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Guide to light for food photography

Light for food photography plays a part in highlighting not only the deliciousness and freshness of the food but also the texture. And you can achieve different effects with various setups. In this article, we will go through some basics. Read on if you want to shoot food images that can arouse people’s appetites.

COLBOR CL220 LED light for food photography is mounted on the light stand and used with a reflector.

Why artificial light outperforms natural light for food photography: 4 benefits to explain

Compared with natural sunshine, using artificial light for food photography provides the following benefits.

Consistency: Artificial light is significantly more consistent than dealing with shifting natural light. This might be useful when working with various customers that want your unique style, or just speeding up your job by choosing a setup you enjoy.

Control over lighting: The ability to accurately dial in the direction, amount, and quality of light is critical for many types of photography. Not to mention the creative freedom that comes with being able to manipulate the light color, direction, and softness.

Simplify Editing: Editing food images has become considerably more pleasurable as a result of this consistency. You may effortlessly copy and paste your adjustments from one photo to the next, with very few further edits.

Not limited by time & weather: Instead of waiting for the best time to make use of the optimal natural light, you can use studio lighting for food photography to film food images whenever and wherever you want. You may even capture process images one day and final shots the next, knowing that the lighting will be the same.

Light setup for food photography: 3 commonly used types

There are three common setups used by food photographers. Below we will tell what type of food photography they are suitable for and how to set them up. If you are filming cooking videos, you can check the article How to set up lights for cooking videos? to get more lighting ideas.

Side lighting: Draw attention to the food and suit most food photography

This is when the light for food photography enters the scene from beside the food. It is simple to use and works with most setups.

Working with a softbox next to your table is a standard side lighting setup. The light will be softer the larger the light source. This adds depth to an image and is a popular look in food photography.

Place a bounce card or a reflector on the opposite side. Experiment with the distance to create an ideal amount of shadow on the food. Or you can use different sizes of reflectors for different shadow. Keep in mind that even when photographing white and breezy images, some shadow is required to provide depth.

Back lighting: Ideal setup for shooting soups or beverage

This is created by positioning light source behind the food. It is an ideal setup for soups or beverage. It can add gloss and draw attention to the liquid characteristics.

Follow the following steps to shoot backlit images:

  • Place the light behind the food. Use a working table that is large enough to place bounce cards and reflectors.
  • Put a diffuser in between your table and the source of light. By balancing the light between the front and the rear of your setup, your images will not appear as "blown out" in the back.
  • A reflector should be placed on either side of your scene. You'll need to experiment with the placement. The reflector should catch the backlight coming from the meal and reflect it back onto the front and side. You could just need one reflector, depending on the subject and composition.

Side backlighting: Combination of above two setups and is simple to work with

Place the light for food photography between 10:00 and 11:00 to get side backlighting. And the reflector is placed on the opposite side. It gives backlight surface illumination without risking overexposure. It also reduces the need of reflecting much illumination on the front of the food. But it requires you to experiment with the height of the light to manage shadows. The closer it is to the scene, the softer the fall-off.

What lighting equipment for food photography to use?

According to the aforementioned setups, you should know that it is not feasible to use only one light for food photography. Here are some equipment you need.

Continuous light for food photography: This is recommended for food photography novices. It allows you to see what the lighting will be before pressing the shutter. You can adjust the placement, height, and angle freely to ensure the best final shots. The COLBOR CL220 is an LED constant light for food photography with a price under $300. The color temperature is adjustable from 2700K to 6500K and the brightness from 0 to 100%. It features 96+ CRI to accurately reveal the food color. It creates 28dB low noise, making it also suitable for food videos.

Softbox: This connects to your light for food photography to soften and disperse it. A 48’’ softbox is recommended since it is about the size of a big window. This will allow you to uniformly illuminate the entire food setup while also giving it a natural appearance. Make sure the softbox you choose comes with a Bowens mount for simply clipping it on the fixture.

Diffuser: Light diffuser for food photography spreads or diffuses light more evenly onto the food. It is positioned between the food and light source.

Reflector: It redirects light from the source to the food. This is referred to as fill light. Reflectors are normally located on the opposite side of the light source. Any reflecting surface, from white foam boards to metallic surfaces or reflective metal, can be employed.

Light Stand: To support the size of a huge softbox, you'll also need a tall light stand. It gives you the flexibility to adjust the height to achieve different setups.

More tips on using light for food photography

Diffuse the light: When you use a strobe, you get a bright light burst. Even if you use a softbox, you may need to apply additional diffusion to soften the light even further.

Turn off ambient lights: This is critical if you are photographing with a continuous light source. Color temperatures exist in indoor lighting. They can also taint your photographs with unsightly color casts. These will be extremely tough to correct in post-production.

Shoot in large space: When shooting with artificial light, you need a lot of space for your light, as well as a diffuser and many reflectors or bounce cards.

Avoid shine: Artificial light does not fade as rapidly as natural light. The light has a tendency to grab even the smallest shine on shooting surfaces, especially when employing backlighting. For sparkling props, experiment with their location, or utilize older things with a patina.

Use dark elements: Use darker surfaces and pictures that are on the histogram's mid or dark side. When employing one-light setups, they are easier to deal with.

Avoid white: If you're a newbie, avoid photographing white surfaces or photographs with a lot of white. First, understand how the height and distance of your light affect the final effect. There will be certain locations that do not receive enough illumination. As a result, your image will seem grey. Attempting to change this while editing may result in improperly exposed food.