So now you have a story. Right? You exactly know what story you would to like to communicate through the photo.
Today we start talking about lighting. Lighting, as it is apparent from the numerous emails and comments, is the most challenging aspect of food photography.
In next several days, we’ll look at different aspects of lighting and how to use lighting to tell the story. While lighting is a huge topic and covering all of that in detail will take several weeks, for the purpose of this 30-Day challenge, we’ll focus on few lessons and how to take your story forward.
Light varies greatly in quality and temperature. Light is hard and light is soft. Depending on the source, light varies. Outdoor light is sometimes harsh, sometimes can be soft with overcast days.
If you are outdoor on a patio or desk (or porch, if that makes you happy), managing light can be a bit more challenging versus if you were indoor and light was coming through one window. Window light can be controlled better and can be softened up by using diffusers.
So how do you decide what type of light to choose?
I think you know the answer. Go back to what story are you trying to tell?
In some cases, light can play a really important role. If your story is about two people having breakfast, you better get that morning light. If your story is about picnic (or outing) and the sandwiches, hard shadows may be appropriate and hard light would work .
Light sets the mood of the story. So depending on your story, you have to choose what type of light you want.
Lighting and Direction
There are two most commonly used lights in food photography -backlighting and side lighting.
Back lighting is when the light source is behind the subject and photographer is facing the light source.
In general, back light that’s bright and soft in quality tends to provide a feeling of freshness and can be early morning. It also provides feeling of elegance and pureness.
Side lighting for a scene can be achieved if the main source is on right or left side of the subject.
Side light enhances texture and form and volume. Depending on the mood or story you are going for, side light can be amazing addition for your story.
There are other ways to light like front lighting - or lighting coming from front of the subject (and behind the camera) and overhead lighting.
Quality of light is also important. Soft light works best in many cases when you don’t need any sense of direction or emphasis on light. Soft light is usually diffused light that creates no shadows or shine or reflection. This type of light is particularly useful when you want light to not standout and contributes minimally to the story.
Learn More: The theory of lighting discussed here is very very basic. However we will talk about lighting for next couple of days. Also take a look at the extra credit (blue) section below this post. Artificial light is whole another topic and needs much more understanding. At this point, we will leave artificial light discussions out.
In next few days, we will talk about modifying the light and getting color right. Now today's assignment...
Time estimated: 30-60 mins
One quick note: These assignments are not very direct.. From the emails and feedback, these assignments are pushing you to do more and think more. Some days you wont’ be able to answer these questions easily… Other days, you won’t be able to answer at all. That’s okay. Creating something new is sometimes frustrating. Some days it feels like nothing is working.. that’s okay. Do your best and give your best and move on to the next challenge.
Step 1 – Today again, select the subject. Ideally use the same food subject, you have been using last couple of days.
Step 2 – Set up the food subject in a way that the source of light is on one side. Take a photograph using all the principles we talked about in last few days.
Step 3 – Move yourself (or the light source) so that light source is in the background. Take a photograph.
Step 4 – If you can find a harsh light source (direct sunlight), take a photograph with that source. If you use on camera flash, take a photo with flash turned on.
Step 5 – Now compare these photos. Recall your story and the specific elements we discussed yesterday. Which one of these photos compares closely with your story? Tell us which lighting do you like in general?
Lighting is a vast topic. There can be an entire course on Lighting itself, however we are trying to cover this topic in 3-4 days. So while we won't be able to cover everything here, we've written before about lighting that you can find in the section below.