In this post I’d like to share with you how I’m learning to work out the light when I take photos. I usually shoot in my kitchen where I have a big window but the walls are painted green – which is lovely but not necessarily a good thing for shooting food – during the day or in the evening right before we have dinner (more about shooting at night later). The second place where I like to work is in the dining room where I took out one of my big table’s panels and set it as a small table – I love it! It has a beautiful color and texture that works well with the warm mood I’m trying to show in my photos.
Shooting by the window is good – there’s lots of light – but it is challenging too – too much exposure which makes the photos look “burnt”. This is why I tried a trick I learned from Lara’s Still Life With… blog post where she wrote about “The Joys of Tissue Paper. She uses it “to modify light. Although my windows in my studio are usually covered with vellum, sometimes it’s still not enough to tone down the light and minimize hot spots.”
1. I have red sheers hanging (which are a pain to take down), and while they are beautiful for the dining area, they reflect red light on the dishes and plates – not good.
2. There’s too much bright light coming out of the window which causes, a) loss of details/hot spots/”burnt” areas in the photos and, b) you can’t see the pretty texture of the surface which I’d like to show as part of the photo, and c) the neighbor’s house is painted grey and I think it reflects grey light back on my food.
For example, in this photo, you can see that the table’s surface looks whitish and not the warm dark brown color that is has. Also, in the first dessert glass, on the top right side, the whipped cream is too white=burnt=you don’t see the soft pillowy details of the cream. This is the result of too much light hitting that spot.
Next, in this photo you can see the table and its texture better, but the whipped cream is over exposed, too white, no details, no pillows of whipped cream goodness.
And in this photo, it’s obvious that there is too much light coming from the right side.
Taping additional tissue paper a little higher on the right side window helped control the light a little more. But here I see that I should have taped a tissue on the back window as well.
From a higher angle there is less “glare” and you can see more but not all the detail on the whipped cream and the table still looks whitish.
This is a little better… All the colors and details are in there and they look natural. Yummy, right?!
Do you like shooting food on a bias? As long as that was what you wanted, that’s fine, but this happened by mistake. I didn’t mean it to look like that. I think that if you mean it to be on an angle, the angle should be a bit larger then in this photo below, otherwise it looks accidental and not intentional. (Plus, there’s still too much light coming from the right side and hitting the cream.)
Now here you can see more whipped cream fluffy detail. I fixed the brightness and color a bit with a software I’m using but even the “after” photo is still a bit too dark. ‘Cause of the neighbor’s grey house?
Here the bottom of the glass is cut. That was unintentional plus, again, it’s not straight, but only a little angle which makes it look like something that happened by mistake and was not planned. I don’t like it.
Here the spoon is too big. I used a plastic one because I thought it would look more “airy” but ended with “scary”.
I took about 50 photos of this dessert! (Not including photos of the whole pie, a sliced pie, and 3 martini glasses.) I really should have invested more time in fixing and taping the tissue paper on all windows instead of wasting so much time trying to find the right angle that will capture the light right and show what I wanted to show.
So, my 2 favorite photos ended up being this one where the teaspoon is a smaller one, and sank right into the bottom of the glass – this was not what I planned… but it was a good mistake – cutting through the layers of custard and thick whipped cream. I love it! It makes me want to dive right in there… head first…
And this one (although I wish I had taped tissue paper on the back window)
… and this one too…
What tips or struggles do you have to share when trying to get the light right?
1. Get rid of the red sheers (the sooner is better!) and replace them with white ones.
2. Tape more tissue all over the windows, or as needed. Save all those tissue paper wrapped gifts you’re giving or receiving this holiday!
3. Don’t waste time or taking million photos. Stop and fix the light as needed instead.
4. More food photography tips here.
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Categories : Food Photography