. Try using your desk lamp but diffuse the light through a piece of sheer curtain and don’t forget to reflect light back with a piece of white cardboard of kitchen foil wrapped around a pice of cardboard. This will fill in dark areas and brighten up your photo. You can also use mirrors to reflect light. She recommends buying any of these 5 in 1 reflectors for under £20, they come in different sizes and are very practical, even for travelling.
- Now that we’ve enlightened you with some of the essentials, it’s time to get clicking on that picture-perfect meal.
From Leonore Dicker
Leo has been obsessed with food for longer than she remembers. Raised in cosmopolitan London by a French mother (who could’ve been a chef) and a German father (who could’ve been a critic), food has always been the center of everything. Writing is her second big love, and she has done so in Paris, New York, Kazakhstan and Beirut. She is currently experiencing the threesome of her deepest fantasies and writing about food.
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