How to Set-Up Food Photography Lighting

One of the most important aspects of great food photography is lighting. The type, amount and quality of lighting all make a difference when it comes to producing a great photograph of food or drink. Here is how to setup your lighting appropriately for your food photo shoot.

Step 1 - Select the Type of Lighting

The first thing you need to do is decide on the type of lighting you will use during the photo shoot. There are many reasons to choose a natural light. First, it tends to look softer around your subject (food), and second, it gives you an ability to setup for your photo shoot in no time. Sometimes time is of the essence. Sometimes you may be taking a picture of plated food that is awaiting a guest or a table service. So you need to move and think fast for your photograph shoot.

Step 2 - Shoot in the Afternoon

If you have taken the advice to shoot with natural light, you will want to take your food photographs at a time of day when the light is the most flattering for your food. This generally occurs in the afternoon, when the sun is not the brightest but slowly starting to set.

Step 3 - Get the Food to the Light

When ready, move the food to the light. This means, you may need to place the food by a window, or in an area that gets a lot of indirect light. If you have a compass handy, place the food with a southern or western exposure.

Step 4 -Experiment

It may take you some time to come up with the lighting that works best for your food photography shoots. In order to develop that perfect setup methodology or process, you may need to spend some time experimenting. If you have the ability, try to experiment taking photographs of the food at different times of day. Also consider alternating or moving the food from one location or one room to the other.

Step 5 - Setup Artificial Light

If you have determined that natural light is not going to work for your situation because you are not in a location that produces enough light for your photographs to come out looking great, then you will have no choice but to setup an alternative artificial light scenario that should include one or all of the following:

  • A very white light (such as halogen)
  • An umbrella light
  • A soft box light

Decide which of the three lighting options you wish to use and start to take your photographs indoors. You can easily alternate between the three different options provided above.

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