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One of the biggest challenges with shooting natural light is that it is ever-changing. If you need to redo a shoot or continue a shoot another day and the natural light is completely different, how do you go about recreating the light you had before?
As I am sure you are aware, artificial lighting is a huge and kinda complex topic, (like seriously!) There are so many options out there and things to consider, like budget, storage, set up, power and accessories, the list goes on.
In my camera bag, I carry around a Nikon SB 910 Speedlight. It’s a really small unit that I can use remotely as a lighting source, that isn’t too expensive or bulky to carry around. Primarily I take it with me as a backup when I am shooting restaurants and cafes for example. I have, however, recently discovered that the Nikon SB 910 Speedlight has been discontinued, its replacement is the Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight.
In this post, I wanted to share how I recreated a moody natural food photography lighting set-up using my Speedlight.
I am going to chat you through:
The set-up I used to create moody light using natural light (at home) The gear I used to recreate moody artificial light The set-up I used to recreate moody artificial light Things to consider when playing around with your set up
Can you guess which one is natural light and which one is artificial light?
How’d you go? Did you guess it correctly? Let me know!
Create Directional Moody Natural Light at Home
Directional Light simply refers to lighting that appears in an image as coming from a certain direction and light light source. The shadows will emphasise where the light is coming from.
GEAR I USED:
I have a large North-facing window that spans edge to edge across my living room. Accompanied with white walls, the space is very bright and airy.
To capture moody, directional light for a shoot I’d had to block some of the light streaming through the windows. I did this using large black foam core to block out 2/3 of the light.
Cutting out 2/3 of the natural light
I used negative fill (black foam core) to block out the left most 1/3 of the window, and the right most 1/3 of the window. This allowed the remaining 1/3 of the window in the middle, (directly behind my subject) to let light onto my set. Here I am essentially cutting out 2/3 of the light.
Using Negative Fill to reduce light reflection
I set up a black fill card on the edges of my set (the table in which the subject is on) to cut out any light bouncing off the white walls and filling in my shadows.
My subject was roughly between 1-2m from the light source, (close edge was 1m away, far edge was 2m away).
Replicate Moody Natural Food Photography Lighting With a Speedlight
Once I had captured a shot that I liked with natural light, I then used my Speedlight, (Nikon SB910 as the only light source), to recreate the same lighting.
GEAR I USED:
Black Foam Core (for negative fill)
Circular MultiDisk Reflector/Diffuser (to diffuse the light from the Speedlight)
PocketWizard Transceiver (to remotely control the Speedlight)
I placed the Speed Light in the same spot as the natural light was coming from. At the same height as the window, (around 1.5m above the floor) and the same angle, (straight on).
I placed a diffuser straight on, half way in between the light source and my subject.
The same negative fill card placed in the roughly the same place to cut the bounce of the light off the white walls.
Food Photography Lighting with a Speedlight– Things to Know
I played around with 50 shots, changing the height and angle of the Speedlight to my subject, the distance and angle of the diffuser.
This changed the:
Direction of the shadows
Intensity of the shadows
Type of light
The Height and Angle of Your Speedlight Will Change the Results
As the Speedlight is now your light source, the direction of where the light is coming from will change the results of your lighting. Distance is also a factor to consider however you can change the intensity of the unit’s flash.
Placing the Speedlight on the floor will give you a different result, than if you placed the unit at the height of your window.
Angling the Speedlight towards the subject will simulate as if your light was essentially coming from above, creating ‘less defined’ shadows.
Angling the Speedlight at a diagonal to the subject will change the direction of the shadows.
Just compare the images below.
In the image on the left the Speedlight was pointing straight on, (or parallel to the subject) to simulate the way the light would come through the window.
In the image on the right the Speedight was angled down towards the subject.
All other factors were constant. See the difference in the light and in the shadows?
The Distance and Angle of Your Diffuser Will Change the Results
When you use a diffuser, it essentially acts as your light source. The size, the distance and angle from your subject will change the results of your lighting.
The closer the diffuser to the subject, the softer the light will appear, and your shadows will be ‘less defined’.
The closer the diffuser to the light source, the harder the light will appear, and your shadows will be ‘more defined’.
If you angle your diffuser towards your subject, you are essentially mimicking a light source from above, resulting in a flat image.
Just compare the images below.
In the image on the left the diffuser was straight on, (or perpendicular to the table the subject was on), and close to the Speedlight.
In the image on the right the diffuser was angled down towards the subject, (essentially acting like the light source pointing down), and remained close to the Speedlight.
All other factors were constant. See the difference in the hardness of the light and in the shadows, (or lack of shadows)?
I’d love to hear that was the biggest take-away for you in this post. Please share with me below!
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