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Why and how to get artificial lighting for food photography?

Using artificial lighting for food photography gives you control, consistency, and flexibility, which is not available when you work with the sunlight. Artificial lighting is essential for food photography, especially if you capture photos in the winter or at night, live in a gloomy or wet area, or live somewhere with few windows. In this article, we will break down the following aspects to help you better master it in food photography.

  • What are the advantages of artificial lighting over natural light when it comes to food photography?
  • How to choose the suitable lighting equipment?
  • How to use article lighting for food photography?
  • More tips to pay attention to for better outputs.

COLBOR CL220 offers artificial lighting for food photography and other types.

Food photography artificial vs natural light: Why artificial lighting is better?

Artificial light offers several advantages over natural light for food photography:

Control: Food photographers have full control over the intensity, color temperature, and direction of artificial lighting. This allows them to create a regulated and consistent lighting setup, which leads to predictable and repeatable results.

Stability & extended shooting time: Photographers have full control over the intensity, Natural light can change during the day based on the weather, cloud cover, and the location of the sun. Artificial light, on the other hand, is consistent, allowing food photographers to shoot at any time and under regular lighting conditions.

Flexibility: Artificial lighting settings may be adjusted to fit the specific demands of the cuisine being photographed. Photographers can use a variety of lighting, modifiers, and methods to enhance textures, highlight details, and create desired moods.

Consistency: Artificial light is easily duplicated in shots, guaranteeing uniformity across a collection of photographs or for commercial use. This is especially important for food photography used in advertising or packaging, as uniformity is required.

Less editing: The aforementioned consistency makes editing food photos much more enjoyable. You can simply copy and paste the edits from one image to the next one since the consistency avoids lots of extra edits.

How to choose artificial lighting equipment for food photography?

There are two types of artificial lighting for food photography: continuous and strobe. We'll concentrate on continuous light because it's the most close to natural lighting. It implies that you'll have a light on constantly during the shot. An artificial continuous light system allows you to have more control over the quality and direction of light.

There are various types of continuous light sources, and LED type is a good choice for food photography. It is available in many sizes and budgets. When making the purchase, you should take into account of the following specifications:

  • Daylight balanced color temperature: This gives a more natural look. Or you can go to the bi-color one, which allows you to adjust it to daylight color temperature for a natural output or swift from warm to cool lighting to create different moods.
  • Brightness: It is advised to get an artificial light that is bright enough to illuminate the food and the scene.
  • CRI of 90+: This is an indicator of quality and how effectively the light will capture the genuine color of the food being photographed.

COLBOR CL220 is one of the go-to options. It is an LED constant light for photography at 220W power output. When used with the supplied reflector, it offers 52,700lux of 5500K lighting at 1m. Its color temperature ranges from 2700K to 6500K. The 97+ CRI ensures it reproduces the food color similarly to that under sunshine. It also comes with Bowens mount and NATO grooves to attach lighting and photography gears, offering much flexibility for shaping and directing the illumination.

How to photograph food with artificial light: 2 common lighting techniques

Back and side lighting are two common techniques to use artificial lighting for food photography. They are suitable for specific types of food images. In this part, we will tell you how to achieve them and offer some tips to pay attention to.

Back lighting: A good choice for capturing shiny food

Backlighting in food photography is an excellent approach to accentuate the specular highlight on the surface of sparkling food.

To backlight, position the softbox behind the food, higher up above your set, and angled downward somewhat, so you don't wind up with a silhouette of your food. Adjust the angle to avoid the fixture appear in the frame.

In this setup, a silver or white reflector is a must since the front of the food is fully removed from the light source. This will overexpose the back of the scene if you use the camera settings to expose the front side of the food, giving your backlit images a bad "blown out" effect.

To avoid this, position the reflector at the front and point it toward the front of the food scene, allowing the light to bounce onto the food. If you have a backup light stand with a reflector arm, it will assist you keep your reflector in the proper position while taking the shot.

Side lighting: Best artificial lighting for food photography in almost any scenarios

Side lighting is a good all-rounder. It applies to almost any scenario, making it a valuable lighting technique to master.

To achieve this technique, position the light on a slight diagonal to the food. This will give the shadows some direction. Lift the fixture higher above the set and slightly angle it downwards onto the set.

When setting up the scene, experiment with the lighting direction. The angle of the shadows in a slide-lit scene has a significant influence on the final image. For a top-down shot, you may want the fixture higher up and point down on your scene, whereas for a straight-on shot, you may want the light a little lower to allow you to give your shadows greater length and direction.

Place a reflector exactly opposite the light to help fill in the shadows and create a light, brilliant appearance. If you prefer a darker, moodier image with plenty of contrast on your food, you may remove the reflector or add a black fill card to absorb more light and highlight the shadows.

More tips for capturing better food images

Before capturing food photos, turn off any other overhead lights. Even if it's in the next room, the gentle warm glow might have an impact on your photographs.

Do not photograph near another window since the light will impact your scene.

Do some test shots. Try out your new setup with some cupcakes you picked up from the grocery store. Experiment with the distance of artificial lighting for food photography from your scene, as well as its height and tilt. Recalling the natural light's placement, however, is likely to produce the greatest outcomes.

Be mindful of your shadows, since they can be somewhat darker than usual. A large whiteboard should be placed across from your light source if you still want the room to appear light and airy. This will make the gloomy shadows seem less intense.