While many commercial food photographers bank on substantial lighting equipment to deliver their works, I choose to photograph food under unadulterated light. Lighting can be a struggle for many budding photographers. Without doubt, light is the primary reason for an image’s existence. Understanding light is one of the most important aspects of improving the quality of your photography. Instead of investing in lighting equipment, I invest my money on good camera lens, and my time on experimentation, constant learning, and lots of practice.
Why choose natural light? Food looks beautiful in natural light. There are countless examples of stunning food photography created without the use of complicated artificial lighting.
Any light that is not artificially created by the photographer’s lighting equipment can be considered ‘natural light’. This can include lighting in the restaurant, cafe, or bar you are photographing at.
In embracing natural light, it is important to plan your shoot according to the mood and theme you are going for. As the characteristics of natural light change according to time, weather, and other circumstances, check the weather forecast, and plan your time wisely. Remember: light changes rapidly throughout the day. As part of the planning process, determine what is the end result you are after, to decide if you want to work with harsh or muted lighting. Observe how light is interacting with the dish you are photographing, for instance, the interaction of light and smoke can create dramatic effects. Bad light does not exist, but certain lighting conditions may prove unsuitable for the results you are aiming to achieve.
When shooting indoors, window light serves as a major source of natural light. This lighting can be muted or harsh, depending on where the window is, time of the day, and weather. To reduce the intensity of light, you can try placing a translucent material across the window to serve as a diffuser. In dim conditions, use a light reflector to to make the most of the light source.
Photograph consistently, experiment widely, experience natural lighting in a myriad of situations, and never stop learning. Be observant, and play with natural light to your advantage.