10 Simple Lighting Tips for Stunning Food Photos

10 Food Photography Lighting Tips

In this post, we talk about 10 Simple Tips to light your food photos and create an impact.

 10 Simple Lighting Tips for Food Photos

  1. Don’t Use ON Camera (or Pop Up) FLASH – Let’s get this out of the way. The is the most important tip and most common mistake of a new food photographer. Read: 7 Most Common Food Photography Crimes. On Camera flash flattens the photo and really destroys the food photo to say the least. The positioning of the flash on camera makes it really useless and food in the photo looks very unappealing.
  2. Learn about White Balance – White Balance is one of the four elements that makes a great food photo. Light has different temperature in different conditions. The usual range of the temperature is 2500K to 5500K. This range can be even broader under different light conditions. Food photography looks best at 5200K. So learn about white balance and color temperature. Read more: Getting Right Color in Your Food Photos.
  3. Don’t mix the light sources – Avoid situations where you have two or more light sources – like flash and incandescent or natural and incandescent in the same picture. Due to the different color temperatures of the light sources, the resulting photograph has different colors of the same subject in different parts of the frame. Correcting this in post production is next to impossible. To simplify your photography, don’t mixing the lights to start with. The more apart the temperatures of the light sources are, the more challenge they present. There are advanced ways to use two lights, but when you are starting make things easy for yourself.
  4. Avoid Shooting in Mid Day in direct Sun – Sunlight is very harsh during the day in the outdoors and for food photography, this isn’t the ideal light.  This strong light casts heavy shadows in the scene and in most cases distracts from the food itself. Avoid this situation. You can also use a diffuser to soften the harsh light from sun. A better approach is to shoot in shade or indoor next to the window where direct sun can be avoided.
  5. Learn Artificial Lighting – Artificial light, created by the softbox or the umbrella or a strobe, is challenging for new food photographers and even some experience ones. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn a few basics.
  6. Use Diffuser – Diffuser is one of the few light taming tools that can be made at home for less than a dollar (White, translucent Trash bags). Use it to reduce the amount of light that is reaching your subject and soften it.
  7. Use Reflector/Bouncer – Reflector is another tool that can be made at home for cheap. Use it to reflect light back to the dish. For making a budget reflector, all you need is a white card or foam board.
  8. Back light your photos – Next time, try lighting your photo from behind the subject. Backlit subjects create an interesting photograph. In food photos, when lit and exposed correctly, it can create a surreal or pure mood.
  9. Try side light too – Side light emphasizes texture in food photo. Whenever you are shooting food that has amazing texture, this is the type of light that will strengthen it. So, try to light your photo from side.
  10. Find North or South Window – Taking food photos in natural light depends on how much daylight is available. The way you can ensure you have natural light for the most time is to find a window that is facing north or south. North and South windows receive natural light for most of the day.

What Did We Miss?

In the comments below, tell us what you’ve used to improve lighting for your food photos. What would you add to this list? Share below.

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  1. Great tips I sometimes feel like I am limiting myself, I am going to defiantly get a diffuser it is something that I need. I really need to work on AWB as well temperatures are so hard for me to get..

  2. Thanks for the nice helpful tips. I am still working on finding the best light and the time. I have a diffuser, reflector and the basics. I also have huge windows, but the fact is how to make the most of the light. I just wish someone could come and show me the place and time, how easy….No, I am going work hard this week to figure something out..
    Thanks Neel.

  3. Mukul Desai says:

    Yet not started food photography. But being(human)a photographer some time i take tabletop photographs of SWEET
    BOXES(INCLUDING SWEET) BOTTLES OF SYRUP, SOUSE, VINEGAR RAW FOOD PACKAGES etc, (without props & styling) for making album or browsers. I don’t know whether it is counted in food photography or not?
    my English is poor? please tolerate. waiting for your replay.
    peace force & joy to all of us

  4. Philadelphia Web Design Services says:

    Lightning is an important part in photography. Mostly, photography fails due to bad lightning. Thanks for the tips.

  5. In case of artificial lighting, what is the minimum wattage of bulbs or CFLs that would be better?

  6. Great article. For newbs it wouldn’t hurt to add pictures to each example so we can get a good visual of it. Keep up the great work!

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