One of the most popular pieces of advice you’ll regarding photography is lighting. Lighting can make or break your photography and is probably the single most important element when taking pictures. When it comes to food photography you have 2 options: make everything during the day while the sun is up or optimize artificial lighting for the best pictures.
Not everyone is able to use natural lighting for whatever reason. Weather and timing are huge factors for me (dark, cloudy days are pretty common here.) Because of that I chose to optimize the artificial lighting in my kitchen. I bought a lightbox from Amazon but it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. I don’t like working in such a confined space. Also, the lights that came with the kit weren’t bright enough for my needs. In the long run optimizing my kitchen lighting was cheaper and more comfortable for me to work with.
I bought 3 lightbulbs:
I also bought a cheap (like $3.0o) floor lamp for the larger bulb. This allows me to move the light depending on the effect I’m going for and to fill in any unsightly shadows.
These bulbs allow for great, “natural” lighting when going outside isn’t possible. Of course, if you’re able to use natural light do that, but if not this is what works for me. Depending on what I’m shooting and what mood I’m looking for I may not use both sets of lights. The important thing is to play around and do what you’re comfortable with.
Since jumping into the world of DSLR cameras I’ve become just a little obsessed with cramming as much knowledge on the subject in as possible. I spend hours changing settings, switching lenses and taking practice shots. I still have a ton to learn and I’m in no way an expert – these are tips that work for me, but may not work for all.
My main goal this year was to get pictures approved by the photography gods over at TasteSpotting and Foodgawker. I had been submitting pictures to them forever with no luck. Instead of letting all the denials crush my dreams of ever being accepted I decided to take note of the reasons. That’s an awesome thing about these sites, they always tell you why they’re not approving your pictures – even if it’s rather vague sometimes.
As of today I still have way more denials than approvals (20 – 6), but most of those are for the same subject repeatedly (I’m relentless – argh!) I’ll admit, I had no business submitting most of these as the pictures were terrible – but I believe in trying. If I were truly one of the cool cats I would still have these pictures to show you, but I’m so not cool – not yet at least – so I only have a few.
The biggest issue I’ve had has been composition. That’s exactly what it sounds like – what the picture consists of. I was a hardcore cropper – I thought the only thing in the picture should be the food. It never crossed my mind that that could be too overwhelming and not at all inviting. “Here’s a big chunk of food – you can’t tell what it is or what you do with it, but enjoy.” Regardless of how scrumptious the food looks there needs to be more depth in the picture.
My latest denial was my shortbread cookies. The first photo I submitted was – dun, dun, dunnnn, denied! I had cropped it way too much. When I submitted the next it was approved. You can see in the picture that it was just way too much cookie and not enough personality. In the picture that was approved there’s rows and columns of cookies (with a nice blur I must say) and cookie crumbs. The cookies aren’t all up in your face crowding you – they’re set back a bit – inviting you in to take one.
The best tip I can give when it comes to your photo composition is to step away and get some personality in your photo. No one wants food shoved in their face, they need a little distance so their brain can process what it is and how it will taste. Try experimenting with your next food shot. Step back and get a full shot, you can always crop a little just don’t go crazy!