In this post I will show you super easy artificial lighting for food photography that I used to take this picture of a bloody Mary and mini BLT.
Many photographers are intimidated by artificial lighting, when the reality is that shooting with natural light is actually more difficult!
Here’s why. Natural light (the sun) is moving all day long! With that movement, your exposure AND your white balance (color temperature) will also be changing on you – all day long!
Oh, and let’s not forget about all those clouds that come and go, hello all my lovely UK food shooters!
It’s super annoying! Raise your hand if you are tired of this!!!
People, you will make your lives so much easier if you just grab an artificial light and learn how to use it, so you can stop chasing the sun all over your house.
You can start with just one light and one fill card. See this post for that set up.
In the image above, I’m using two lights – but I’m using them to create ONE light source.
Did you know that ANYTHING white will reflect light? Yep, even vertical blinds will become a nice, huge reflector board/wall for you!
Ok, let’s break down the light. Here is what’s going on:
I am using two LED light panels – see this post for more info on those. Each of these LED panels is bi-color. That means that I can make them any color temperature I want within a certain range. This makes these lights excellent for mixing with daylight or lights that have a lower color temp.
I can also control how bright they are – so I made them as bright as I could here.
Why am I using two lights?
This is a technique I use all the time when I want very even lighting on my entire set from front to back. If you look at my photo, the front of the image is the same lightness/brightness as the back of the set. There is no light fall off happening.
Ok, so stay with me here – the light in the BACK is helping to light the front of the set and the light in the FRONT is helping to light the back of the set. I’m using the angle of incidence, and the angle of refraction here.
I’m not going to go into all the physics of this. I’m going to make it simple. Look at light as a straight line. When that line hits a surface, it’s going to bounce off, and redirect that path of light in a different direction – 90 degrees so long as that surface the light is hitting is flat.
I position my lights so that the light will bounce off of it in a manner that will wash over my set, and my food nicely.
One light is angled up a little higher than the other one as well. Again, this is to wash the area they are lighting with light.
These LED lights do not have any diffusion or modifiers on them, which makes them a harsh light. This is why I am bouncing the light. I want to soften the light, so I don’t get harsh shadows.
I wanted to point out something that is on both lights. These are called barn doors. Barn doors are made for the light they go on. So one set of barn doors will not work on a different light, unless it is the same exact brand and size.
Barn doors help to control the light so that you don’t end up getting direct light hitting anything you don’t want it to.
In this case, I don’t want any direct light to hit my subjects, or my set. I want any light that is going to be hitting my subject and set to be the soft reflected light coming from the white vertical blinds.
I’m using a very large diffusion panel by keeping the white cover on it, and simply standing it up right next to the set. That will help to bounce in a lot of light, and fill in the shadows.
Alise Arato styled this drink. We both needed some new cocktail shots for our portfolios. Alise used fake ice here and then used wooden skewers to help prop up the food garnish, and to help keep them in place.
We obviously took the picture without the vertical wooden skewer. Alise was just using that to help poke things into place. Our chili pepper is leaning back on a horizontal skewer that she then covered with the tomato juice.
So there you have it. Artificial lighting for food photography does not have to be complicated at all.
In case you were curious – here are the LED panel lights that I am using to take this image. These are my Amazon affiliate links, so should you buy them, I will receive a very small commission at no cost to you.
This kit was made by Drakast. These lights are not cheap because they have a high CRI (color rendering index). This means this light is not green, but more neutral. The other thing that adds to the cost is they are Bi-Color. You can dial in any color temp you want within a certain range of 3200-6500 K.
They are also dimmable so you can dial up or down the brightness that you need and they come with barn doors.
You can get less expensive versions of these that are one color temp and that are not dimmable.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Want to learn more about artificial lighting? Check out my free so that you can stop chasing the sun!