Have I seen the light?

Regular readers will know that I’m something of a natural light evangelist when it comes to shooting food.

If we can’t use what’s available, we ain’t working. Or something like that anyway. One thing that’s an absolute no-no is the use of flash – it makes food look so unappetising.


Anyway, for this blog I decided to prove that I still know how to work studio lights and produce some OK-looking images. Truth is, sometimes a client needs a “clinical” look that can only be captured using artificial light.


It’s certainly true for a great many product and advertising shots. But getting it right presents a whole new set of challenges. What kinds of look will work with the food in question? Is it to be highly stylised or shot very simply? And the most obvious question of all, how do I get the light right?


I’ve been experimenting with an all-black surface and background. For the technically minded, this is how I did it –

  1. I used two 500w monobloc lights. One as a large softbox right in front of the subject, the other, with a wide diffuser to the left of the subject (this was the fill light).
  2. The background is black velvet set at least 1.5 meters back from the shooting table. The further back the better.
  3. The surface is top quality black Perspex with a high gloss finish. It shows up every little speck so be sure to have a blower handy.
  4. Camera was a Nikon D3S with a 105mm micro lens (tripod mounted of course).
  5. I shot at f.22 and above – this is essential to capture any kind of depth of field.
  6. The main light was set at a higher power setting (at least a stop) than the fill light – but be prepared to experiment to get a look you’re happy with. Also, move the lights around; every food product has different characteristics and responds to light in a different way.


And that’s all there is to it. I chose sushi because it’s just so perfectly made and has beautiful colours and sweetcorn because it’s a bit more rough and ready. I wanted to capture all the detail contained in the skin. Hope you like the results.


Don’t worry; I haven’t seen the (artificial light). The majority of my work will continue to be shot using available light. But sometimes it’s nice to get a bit creative in the studio.


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