I wanted to take a break from writing stories and recipes to discuss using light in food photography. I decided to write this post to all those beginning food photographers who are struggling with light. It is only a few things, but I think it will help improve your photography.
The great thing about food photography is that the light you need to make great food photos is free, no equipment necessary. It’s sunlight coming through a window.
That’s all fine and good but there’s more to it than that. It took awhile for me to figure out the nuances so I want to pass them on to you.
Find the Best Natural Light Spots in Your Home
This may take awhile or no time at all. My kitchen window is north/south facing and is double pane so it filters out UV light. During the day, I can get some good light.
Towards the evening, as the sky darkens, it’s a difficult spot to use. I do like using my kitchen because that’s where I’m cooking etc. so I use the kitchen as much as I can. The best times are late spring/early fall, summer and on the weekends when I’m off all day.
My garage and laundry room face west so they get the best light towards the evening. They are single pane though so the light is much harsher.
As you can see, it’s important to experiment to figure out where the best natural light spot is in your home based on the time of day, weather, and just personal preference.
Be Close to the Light
When I first started taking food photography seriously, I used my dining room table. The large window next to it was north/south facing. I took photos like this:
This is a fine photo but there are issues that you can’t see that I’m going to explain.
1) The table was too far away from the window. This required that it really be sunny outside to get the best light. When you look for a spot, make sure it’s close to the sunlight.
2) If you are too far away from the window, the light becomes fickle. You either have to wait for the light to shine brightly or fix it through editing which can cause it’s own problems (e.g. too much noise).
Boost the Light by Using a White Background
I admit until last winter, I had an ugly, olive green, formica countertop in my kitchen. In order to hide this blemish, I used a white cloth to cover it up. The white cloth also served a second purpose – bouncing the sunlight off the countertop to create more light.
Now my countertop is this beautiful gray quartz, which is aesthetically pleasing but not ideal for bouncing sunlight off of it.
In order to boost the light, I go back to my white cloth again or use parchment paper which is nice because I can throw it away afterwards if I make a mess.
These are just a few things I picked up that I hope can help you take better food photographs. Have a great week!