Simple (Yet Beautiful) Artificial Light for Food Photography

Simple (Yet Beautiful) Artificial Light for Food Photography

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In this tutorial, I'm going to share with you my go-to artificial lighting set up to recreate natural light for food photography. Hey there, my name is Rachel Korinek professional food photographer from to Love's studio. So today I want to share my secret setup that I use to create different moods within my food stories. Just like these two images, we're going to be shooting.

Now bundt cakes are waiting for us. So let's start shooting. I worked on my artificial light for years, and there were two things that really stood in my way.

The first thing was that I wanted to create a simple setup because I always lived in really small places and I wanted to have a small amount of equipment. So how was I going to recreate naturally? In a small space with minimal gear. The second thing was that the way my brain works is I found it particularly hard to set up a sane and try to recreate natural light if it was coming from a different direction, if it was a different size. So my solution was to create the artificial light in the window, using a really simple setup coming from the same direction, mimicking the same appearance.

Being in a small space. I didn't always have the space to set up a large modifier, large enough to recreate the soft window light. The second thing for me is I found it really easy to shoot natural. Put up my setup, shoot artificial, make modifications so that it could look like window light. So today I want to share the results of my experiment to be able to set up that small setup in a window to save myself on space, but to also be able to recreate natural light in the same direction and the same. Size.

So I want to walk you through just the gear that I use. If you don't have the same gear that I have, this works with different lighting stands. It also works with different strobes or. One thing I really love about this setup is we are already using something that a lot of us have for natural light anyway, which is a large diffuser here.

So this is a four by six foot diffuser. It just fits really nicely in a window. If we take a look at the size of it too, in comparison to our window. If we look at these two windows here, it is about the same size.

So that's going to help us get that really soft, beautiful, natural light. Look that you get with a larger ones. The second piece of equipment that I really love, especially for small spaces. Now, when I first got this, I thought, oh my gosh, it's, it's way bigger than I thought it's not going to work for small spaces. However, what is really cool about it is if I do have like this really small part here that can go between the window is I can actually change the boom.

I can make it go out and I can change it to go down and up. So this is really going to help with a small space. That way I'm not going to have to have my table too far away from the light. I can push everything up towards the window and have more space over here for the rest of my props to be able to move around and compose a scene.

So that is why I really love the boom stand as well. I can also pop the boom stand away really nicely. If you want to just use that sort of like a regular stand word of warning. If you are going to be used at booster. This actually comes with a sandbag, so you just need to fill it up, but you're going to be able to attach this to the back of the boom stand.

So it's going to counterweight your light and then you can have it at any angle that really works for your photos. And you don't have to worry about it falling over or breaking. Today, we're going to be shooting with my neo-cons ed six. I have an 85 mm on it.

We're going to be doing a very simple composition. So I want us to really focus on, instead of like so many props and really pretty things. I want us to, just to focus on the simple changes in light that we're going to be making today. We're also going to be tethering to capture one. So you'll be able to see as the images come through the changes in the light.

So firstly, I'm going to get the burn stand set up. And I'm just going to put it in a sort of generic position, thinking about how high does my natural light usually come through the window is a really good starting point. So I'm going to try and think about something. In the lower half of the diffuser. So to the middle of the diffuser and between the table is really optimally where I want to position the light to start with, to start playing, uh, with how this is going to look for soft blight.

Always put your sand back on fast. Definitely had moments where I've not done that, and this is not good. So I like to shoot with pro photo and I have this really compact Profoto B 10, which is really great for small spaces as well. And I'm simply going to just attach it to the end of the boom stand.

And I want to have the light facing the diffuse. So I might get Mr. Cameraman just to come over. So when he can look at the food, just to see where the light is in comparison to the fruit and how big sort of the window and the diffuser again. Something to keep in mind is that this lighting that you see is for the video.

So it looks very, very bright in here. So what we're going to do first is we're going to take a shot so that you can see that we are killing all the ambient light in here. So it is a great reminder.

If you are shooting with lots of light in your room, Is there a two things you want to take a shot to make sure you're killing ambient light. The other thing is, if you're new to this, you might want to use blackout blinds so you can see what the light is doing on your scene. We're going to see what it does by looking at the final shot on the screen to make sure that we're killing ambient light. I have turned the trigger to the light off. So I'm going to just take a photo. And if we come over and look.

We can see that there is a tiny little bit of ambient lights. So I might just change my settings just to reduce ISO, just to reduce that even further, if you're not familiar with what killing ambient means, what it means is that our camera settings are set so that if we're not using a flat. We are getting no ambient light in our photos.

Our photos should really be black. So that is how we know that we're not mixing natural light and artificial that anything we take the light is only going to be coming from our artificial source. So let's turn on the trigger. I have the lights set up. So if we take a shot, now we can see that we are getting light from our flash.

Now I envisioned this shot to be bright and airy. So if we take a look at the lighting set up currently is too many shadows and we're not getting enough feel or wrap around this. Now, when it comes to shooting towards the diffuser, our light is no longer the source. The diffuser is actually the source. So what we need to do is think about how are we going to position the light so that we are getting the most amount of light evenly lit onto the diffuser. So this becomes an apparent size that's similar to our window.

So there's a couple of things we can do. We can lift the light up and down and we can bring. More towards the subject so that we are lighting the diffuser a little bit more evenly. So let's just have a play and take a couple of shots and you can see how that's going to work, uh, for our bundt cake here. So I'm going to move it closer.

So I'm just going to move the light closer to the diffuser. We'll take a shot. Okay. I'm going to move it back so closer to our subject. Take a shot. And I'm going to move it down.

So here in this shot, we moved it closer to the diffuser. So you can see how the shadows are becoming harder. We moved it further away in this shot, so you can see how the shadows are becoming softer. And then we moved it down so you can see how we are creating more definition in the bunk. Then in this shot here where we're feeling it from the top a little bit more, because we want something bright and airy and we want it to be filled.

What I'm going to do is lift the light up and then there are two things I can do. I can bring the stand closer to the food or with a boon stand. I can actually just bring the light closer as long as I'm making sure it's not getting into the front. And then currently this is angled that way rather than straight on. So I'm just going to change the position of the light on here with this little knob that I have. So I can go ahead and make sure that it is pointing straight at the defeat.

So now we're starting to shape the light nicely. It is starting to look like it's more filled across the scene. However, we have a lot of shadows at the back, so I'm just going to use a simple white card here that I've folded. So it's just going to sit nicely on the table here, and it's going to reflect some of the light back onto our scene and feel those shadows.

I don't want you to worry about the holes in the cake, cause this is a test cake. However. Something like this is really easy for us to fix in Photoshop, which is probably what I would do.

So let's just take a look at the lining here with the little bounce card that we added at the back. It was just going to help us fill those shadows really nicely as we can see on screen. So this point, this has been really simple to set up. So what I would be doing now is looking at my histogram, making a few edits while I'm tethering, and then I would stop to think about does a night, two need to be a little bit brighter. Does it need to be a little bit more softer or diffused? So thinking about what I want here for a really bright shot, I think.

Either increase our ISO because I'm really low right now, or I could go and increase the power of the light. So first of all, I'm going to try doing half a stop, brighter on the light and taking a shot. And I think that's starting to look really. So I'd like to get the lighting set up right before I go ahead and like glaze things like a cake. So I have a glaze here and I do want to pour some into the bowl that we have on set. So I'm going to do that first.

We're just going to take a shot. You want to make sure your lighting is set up before you do things like glaze cakes, because over time the icing is going to look differently to when it was freshly poured. I'm just going to go ahead and just glaze the case. Now that I feel like the lighting is in a really good place. The other thing I want to do is just cut into the cake so you can see how the lighting on the scene is going to feel differently. So we might get a few little shadows in there and we might also open up something at the bottom.

So I'm just going to cut the cake quickly and then we'll take it. Yeah. So I've cut the cake. I'm just going to add maybe a few, like crumbs to the same, a few little drapes.

We'll we'll take a final shot. So I've taken the shot. The one thing I want to do is just maybe move this back a little bit. Cause now that we've cut the cake, we have some really nice shadows that are happening inside and these sort of areas. So when you do things in photography, like create spaces where light can fill into, you just need to remember, like, do I need to move the reflector or your diffuser in a different way? So you're thinking about like, where are those shadows and how are they working for my concept? And I'll just do one more thing.

Let's just take a look at the difference with filling some of the shadows in here in different ways. After playing around with a little bit of composition and doing final edits and retouching, he was our final shot for this light and airy Bundt cake. Now that we finished shooting this light and bright set up, we're going to transform it, using the same set up to create something a little bit more moody and dramatic.

So I'm going to set that up now. So I haven't changed the light at all. I haven't changed the power. I haven't touched it. All I've done is brought in a darker background and we have a different subject or different bundt cake that we're going to be shooting. And the goal here is to take light away.

So we're going to manipulate it the same as we would, our window. So let's take a shot to see what that looks like, how this lighting looks straight just by making no changes to swapping in a different background. Removing the fill card. So let's just take a look at this photo and think about what do we want to change in terms of the lighting? So, one of the reasons I charged the bond cake is it has these beautiful ridges that light can sort of dance between.

We can have beautiful shadows, like create that. So I want the shot to feel moody and dramatic, but with my moody work, I do like to have bright elements. Now, the first thing that stands out for me is the top is a little bit bright. So what we're going to start to do is take away some light.

So I have some foam boards here that we're going to be using. I have a couple of different sizes. So the first thing I'm going to do is pop this at the back of our scene. Okay, I'm going to do two things. So this is probably going to cut out too much light as we can see, not necessarily what we want. So really just quickly, if you had a shorter foam board, you could use that, or I just sort of push it towards the back.

It's going to cut out a little bit of light from the top of our scene. Here's the difference between no foam board and then just adding a foam board at the top, just to reduce some of the light up there. You could also use a local adjustment, but I sort of like to get my light as bright as I can in case. So to make it a little bit more dramatic, I'm going to bring in another foam board. And what I want to do is like, let's think about our natural light here.

We want to sort of cut out the light. We might even use a larger one, but let's just see if this is going to be good enough. So I'm going to position it here to cut out some of this light that would have been bouncing off our diffuser.

So I'm just going to set that up with a, just a little lighting stand here. Let's take a shot to see what that looks like. And so here we're taking some light away.

So what I'm going to do is just bring in our fill card again. I don't want it to be too close. Let's just take a look at what that does. Maybe we'll move it a little bit close. Okay.

It's just peeking in the frame a little bit and then we'll start to make a few little modifications. So I might go up by half a stop on our light as well. And what I'm going to do is think about. Is it bright enough? Do I need to just change the foam boards a little bit? I'm going to position the one on the back differently.

So I'm just going to jump around and do that a little hack with your foam boards. If you're able to fold them even large ones, is they going to just stand themselves up? And that just less gear really good for small spaces. So I'm trying to think about like, can we create a little bit of a strip of light here? Okay, so that's looking nice and dramatic. One thing I like to do is just, we have stools around the house.

So in order to get this to be higher, I'm just going to pop it on a stool. So here's the shot we had before, and here's what we've ended off with. So we're just shaping the light differently, depending on where we're putting the foam boards to take some of that light away.

The other thing we could do if we want it to be more dramatic and I think it worked for a subject like this is we can lower the light Let's just take a look between those two, just to make it more dramatic. So I sort of like this, but maybe I'm just going to angle my pro photo light. Just angle it up just a little bit to hopefully just feeling a little bit of the show. One thing that we can do to make it a little bit more directional as well is I couldn't change the light.

So instead of having straight onto our subjects, it's going to be a little bit more angled. Okay. So let me just try a little bit more. I think I'd like to make it just a little bit darker at the top here. So I just have one more small board.

What is so good about tethering is that we can start to see how we're shaping light, how it's looking in camera. And then what little changes we can make. We'll try half a stop down. Another thing we can do is just maybe.

Just going to position the light a little bit closer, just so we have, um, shadows are a little bit more dramatic. What I'm trying to do is reduce the amount of light that we have in this corner. So I'm just going to play with. Just moving this board. There we go. I just want to try adding a little bit more light across the scenes.

Just going to move this up a little bit higher. Okay. So I think that looks really nice. So now I'm going to dust the cake and then we'll cut into it and we'll get our, one of our final shots.

After dusting the cake with cocoa powder, it is a little bit dark. Cause I'm just going to turn up the light half a star. Okay. And now that we've turned out the power of the light, I'm just going to bring the reflector or the white fill back a little bit.

So hopefully that this tutorial, what you're saying is that we change the light up and down towards the diffuser away. And then we are blocking light with different fill cards, negative feel, and then just adding a little bit of light when we need. I mean, you could literally play with this for hours and often that's what we do.

So I'm going to cut into the cake now just to see how that's going to change our subject, how it feels and how the lighting. Okay, so the cake is cut. Let's take a shot.

So the cake is actually giving us a bright element there. So maybe we can go ahead and make the lighting just a little bit darker. It's going to remove this cake crumb it's bit lodge for my liking. I'm just gonna move this down a touch.

So, what I would like to do here is I've added the field just so we can pick up this. And I might just bring one closer as well. Cause what I like to do with lighting, like part of lighting is also comes in editing. So I might create a really nice vignette to go with this photo.

And what I want to make sure is that I bring out these details. They're just going to go closer and I can always Photoshop this out, but like here, at least I have all those beautiful definition of the cake in here. For me, lighting is never done. So I just want to go ahead and just put up a lodge board on one hand side, just to see if we can't get something even more dramatic.

If you're lucky enough to have lodge space on your window sill as well, you might be able to just stand this up. Should we test. Let's let's hope that stays. I feel like we've got to work quickly, cause that is Tarly going, gonna full. It's going to move this foam board slightly, just to keep taking light away, just to see how it's going to shape the subject.

so a lot of these things, you will have shooting natural light. Anyway, you'll have your bounce cards, your black and white foam boards you'll have your diffuser. So really you just setting it up like he would do with natural light and then taking light off. That's probably a bit too much just to kind of bring the sugar duster in. So with this final dramatic shot, after playing the little bit of composition editing, I will file and doing some retouching.

He was the final. So I hope that you've seen that with this one simple setup, we can create so many different types of lighting and feeling in our food story. So let's just recap what we did. So to recreate natural light, we use this large four foot by six foot diffuser that we put into the window. We then put our light onto our lighting stands.

So here I'm using a boom stand. And the great thing about the boom sand is that we can move the light towards the diffuser away. We can make it higher or lower. And then we can also go ahead and tilt our light up and down to get different looks as well.

And then we can tilt it different ways if you want to have it directly. The next piece of the puzzle is to take light away. We need to have our foam boards. So why don't one side like on the other so black, we are blocking light or sometimes having negative fill and the white side we use to reflect light back onto our seat.

So it's really great. If you can have a few different sizes and shapes so that you can go ahead and block light to get the type of look that you're going. To learn more about composition, tethering, and editing. You can check out one of my masterclasses at

Otherwise you can head to the blog and learn everything food photography. So I can't wait to see how you're going to use this lighting set up to create your next food story.

2022-03-28 00:11

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