Decor8 Column Food Photography

Mixed Lighting: Edamame Avocado Hummus Toast

For this month’s Decor8 column, I wanted to share a little piece of Melbourne with my readers by sharing a humble yet impressive take on the classic avo on toast. I turned to mixed lighting to pull this one off.

You can read the full post here.

To pull off this simple dish, it was going to come down to how the layers of the ingredients were presented but more importantly how the light was captured (which is really always what it comes down to, but this had to be on point).

When I shoot, I always have my favourite quotes swirling around in my head to help me create something worth looking at. A quote that I live by when I first assess the light before a shoot is something a good friend of mine once said;

The magic happens when you stop shooting objects and start capturing light ~ Bea Labus

If you are ever shooting and feel like something is missing, chances are it is the light. It’s missed the mark.

Recently I have discovered that a lot of my favourite images are shot with mixed light, meaning a mix of natural and artificial light. So as part of my goals this year, I shot this series with a mix of natural light from my North facing window and my Profoto B1.


Two Loves Studio Mixed Lighting Food Photography

Two-Loves-Studio-Edamame-Avocado-Hummus-Toast-Mixed Lighting

Two-Loves-Studio-Edamame-Avocado-Hummus-Toast-Mixed Lighting

Two-Loves-Studio-Edamame-Avocado-Hummus-Toast-Mixed Lighting

Two-Loves-Studio-Edamame-Avocado-Hummus-Toast-Mixed Lighting

Mixed Lighting Food Photography

All of the above images were shot with a mixed lighting. Can you tell where the light is coming from? Can you tell where the artificial v the natural light is coming from? (HINT: Take a look at the shadows).

I wanted to create a bright and airy image, but something that wasn’t too flat, that had depth with the use of shadows. (As I was too focused on getting the shot, I didn’t take an image of my set-up so I’ve done a diagram for you instead). I set up my light source to angle in from the top right hand corner, and the natural light filtered in from top of the shot creating back light.

Two-Loves-Studio-Edamame-Avocado-Hummus-Toast-Mixed Lighting

Two-Loves-Studio-Edamame-Avocado-Hummus-Toast-Mixed Lighting

As you can see the brighter light source was the artificial light as the highlights are directional (from the placement of the artificial light). The shadows are also soft as both light sources are close enough (and powerful enough) to wrap around the objects to create a level of fill.

To me these images really feel like the Bold and Clean style that represents my work, yet the combination of shadows and highlights was something a little different from my usual bright and airy (with no shadows) work.

I know a lot of you have been asking me to do a post on artificial lighting, (and I want it to be super intentional and helpful), so if you are inspired by this post to learn more about lighting, let me know what it is you would like to learn about in the comments!

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  • Reply Jo || The Luminous Kitchen March 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I Love these!!! They are bright and airy, but have so much depth! It looks like the kind of magical lighting that happens on a cloudy day!! ??

    • Reply Rachel March 31, 2016 at 10:15 am

      I love how it compliments each other and that I can be in control of creating that! Thanks Jo.

  • Reply Kristi March 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    This post is really helpful to me, as I haven’t a clue about what I’m doing but am soaking up photography info and inspiration like a sponge! I dig the infographic and would love to see more of them.

    One thing that would be really helpful for me is a primer on how to deal with shadows/excessive highlights in Lightroom, particularly when they are only present in a portion of the picture. I’m sure there are video tutorials I can find, but that’s the sort of thing that would be really awesome to know. Another thing that I’m currently trying to figure out is finding the balance between too little and too much light.

    Thanks for the great post, Rachel!

    • Reply Rachel March 31, 2016 at 10:16 am

      Great, thanks for the insight Kristi. It is always a balancing act. Sounds like you looking to get these skills in post production? Key is to getting it right in camera, but that isn’t always achievable so good to know how to fix a few things should you need to.

  • Reply Helen || Hungry & Fussy March 17, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    I love that lighting quote. So true yet takes a while to master and have confidence in your own ability and judgement. Practice, practice, practice!I’m on a steep learning curve.

    • Reply Rachel March 31, 2016 at 10:17 am

      It is practice for sure. Trial and error. I guess the key is to play with no expectations in the beginning and just letting what will unfold undfold.

  • Reply Marisa Franca @ All Our Way March 18, 2016 at 12:10 am

    You have helped me a lot!! You see, I thought you had to go either/or. Everyone screams natural light! But for me it is impossible at times. I purchased a Lowell EGO table light but I haven’t used it yet. You’ve excited me so much because now I can see how I can utilize some of the natural light plus augment it with the EGO light. It will be great experimenting. Thank you for the tips!

    • Reply Rachel March 31, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Natural light is amazing, truly and the first port of call for photographers is to master it. But there will come a time when you want to create something new and challenging and artificial light is good too! Just play, find your style and create beauty.

  • Reply Susan March 24, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Interesting new development Rachel. I find lighting the most challenging aspect of food photography. It seems so easy, but combining light with the right camera settings is no easy task! How to hit that sweet spot between under and over-exposed; how to make food look natural yet bright and appealing… I reckon you could write a book on that topic alone!

    • Reply Rachel March 31, 2016 at 10:21 am

      It becomes easier, but at first can seam daunting. Every time you practise is a step closer to mastery.

  • Reply Lynnette April 9, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Such a great post. I have had trouble in the past with the lighting (not being balanced and exposed all around) and it is nice to see a way to bring in artificial lighting to give it more depth. Love the info on the photos to show the difference. 🙂

    • Reply Rachel April 12, 2016 at 10:35 am

      Hey Lynette, glad you lied the post. Mixed lighting can be a b*tch sometimes for sure. I shot a cafe last night for Broadsheet and it was in evening fading light, so I had to deal with natural light, plus artificial store lighting and neon signs! It was all kinds of white balance nightmares. A good mix of natural window and artificial from my B1 Profoto is actually easier than you’d imagine. I’ve been doing some behind the scenes shots to share, so hopefully I get better at that for my readers enjoyment!

  • Reply In the kitchen – Edamame and Avocado Hummus with Pistachio Dukkah – my yellow jumper May 1, 2016 at 7:58 am

    […] lunch style recipe.  It is a slightly adapted recipe, with my own pistachio dukkah by Rachel from Two Loves Studio who writes a monthly column for one of my all time favourite blogs decor8.  I adore Rachel’s […]

  • Reply Anna Dunleavy May 17, 2016 at 12:52 am

    This really was helpful, thanks for your post!

    • Reply Rachel May 18, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      You’re so very welcome Anna. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply jupiter June 10, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Nice food photography, We provide best quality photo editing, background remove, retouching, service at a very low cost.

  • Reply alma September 23, 2016 at 4:53 am

    2000? fr the aritficial light?????? wow…. any other suggestions for people who do not have the money to spend on a 2000 light?

    • Reply Rachel September 28, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Yes I know. I understand this isn’t achievable for everyone, but here at TLS I am teaching about my journey and the gear that I use as well as more affordable techniques. Always love to help where I can! Are you just looking for general advice for artificial lighting, or what you are wanting to achieve?

  • Reply Katherine September 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Rachel

    I came across this article as I was just researching artificial light. I tend to do my cooking at night and my photography in the morning to use the natural light coming in from my window. But I would love to learn how to use artificial light because after cooking I just want to photograph it straight away and I can’t wait until the morning. It’s much more convenient. But my kitchen light is so dim and yellow so I was wondering if you’ll be doing an article soon about what type of light on a budget would be suitable and how to set it up. I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars because I’d rather use the money to cook the food and feed the kids! Haha.

    • Reply Rachel September 7, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Hey Katherine! Yes artificial light certainly has its upsides, but it can be costly. The light I use isn’t cheap. But it’s good to start within your budget and certainly, spend more money on food 🙂 I am still learning on my journey with artificial light but hope to share more when I have had more time to explore and grow.

  • Reply Sui October 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    What time of the day you took this image? Was it outdoor or indoor, meaning, near window?
    Also, for background, what white board or table top is used to keep food platter? Can you pls share the link to it?
    I have a Nikon D5300 and 50mm 1.8G lens. With that, can I shoot such airy images?

    • Reply Rachel October 2, 2017 at 11:05 pm

      Hey Sui! The purpose of this post is to share that I was using mixed lighting here so artificial light played a large role here. The ambient light would have been from a window, but also from a strobe. The background is a whiteboard that I painted. Shooting bright and airy images is more about how you capture light and the settings that you use. This camera and lens combo will definitely allow you to capture such an image, but it will come down to how you manipulate light and the settings you use 🙂

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