Lighting is the Key for Mouth Watering Food Images

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting

If the three top things real estate are location, location location, in that case of photographing food the three most important items become lighting, lighting, lighting. My family and I recently visited for the very first time  two different restaurants. Similar to many other eateries, both featured images of their dishes on their menus. Restaurant's number one's menus were quite amateurish. They appeared to be made by someone using a compact digital camera with an inkjet printer. The shots were garish with a camera mounted flash, maybe a built-in flash. ✓

Restaurant number two featured a menu that had been professionally produced, both from a photography and printing standpoint. The photos had great lighting and were appetizing. Although, it was restaurant number one that had the best food, however you could not tell by looking at their menu. The prime goal of photographing food is to make it look appetizing. While there could be some clever composition ideas you can do, the key to having food look great is the lighting. And there are a pair of main things to keep in mind about food lighting, quality and direction. Soft, natural-looking light is almost always the best light for making food appear tasty. A basic softbox with a strobe will do miracles for a picture. A flood lamp or a cloth hanging in the front of a naked bulb to help transform the light can even be used. You can even bounce the strobe from a wall. The goal is to stay away from the harshness that comes from direct lighting, that can totally ruin a food photo.

Lighting is the Key
for Mouth Watering
Food Images
Hummus made with Chickpeas, Olive oil and Paprika Topping Asparagus Sushi
  Hummus made with Chickpeas, Olive oil and Paprika Topping Asparagus Sushi
Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura. Sangria served on ice Rainier cherries
Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura. Sangria served on ice Rainier cherries

The light direction is also important. it is rare that something lit from the front has much appeal. Side lighting can be a big help. It gives the subject depth and shape. I like to employ skim lighting. Similar to backlighting, the source of light is placed in back of the subject, although it's angled allowing the light to "skim" off the surface. It helps to make foods appear more juicy and luscious. If a little light is necessary in the shadows, using a plain bounce card will reflect light to the darker spots. Using a studio helps, although it's not always required.

Unpretentious, indirect window light becomes very advantageous for food photos. In fact, attempting to replicate it is the goal of most of the food lighting systems. Krysta Guerrero, who has a blog named evilchefmom.com, boasts some gorgeous photos on her site. Most of the time she shoots her pictures from a small laundry near her kitchen. Featuring white walls and big windows, the area is overflowing with a beautiful filtered and uniform light. The window over my kitchen sink overlooks the backyard from beneath a patio cover which to some extent shades the window although lets in some mottled light

Whatever your use as a light source, it needs to be all set up and good to go prior to the food being photographed, In some cases even prior to being prepared. Foods melt, can dry up, or turn soggy if left sitting for any length of time. Setting up prior to the food being ready will save time and allow you more chances to photograph the food as it's still fresh.

Domino's Pizza chain ran a "Show Us Your Pizza" ad, in which they featured photos of their pizzas photographed by their customers. The claim was that their pizzas were so mouth-watering, no special photographic exploitation is needed to make the them look great.

The best picture won $500 plus an opportunity to be included in a Domino ad. Looking through the Domino online gallery, a scant few were really good. The others, well, they weren't. The most appetizing images were the ones containing the best lighting, ether on purpose or by accident. New Article Aug 13, 2011

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