You must have heard that there is no better lighting solution for food photography than using natural light. Soft colors and discreet tones of the daytime shots will look inspiring and deep. However, to take the most of the natural lighting we should follow some basic techniques in order to establish a perfect environment for food photography. Drawing on these tips, you will be able to complete your personal toolkit for creating an amazing natural lighting setup, which will make your images look flawless.
- Choose a Light Source
Use only one source of lighting to create favorable conditions for food photography. Preferably, it should be a big north-facing window. Foggy, cloudy weather, of course, is the best for making outstanding photo shoots. However, such a low-key lighting is not always at your serves when you need it, so it comes to applying softening light techniques. In either case, make sure that incandescent light is off.
- Soften and Disperse
Direct sunrays will give you the lighting, which is too bright, so that will make blind spots on your pictures occur. Thus, dispersing and softening light is a crucial factor. To soften the light, you can use any kind of dispersion materials. Light curtains or translucent fabrics will fit perfectly. You can also use a professional diffuser if you have one. In the majority of cases, the white color of the diffusers will look good. But if obviously the lighting has a big dose of blue tones, which is different from what you expected, try to use the light modifier of warm color to reach the desirable result.
- Bounce the Light
When you have found an ideal source of lighting and the way to make it dispersed, then you should bounce the light right on your photography subject to highlight it from the different sides. You can place a light reflector from the side, which opposite to the source of lighting, or to dispose a few ones from the different sides. It depends on the type of composition you want to recreate. Your reflector could be a piece of white carton, a foamboard or a tinfoil. In case of using tinfoil, the light will definitely be much brighter than if you use other, more naturally looking options.
- Adjust the Distance
In fact, the closer you move your subjects to the light source, the brighter they will show up. Adjust the distance between the light source and food gradually, and make a few trial shots. Do the same procedure with positioning light reflectors, but not only in the matter of how close or far it is. Try to keep it over the subject to direct the light from the top. If you have an outdoor shooting, then you will need to estimate the conditions on the ground and place light reflectors on the right distance basing on this.
- Select the Angle
The angle of incidence of the light to the surface of your installation also matters. The most versatile option is to have the light coming from the one side and being reflected from the opposite, then you will have the shape of your subject clearly outlined with the minimum of shades. Directing the light from the backside and reflecting it with two side panels to the center could become an alternative for a certain type of the composition. In this case you should pay attention to shades that will lean towards your camera, and it looks not always good.
- Configure Settings
Configuring proper manual settings is no less important step than others. The lower ISO you choose for your shot, the better it would be. For the bright daylight, start with ISO 100. Adjust it gradually if the lighting gets darker. ISO 400 and higher will be suitable for the low lighting conditions. As for the aperture, the tighter you make it, the more detailed image you will have. When ranging it from 4.0, which is good if you need to highlight one object or one detail, then f12-14 will fit better for the whole table shot, when all details are essential. Don’t forget about the white balance, 5500-5000 is considered as an optimal for the bright daytime lighting.
- Choose the “Hero”
Many photographers prefer choosing the main subject to focus on when having a lot of details in a composition. Highlighting one piece of the meal and shading the rest of the picture will emphasize its texture, color, and key ingredients. At the same time, it is important to select the central object among many to be able to adjust the color and lighting settings according to it. For example, if you have a several dishes served, choose the most dramatic/important one to surround it with complementing details.
- Use Shades
Using black cards as reflectors may have a surprising effect. Directing the light stream from the front or the side will greatly show your subject, while black shadows will make an impression of the wall behind it, so your shot will get an impressive depth. If you want to make a composition with the extensive palette of shades, black cards will add dark tones to the diverse combination of colors.
- Define the Color Scheme
Thinking through the color palette of the composition also matters. It allows you to justify whether you need to balance the picture with warm/cold tone of the light, or you want to reach an ideal white lighting to emphasize the original color of food. Drawing on this, you can modify the light you have to build a harmonic image of the whole composition.
- Mind the Details
Small details can also have a significant impact on the final look of your shots. For example, if you have some glass objects in a composition, you have to ensure that glares on them look organic and don’t distract the attention from the main object. At the same time, white details put under the main subject will emphasize that the picture was taken in daylight hours. Also, mind that you will definitely make the food look more attractive when complement it with the interior of similar texture and color scheme.
Of course, the dishes, food itself and the overall color tone play the central role in your shot. Along with this, natural lighting is kind of a magical flavor that revives the whole picture, making it look voluminous and expressive. Experiment with adjustments and settings in order to let your food photography be truly alluring.