New gig: FOOD photography. Need help on lighting, examples included! Thanks!!!

Started Feb 14, 2013 | Discussions thread
Duncan C Veteran Member • Posts: 7,671
Food photography is REALLY hard.

Product photography is tricky business, and food photography is one of the hardest forms of product photography.

In addition to using quite a bit of gear and a great deal of specialized knowledge and experience, product photographers also do a lot of post-processing on their images.

Pro food photographers have a dedicated food stylist who preps the dishes for photographs, stages the shots, etc. There are lots of tricks to making food look appetizing. Tricks that took years  -decades even- to figure out

You need to shoot each dish immediately, since it starts to dry out and look stale very quickly. The goal is to make the food look fresh and appetizing.

I'm no expert on the subject, but I know enough to know what I don't know. I've done a moderate amount of product photography, and I would not try to sell my services as a food photographer, just like I wouldn't sell myself as a karate instructor after taking a year and a half of karate lessons.

Your samples are fairly decent, but not consistent. The shots with soft window light are the best. You've got soft-edged shadows that define the shape of the dishes without being too harsh. In the third shot, the shadows are too strong. The food looks a little dull in most of the shots however.

I don't think your goal of a very low-budget setup that you can set up at a single table is realistic. You could fit it all in a car to get it there, but it sure would not fit on a table once it was set up. I would expect to fill half a small dining room with equipment.

As the other poster said, you need a tripod.

Hot lights are also not really an option because they are - surprise! - hot. They will dry out your food before you can get a decent shot. You also need a modifier like a softbox to create a larger light source than you will get with just a light and reflector.

I would say you're going to need 2 or 3 studio flashes with stepless power adjustment, light stands, at least one boom arm, a small soft box, possibly with a grid, maybe a strip light, plus various reflectors, black cards, gobos, etc. You'll also need a light meter. Then you'll need to learn how to use that gear.

(I have most of the gear listed above, and am fairly comfortable using it, but I would still not do food photography for money unless the client understood that this was an "I'll do my best, but no promises" project.)

Maybe a working pro who's done food photography can chime in here.

gomatt wrote:

Hey everyone, a lot has changed since I have been on DP Review! I am leaving my 9-6 job in May for more travel, part time jobs, and to free up time to develop a business with a partner. This means I will be thinking "find money where there is no money". A co-worker of mine owns a thai restaurant with no website. So I made a simple website and took a few shots of the food. They came out better than I expected, but she has since started to pay me for menu pictures, etc. And before I charge customer #2, I want to get my shots looking more worthy of the $$$.

Any help would be great in suggesting what I can buy to simulate daylight. On a sunny day, by the window, I can get a few good shots, but the clouds and sun I cannot control. If it is equipment I need, it has be small enough to lug into a restaurant and use at a table.

I don't think I am looking for a background sheet or anything, just a light or two, or a screen? to get nice light, without the shadows.... please see below....

I would like to keep the price down, maybe one light with a 5k bulb and a diffuser?

Current equipment: Nikon D90 with 17-55 2.8 lens. No flash.

​Thanks again for your help! Matt

More pics are here:!i=2356641823&k=CTr43hz

This is my best one (lighting wise):

This is what I am going for, this was just using the window and window blinds.......

These are OK, but you can see where the shadows come in.....

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