Food photography is all about getting the light right and style your food in a delicious way…
Almost true – you need to know your camera as well, how to trigger your light, what shooting angles works well etc. But that aside you basically need to work with light (and shadows) and the food when making your shot.
So in this post I will explain a setup I often use because it is easy to arrange, simple to work with and provides great results. It can help you concentrate more on styling and less on the technical aspects.
As you can see from the diagram below, the lamp is placed behind the food. What you can’t see is that the lamp is pointing down towards the food in a 45 degree angle providing light from both back and top.
Placing it behind (or slightly to one of the sides) helps me get visible shadows on the food. The angle downwards on the other hand helps reduce these shadows to a level which I believe works well. So not too dark but still visible.
If the shadows are too dark or you want to highlight parts of the food you can use a reflector in front of the food. A white piece of cardboard works great and can be sized and angled to help you light very precisely.
When making the photos make sure to turn off as much light as possible in order to avoid mixing sources (with different colors/light temperatures).
Often I make my photo shooting from the front angling my camera down towards the food (as shown in the diagram). Another shooting angle could be direct top-down. In that case you should consider placing the food/lamps low in order not to have to climb the table each time you make photos.
The good thing about this setup is that the need for gear is limited with camera, lamp and softbox being the essential tools. A simpler and cheaper alternative to lamp/softbox is flash in combination with an umbrella. The latter is fine but will not provide the same power, number of flashes and you need to be aware of umbrella bars in reflective surfaces.
- Lamp – I use a ProFoto D1 500W or similar (flash can do as well)
- Softbox – Large rectangular ProFoto box (umbrella as alternative)
- Stand for the lamp
- Reflector – anything white/silver which is stable and easy to handle
- Camera – Nikon D800
- Lens – Most often a Sigma 70mm makro lens (extremely sharp and allows to go close when needed)
- Triggers – PocketWizards on both camera and lamp (lamp can also be triggered by the on-camera flash)
When using the ProFoto lamp I shoot in manual mode with ISO set to 100, shutter speed 1/160 sec. and aperture around 9. If I use flash in TTL mode I get the luxury of a speedier setup with camera in A (Aperture) mode.
Below you can see a few examples of photos I have made using the setup – all from a recent shoot with Arla Unika and the group of chefs in NaCl.
All the best,