This article helps you take stunning food photos at home without a tent. It works even when there is not enough natural lighting at your place.
A lot people make really good cuisines. Thanks to smartphones, we can easily take cool pictures of the food, add a filter and immediately upload to social media. Boom, 50 likes in 1 minute. Smartphone food photos are just perfect for social media.
Taking photos with a camera requires just a little more work, but the result is even more promising. DSLR cameras give a shallower depth of field (that is, blurry background or foreground while the food is sharp and in focus) and higher resolution. If you are a food blogger or run a food website, and require more than just sharing photos in Snapchat or Instagram, you should probably consider taking food photos with a camera instead of smartphone.
There are so many ways to take great food photos, I would narrow down all the tips to 4 points:
1. Good Lighting
Use side light. Side light is the best form of light in food photography as it gives definition and sets contrast on the food.
2. The Camera Setting
You don't want just the apple of your fruit salad to be in focus while the blueberries are out of focus. Don't go for the widest aperture even you desire a blurry background. F5.6 to F8 still give you a blurry background or foreground when you get closer to the food, but more portion of the food will be in focus.
3. The Presentation of Food
Believe it or not, the food itself is the key to success. Pick foods with accent colors in your recipe (e.g persimmons + kale; lemon sorbet + mint toppings), purchase nice table clothes, plates and utensils, be creative in your food presentation.
There might be 2 million tips to great food photo composition, but let's just be simple. Use the Rule of Thirds, it is the easiest way to get a promising result.
Now, I'm going to demonstrate a simple setup at home to photograph food, when there is little or no natural light in the house.
What you need:
1. A Flash
2. Triggers (to fire the off-camera flash)
3. A filter--It can be a white bed sheet, or the translucent body of a reflector (without the silver cover)
4. A reflector to bounce off the shadow
Scenario 1--There is Just a Little Amount of Natural Light
In a sunny day, I can put the food near the window to source natural light. But yesterday was a rainy day and the light outside wasn't enough to make my photo look beautiful.
Thus, I did the below setup. I plugged the triggers on my flash and camera so when I press the camera shutter, the flash will fire accordingly. The role of the flash here is to "pretend" to be natural light coming from the window when I didn't have enough sunlight in a rainy day. With a flash, you can always create a situation as if you are shooting in a happy and sunny day! I used a translucent filter to diffuse or modify the flash light so it would land softly on my food. Note that the filter has to be close to the food you're shooting. In this setting, I did not use a reflector. If you add a reflector, it should be placed opposite to the light source to bounce off the strong shadow at the other side.
Flash power output 1/8
Camera ISO: 1600
Shutter speed: 1/200s
White balance: 5000K (it can be 6000K+ if you are looking for a warmer tone like a bright sunny day)
The Result (no post-editing)
If White Balance was set at 7000K, you'll get a warmer and yellowish tone like this:
If we shoot under insufficient natural light (without a flash, and the ISO was already pushed up to 3200):
If we just use a flash without a translucent filter, the light will be hard and you can see the nasty contrast and shadow on the food. The filter acts as a modifier to soften the light.
Scenario II--Dark kitchen, little or no light condition
Even though you have no natural light at all or your kitchen is too dark, you can still take nice food photos with the same setup and get the same result.
The result is just impressive as scenario 1.
Mixed light (that means having both flash light and kitchen lamp light) would mess up the white balance of the photo. So, it is actually a good news if your lamp light is weak! If you have good lamp light at where you're going to take the photo, I would suggest you dim or even switch off these lights and use the flash as the main source of light.