Lighting hacks for food photography


Two cracking tips for food photography lighting, using kitchen kit

Broccoli header.jpeg

Today is international food photography day, something that we've supported on Photocritic for quite a few years. In fact, if you search our archives you'll notice that we've written rather a lot about food photography. It probably comes from being people who love both food and photography.

This year, we'd thought we'd share two useful lighting hacks with you, to help capture your dinner with the splendour it deserves.

Light is always critical, it doesn't matter what you're photographing. But getting it right for food photography can make the difference between a photo of an unpalatable, unappetising pile of goo and an image that sets your tastebuds tingling. 

 Making meatloaf look tasty required some good lighting. (If you want the recipe, it's  here !)

Making meatloaf look tasty required some good lighting. (If you want the recipe, it's here!)

The standard rule for food photography is to use natural light: position your dishes close to a window and let it work its magic. But that isn't always possible, practical, or sufficient. And if you're not in possession of a softbox, what are your options? Help is much closer to hand than you might think, and costs pennies.

 Outdoors meant perfect light for freshly laid eggs

Outdoors meant perfect light for freshly laid eggs

Tin foil

When you need to bounce some light back onto your scene and fill in some shadows, you need a reflector. If you've not a reflector to hand, wrap a length of common-or-kitchen tin foil around some card cut from a cereal box and use it just as you would something you bought from Adorama or Calumet for considerably more. There you have it: bounced light and filled shadows.

Kitchen roll

An umbrella is ideal for softening light from a flash, but when you don't have one, there's no need to despair. A sheet or so of kitchen roll will act as a diffuser and ensure that artificial light doesn't cast dark shadows or reflect unpleasantly off of steaks and plates. 

There, it's easy when you know how!