Lesson 14 – Lighting and Prop Styling Tips

Week 2 of the 30 Day course is over.

How was this week for you? Were you able to see how writing a story was helpful this week?

Even though you may have struggled to write the story, the importance of knowing what you want is incredibly helpful in creating the image in your head.

How to light your image, what props to choose, how to frame your photo and lot of other decisions depend on the story. As you create more images and practice, these decisions will become second nature to you.

As you learn these details, some days will be frustrating. Some days things just won’t work. But keep moving ahead. Little by little, one step at a time keep on going.

So today is a catch up day.

Today is a good day to take a break from learning anything new and to make sure you that in last few days you have made progress. Today is also the time to discuss a topic with your fellow participants and teach each other.

Oh yes!! Just like last catch up day, there is a Day 14 assignment. The purpose is not to make you take more photos, but rather to make you think and discuss with other participants.

To start today’s day let’s recap what we learned this week:

Lesson 8 - Describe Elements of Food Story

Lesson 9 - Light Your Food Photo

Lesson 10 - Modify Light For Better Food Photos

Lesson 11 - Use Correct White Balance

Lesson 12 - Select the Right Background

Lesson 13 - Organize Your Props 

Today’s Assignment

Time estimated – 15-20 mins

Similar to last week, today’s assignment is focused on making sure that you are able to let the lessons from this week sink in. We will pause a little today and make sure you have time to catch up. Today’s assignment does not require you taking any food. Today again, you have three specific tasks – updating your progress, weekly discussion and selecting your best food photo.

Task 1 – Progress Update

Remember the purpose of this task? The goal is to pause and record what you have learned and tell yourself what needs to be improved. Ready?

Start your progress update

Task 2 - Weekly Discussion

In the comments below, tell us about your lighting equipment. If you use natural light, have you thought about using artificial light?

Task 3 - Optional - Your Best Food Photo This Week

Your next task is to share your best food photo you took this week (as part of this course) and post it in the facebook album. Link to facebook group is here. If you don't want to post on facebook, feel free to post below in the comments.


If you are still with me, here's some more stuff for extra credit...

Extra Credit

Catch up days are good days to get more and learn more about food photography.

On the food photography blog, we've interviewed many many inspiring food photographers, you can find all of those interesting people on food photography interviews page.

  • After playing around at a friend’s studio last week, I’ve just bought a set of lighting equipment: umbrellas, stands, flashes, triggers. Sadly not everything has arrived yet for me to actually experiment with!

  • anariva95

    Hi, I only use natural light by the moment. I look for the more illuminated window and take the photo there.
    I thought sometimes about trying to use some lighting equipment but I didn’t buy it.

  • Hi I like to use the daylight and I depend totally on it for catching my photos …. I didn’t buy any light equipment>

  • Lia Badicu

    I started taking food photos only this spring so lots of natural light available from early in the morning til late in the night. But since winter is coming soon and I won t have the privilege of natural light before and after work so I am definatly planing on getting some artificial light. I also use DIY white board,reflector and diffuser.

  • shikha Bhatia

    I’m only using natural light at the moment.I have some knowledge about artificial lighting but don’t have any such equipment to practice it.

  • Marissa O’Donnell

    I try to use natural light, I have flash and softbox, reflectors. stands but have not used any artifical lights for the lessons/photos that I have posted

  • I try to use natural light. I used a Lowell EGO light for one of the assignments this week since it was dark out.

  • I use natural light where possible. I have a few lamps which I do use occasionally but prefer natural light. I would like to learn to make my own diffusers, light boards etc. If anyone has made their own can you give us some ideas on how to do this because I have a very limited budget.

    • Louise Docker

      Cyndy I bought a couple of meters of white ripstop nylon from the dress shop (similar to the material they use on the front of soft boxes) and fold it over and hang it in front of light, really diffuses the light and makes it look more natural.

      • Great idea, thanks I will look into that. Are u in Australia?

        • Louise Docker

          Yes Cyndy I live in a suburb of Sydney, I notice you are an Aussie as well 🙂

  • Deepa

    Natural light only as I am the most comfortable with it and really like it. I don’t own, nor do I want to invest in good quality lightng at the moment. Even my ‘reflectors’ are just white pieces of board!

  • Raja

    Being the beginner in photography ,I have been venturing with the natural daylight and trying to click.as I get familiar with this I will try clicking with the artificial light.

  • I invested in three soft boxes and a reflector and I am so happy I did! Now I can work when I need to, not when the sun decides to give enough light.

  • Previous to this food photography adventure, I was strictly a flash/speed-light fan having been influenced by David Hobby’s Strobist blog. If you have not seen his site, I highly recommend it, especially if you are new to flash. In my inventory, I have 3 speed-lights, 4 different styles and sizes of soft-boxes, various stands and other modifiers (multi reflectors, green screens, etc.) I also have some continuous lighting (tungsten) which I use for video, but not as part of my still work. they are just a little to hot to use in this Texas Heat.

  • Ann G

    Most times I use natural light.
    For some of the lessons I’ve tried using artificial light without the equipment, since I don’t have any at the moment. I’ve used the Styrofoam diffuser as a reflector this week and saw the difference it made to the pictures.

  • Jessica

    I mostly use natural light, sometimes when I shoot the dinner I made I have to use my kitchen light. I also have a photobox with two lamps but do not have a good idea how to use it to avoid shadows. So maybe there are some tips around that?

  • lydiaf1963

    I also use natural light but will look into adding artificial lighting to the process. It seems like it is an inevitable part of growth.

  • I mainly shoot in natural light. Sometimes tricky if there is too much sunlight around and no possibilities to get it lighter (due to have no window with enough light and outside sunshine) Like Jessica I do have a photobox but don’t still know how to use it correctly.

  • Sunlight worked for me so far, I really don’t what to do when winter comes. I might buy some equipment at reasonable prices…

  • This week I used natural light from a window, sometimes having the food right by the window if there was no direct sunlight and other times the food was well inside the room. Occasionally I used a reflector. I enjoyed playing with different backgrounds … that was very enlightening. Thank you.

  • I found that I have yet tp figure out how to analyze light in relation with the background and the food. I realized that I have more things to learn and I am very excite. I only shoot in natural light so that is for me.

  • Louise Docker

    I use natural light when I can but because its winter over here and its dark when I get home I also use a single speedlight off camera to light my photo, I put a piece of ripstop nylon doubled over in front of it to act as a big diffuser and it looks pretty close to natural light, I also use pieces of white corflute folded in half as reflectors

  • I love natural light….I shoot mainly outdoor items and shooting food is something that has interested me hence the reason I’m taking this class. Shooting food takes a different thought process then shooting bugs or landscapes!

  • Raia Torn

    Pretty much always use natural light, since I always shoot on my kitchen table, which is next to a window. The only artificial light I have is the dining room light, which is not a very good source. Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford some other sort of artificial light. 🙂

  • Sandy

    I just started shooting food photography for this project, so I try to use only natural light. However, I do have a small lamp that I use if natural light is not available. Learning how to use and setup diffusers, reflectors and blockers have been a challenge but I am up for it. I am truly grateful for all the information provided….this has been an enlightening experience.

  • Squadrilla

    I ordered a small “5 in 1 Portable Photography Studio Multi Photo Disc Collapsible Light Reflector” kit….. Just waiting for it to be delivered and I’ll start experiment with natural and artificial (home-made) light!

  • I use natural light but I have thought about buying artificial light equipment but I still need to research them and learn more about them

    • I think natural light is always better than artificial. I would only use artificial if it’s necessary.

  • I`m affraid of artificial light somehow. So I try to not to use it.

  • I’ve love natural light and I think I can archive better photos with it but, sometimes, it’s just impossible so that one has to use artificial lighting.

    I use flash and flourescent lighting when it’s necesary. I’ve got some accesories for flashes like honeycomb grid, a flash snoot, a softbox, a white translucent umbrella or a black with silver back umbrella.

  • I love to use natural light but in winter I need some indoor lighting to get good pictures. I use a combination of house lights and it creates a harsh effect and not very pleased with it. Would like to get some ideas to improve it.

  • I tried posting on the fb page but it says closed group :-/ – I love using natural light if possible. I try to take pictures in door using the light from outside if I can. I play with my aperture and ISO if needed to bring more light into the picture. This is one of my favorites of this week. It’s a bit creative, but I love different types of shots 🙂

    • Elina Belova

      Lovely photo! You need to join the group first to be able to add the photo to the album. Go here https://www.facebook.com/groups/30daystobetterfoodphotos/ press “Join group” and wait for acceptance.

      • Thank you Elina – I asked to join and I was accepted but it now says it’s CLOSED 🙁

        • Elina Belova

          Sounds weird. Maybe try to contact Neel for help? Sorry for you.

          • I just checked again and now it’s working 🙂 Thank you Elina

  • mymorna

    I use daylight and an artificial lamp: daylight lamp with a softbox (50x70cm). Got a reflector/scrim as well.

  • Here’s my favorite shot from this week.

  • John Vaillancourt

    This week has been challenging with the dwindling light in the northeast US after I get home from work, but I did buy a softbox setup with daylight balanced CFL bulbs so I should be able to extend my shooting time straight though the night if need be. I’ve had a chance to use it already and I thin the results look pretty good, especially after a little postprocessing in Lightroom. If you’d like to see the results, go to my blog at http://bakeryrebellion.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hazelnut-shortbread-cookies/ My next mission is to find out where in my apartment I can set it up so I can get the results I’ve got in my head for the subject. Gotta tell that story, you know!

  • Sonja

    I’ve pretty much only used natural lighting. I have tried only once in the last year to take pictures with a light bulb. I live in the Pacific Northwest of Washington State, USA, and in the winter the sun goes down at 4:30-5pm. It’s hard to get great pictures then. So I have totally thought about getting an artificial light, but I think I want to work with diffusing the light first.

  • I have two professional lights with hoods and filters so I’ve become completely reliant on those especially since I’m typically shooting a dinner photo and there is little to no natural light. However this week forced me to use natural light as the only light source. I learned a lot for the positive and negative benefits of no artificial light. Shadows can add a dramatic effect which can be a good thing sometimes, but harsh light can also wash out part of the image. I will now be much more cognizant of all options and likely try photos with and without the artificial light when I have natural light available.

  • Ok well so far I can only use natural lighting. However, I am extremely curious about, and interesting in learning, artificial lighting. I think it’s great to have a preference one way or another, but I want to be able to use both natural and artificial lighting effectively – that way I am not dependent upon the weather to get great food photos.

    I can’t really even express how excited I am about this course – like, really. I have seen such an INCREDIBLE improvement in my food photos it’s remarkable. I feel like I have seriously turned a huge corner. Things are starting to make sense, I’m starting to learn and understand my new camera (which is probably 5 million times better than my last one). I feel like I’m finally starting to understand more about lighting…traditionally my main nemesis. I’m super excited with this week’s photos! I am actually have a really hard time picking my favorite…which is sooo encouraging because last week I felt like it wasn’t even a competition…I only had ONE picture that I actually LIKED.

    How exciting! 😀 So i ended up picking two because I just couldn’t decide between the two of them 😉

  • Here’s the second one…again. Since it doesn’t seem to have loaded. Sorry guys I am so late I just today asked for approval to post to the fb page. 🙁

  • Bam’s Kitchen

    Natural light works best for me. I have even stopped trying to take photos in the evening as my lighting is poor and my lighting devices are not optimal. I think it may be time to invest in a light box.

  • Sreedevi Mavila

    I use only natural light because I can’t take a picture that’s halfway decent in artificial light. I have definitely thought about using artificial light and in fact I so want to learn how to because I always bake only in the afternoons and by the time I’m ready to take a pic, it’s already late evening.

  • Peter Block

    I use natural light always. I feel my biggest takeaways are thinking about the white balance most of all and thinking more about the framing of my pics. I did research artificial light and am thinking about what I will buy (got to get ready for winter short light). I am also on my way out to purchase a white/gray card. I have used my last pic as my best but only because it had the thought of all the lessons in it.

  • I like natural light and I enjoy doing that and waiting for the magical moment in the day, somewhere in the early morning or evening when the light is at its best for food photography. But I would like to learn more about artificial light, about tripods, focal length and inexpensive ways of poing this. I bought a lightbox once and discarded it as I couldn’t easily move around my composition and photgraph it from different angles. It curbed my creativity.
    It was good to do the assignment on white balance as I have a new DSLR and it made me locate where this was on my camera and experiment with using it, The results were certainly dramatically different.
    I still need to practice more with reflectors and diffusers and asm looking forward to hearing what kind of equipemt other participants in this course used for this and how successful these were.

  • Ingunn Løvik

    I have been using both natural and artificial lighting. It was very useful to learn how to direct and diffuse natural light. Artificial light is difficult as it tends to modify the color of the cheese so I look forward to learning more about how to use it correctly. I only have a couple of desktop lamps, hence no professional equipment.
    I think my best photograph (as part of this course) this week is the one below. It is made with diffused natural light and a reflector. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd6b2a511433684ae1e5e785d2af5065e33892df59e922e2317923def8d5ae72.jpg

  • Marina Stambrovskaia Skår

    I use usually natural light but I want to learn how I can use artificial light correctly. My equipment is handmade but now I am starting to prepare list what i will buy soon.

  • Linda Joyce

    I’ve been using natural light only. I do use a white board to bounce the light around and sometimes a light blocker (a black foam board) to create a different mood. I might, in the future and if there is a need, use strobes.

  • Anna Zazdravnaya

    I’m new in food photography and I used only natural light with reflector for a year. Now I have 2 flash lights, 2 umbrellas and stands ans 1 soft box. I can’t say that I understand how to use the light as natural as artificial )) I’m a perfectionist and when I say that I don’t know I mean that I can’t copy great professional shots that I see in the Internet 🙂 And until I’m able to do this I will grump that I’m not a photographer))