Food Photography in Natural Light (by Jojo Baccam)
Updated: Apr 8
Local photographer, designer and blogger, Jojo Baccam joins us this week in showing us how she photographs food in natural light. Gear: Nikon D750 + Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4.
Written + Photographed by Jojo Baccam
Using Natural Light
Typically, if I am shooting food photography I will use natural light, but if there’s a project that requires artificial lighting (like when I’m shooting past daylight hours), I will rent my gear (studio light boxes, etc.).
Today I will be using a reflector, a tripod, and my Nikon D750 with my Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Since I am using what I already have around my house (thanks, social distancing!). The “reflector” I have is a large white envelope which should be adequate enough to bounce the natural light from my window onto the other side of my subject for a nice, even light.
I am shooting at f2.8; 1/50; ISO 400. Image A (left) is what it looked like before the reflector was used. Notice that the subject has more contrast and has darker shadows on the left. Image B (right) is the result after the reflector was added. This image has less shadows with nice, even light. I personally like my images to look as natural as possible so I prefer not to introduce any light modifiers to my images but sometimes it’s necessary (and it can be fun)!
Different techniques can be used to create moodier images. To achieve this, you can use a negative fill, a darker background, and allow only enough light to hit the subject so that the rest of the background is in shadow. In this example, I am shooting at f/2; 1/250; ISO 800. I’ve set it up using black storage container lids as my negative fills and background so that my onion and garlic were boxed in a makeshift dark corner. Using my trusty envelope as a reflector, I directed my light source so that it only hit the onion and garlic.
After shooting, I’ll typically use Photoshop and Lightroom to brighten things up a bit more or to increase the saturation.
Specifications from Each Shoot:
Here are some tips I have for shooting food photos at home!:
Collect cutting boards, large tiles, textured wood, or fabric – you can find a lot thrifting for these items. It’s also like a fun treasure hunt!
Or, utilize props that you already have! Get creative with seasonings, fresh produce, herbs, baking sheets, and strategically placed crumbs
Use foam core (or what you may have around the house, in my case that large white envelope) ○ Black: for background or moody shadows, “negative fill” can add dimension and contrast by cutting, absorbing, and blocking light. ○ White: use as a reflector to bounce light and add some brightness to your shot
Use natural light from windows, your front porch, your backyard, etc. I will admit that I sometimes carry food to the living room where I know the light may be best, ha!
Utilize your tools and get help if needed. Things like stools can be great for flat lays or overhead shots.
Use diffusers to soften your light source, tripods are great for a steady shot to eliminate blurring, or ask someone to assist!
Stylize! Spillage, crumbs, and grains are all great and natural. Just make sure you use props that make sense. For example, use props that you know are the ingredients for the particular dish you’re shooting.
Envision the composition. Follow the rule of thirds, use planes in the set up, or leading lines.
Use photo editing software, game-changing results, of course!
Study from your favorite magazines or books. Practice and have patience!! ○ Images can take a couple of hours to style. This is crucial and should not be rushed
Last, but not least, remember to have fun (especially since you get to munch on all these delicious meals too)!
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