Getting started with Natural Light Food Photography
Using natural light in food photography is an easy way to get started. Many people think having a bright sunny day is the perfect light for taking photos. It is in fact it’s one of the most difficult. Bright light causes hard shadows and high contrast. Thankfully there is a way to still take gorgeous photos on a bright day. It’s all about diffusion. I use the diffusing part of my 5 in 1 reflector kit. You can make DIY ones from thin white sheets of material or tracing paper held in a frame.
Choose A Subject
Decide on what you would like to photograph. I often use my homemade lunches as a subject for my food photography when I’m not shooting for clients. I like to try and eat with the seasons as much as I can. Fruit and vegetables eaten in their natural season with outside exposure always tastes so much better. I made the mistake of buying a punnet of British Strawberries earlier this month and regretted it. They were watery and tasteless, I should have know better! I had much greater success with my Miso Dressed Salad. It’s another great healthy recipe from Anna Jones: A Modern Way To Eat. It made a perfect wholesome lunch and a pretty picture.
Consider The Colour Pallet and Props
With the sunshine coming out to play and the vibrant greens in this delicious salad I chose a yellow paper for my background. I set it with my Asian dish set which complimented the background. I liked the purple in the chopstick stand tying in with the hint of purple running through the salad.
Find The Right Composition
I took some test shoots without any dressing on to figure out the composition and get the lighting right. Adding the dressing too soon and I might have risked the salad leaves going floppy. The sun was bright so I set up a large diffuser behind and above my set to soften off the light. I had to be careful to balance the exposure of the camera so as not to burn out the white edges of the dish.
I took two orientations of the set. One portrait which is often the preferred choice for magazines and books. The other landscape which favours website pages and social media platforms. In the landscape photo I noticed I was getting some hard reflections in the pot of dressing. This often happens with reflective surfaces so I added extra diffusion over this area to reduce it.
The great thing about food photography is there is usually not too much editing required. Once I process my images from RAW, making fine adjustments to saturation and contrast. To make the colours pop and draw the eye to the food I use photoshop masks to darken my background. The mask leaves star of the show bright and I add a touch of sharpening. I got some dressing on the side of the dish which I edited out. Then I used the healing brush to touch up some dark patches on the avocado and one or two of the salad leaves.
This gorgeous salad is comprised of salad leaves, blanched purple sprouting broccoli, avocado, butter beans. Topped with toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds. As usual it is the dressing that really makes this salad sing. The dressing is a mix of miso paste, plain yogurt, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.