I am super pumped to have my partner in crime and Gold Coast food photographer, Jo Anderson from the Luminous Kitchen on the blog for this guest post.
Jo's been creating some amazing images with incredible lighting, and she's here today to share her humble set up with you guys.
Get ready because her lighting is phenomenal! You'll love it.
Have you ever gone to do a food shoot only to find no matter how delicious the food looks or how well you’ve styled the set, it just doesn’t work?
Chances are your food photography lighting is letting you down.
I believe food photography lighting to be singlehandedly the most important component to creating beautiful food photographs. It’s the way you use light in your images that can really define your signature style.
In the beginning it took me a while to really understand light because I was so taken with using props to create a food story. I completely overlooked the impact that light can have on an image and the emotions I was trying to convey.
Then the penny dropped! I began to study light and I noticed how it changed in colour, direction and intensity not only during the course of the day, but across the different seasons as well. Slowly my images began to improve and I started to really understand how light behaves and how it can be tamed and sculpted.
If you’ve been trying out different food photography lighting techniques for a while you’ll know that not all light is created equal.
When we built our house I made sure I put a south facing window into the garage which I use as a “studio” because although it is blue toned shaded light for most of the year, it is always indirect. All I need to do is diffuse it with some netting material and it works as a really good “I don’t have to think about it” set up.
My favourite light to work with however is the soft, glowing light that comes from really diffusing hard direct sunlight.
I was so excited when we moved in and I realised that I have a 2 hour gap in the morning when the direct morning light hits the frosted glass of our back door and creates some spectacular glowing light. Again in the afternoon it appears when it hits the frosted glass on our front door. So I constantly move around the house and shoot wherever the light is best.
4 Must Haves For Beautiful Natural Food Photography Lighting
You too can create this beautiful, soft and glowing light you see in my images with just 4 simple things:
1. Window through which direct sunlight shines
2. Muslin Cloth or Baking Paper to diffuse the light
3. White Foam Core to reflect the light
4. Black Foam Core to create depth in your shadows
1. Window With Direct Sunlight
In order to create soft and glowing light you need to have a window through which direct sunlight shines. When the direct light shines through the window it’ll create strongly defined shadows. To tackle this and create the beautiful soft, glowing food photography lighting you will want to diffuse the light.
2. Muslin Cloth or Baking Paper to diffuse the light
To diffuse the light I tape baking paper to the glass or use clamps to secure some thin muslin material across the window. These will both cause the light to be scattered as it shines through and you will have soft beautiful light to work with.
3. White Foam Core Reflector
You might find that you still need to use a reflector to bounce some light back onto the set. Now the shadows in the image will be really soft and feathered, the highlights will be light and bright but not blown out. All you need is a bit of white foam core which you can pick up for a couple of dollars at your local craft or stationery store.
4. Black Foam Core for Negative Fill
If you find you want to add more contrast and depth of shadows to an image using glowing light just use black foam core. The black board (which you can pick from any craft shop) will absorb light and take some light away from the set enhancing the shadows.
You can see the difference negative fill makes when you compare the two shots below.
Look at the difference between the 2 mandarin shots where I used the black fill and where I just used the reflector. The two images tell very different stories.
Bright Light Can Decrease The Saturation of Your Subject.
One thing to note when using this type of light is that the colours of the food can get washed out with strong directional light. In order to really make the image pop I always bump up the vibrancy of the colours and increase the clarity slightly in Lightroom during post processing.
If you don’t have a window in your house that gets direct sunlight don’t fret you can still create a bright image. Using indirect light with a reflector to add and bounce light back onto your set and use your camera settings to make sure you are getting a really good exposure.
Who else loves this soft, glowing light?
I hope you guys found this helpful! Please leave me a comment below.
Jo Anderson is a food stylist, photography, passionate foodie and creator of The Luminous Kitchen.
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa , she now resides on the Gold Coast. After many years working as a cook on yachts around the world, Jo's styling and photography talents are sought after for ebooks, cookbooks and recipe apps. Jo is passionate about teaching all that she has learned along her jounrye and helping others develop faith of their own foodie talents. Something she focuses on in her in-person workshops and online food photogrpahy courses.
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