Two ways to use natural light for food photography


Two ways to use natural light for food photography

(And a great exercise in studying one subject in depth).

A very simple subject - pak choi - photographed and lit very differently, both with just the available light from a window.

It's a great exercise in itself to get one ingredient and photograph it in a number of different ways. No getting distracted and confused by props, but instead experimenting and learning about the light. And the result can be some stunning images that celebrate that particular ingredient. Its structure, textures, shapes and colour. How does it affect the image when you shoot it on different backdrops and in different light? From varying angles?

I have two favourite ways to use natural light for my food photography:

  1. With sidelight. I am facing my food photography table and the window is to the right or to the left of me. Sidelight gives beautiful, natural results as there's light on one side of the subject and shadow on the other. The light reveals the textures and the shadows provide contrast and a little drama. Sidelight is best for taller subjects - burgers, taller cakes, anything where being able to see the front side of the food is important.
  2. With backlight. I have moved my food photography table so that it is in front of the window and I am facing the window. The food is lit from the back. The shadows are at the front, near me. This works really well for flatter dishes e.g. plated on lower dishes and plates or boards. Backlight reveals and highlights the textures on the top of the food. It tends to feel more dramatic and contrasty than sidelight. Be aware that any taller objects can have dark shadows on the front of them. You can use a piece of white card to bounce light back on to them and / or brighten when you edit.

Backlighting is one of my favourite ways to light a food shot, especially where there are beautiful textures or glossy, shiny ingredients. You can see how the light has fallen on the olive oil and made it 'come alive'.

If you've found this post interesting and useful please let me know in the comments. And if you have any questions just get in touch. I run food styling and photography workshops and offer bespoke lessons for individuals and groups.

I am an affiliate for Black Velvet Styling - the supplier of my photography backdrops. If you use this link to purchase I get a little commission :-). 

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