Light is the most important element in successful photography. It’s not the camera you have, the tripod you bought, or the background you chose – all of these things are secondary to the light source you decide on. While good camera equipment can help you overcome some lighting issues, with a great natural light set-up you can achieve greatness even with your phone. Bad light however, can make your perfectly styled photo look like it never was meant to be shown on your blog.
The above photo shows the same cake with different lighting. The mood and story are completely different because of how light is used in the image.
Always use natural lighting, unless you are trained in using studio lighting equipment (which is expensive, complicated and not needed in most situations). Never use a flash unless it’s a bounce flash, and if you don’t know what that is – stick with no flash.
Not all light is equal. You’ll need to find the right light. Ideal light for photos is soft and diffused, with soft shadows. If the light is too direct, such as during lunch hour on a sunny day, you’ll have harsh shadows and your image will have too much contrast. Find a room in your house that gets a lot of indirect light for an extended period of time. Think beyond your dining room or kitchen – maybe you get great indirect light in your bathroom or your child’s bedroom? You can also use a sheer curtain or blind (in white) to soften light that’s coming through a large window.
Now that you’ve found the great light in your house, you’ll also have to work on adding and removing light on your subject. You need to take control of your shadows and bright spots. To do this, you’ll be using fill and negative fill cards – basically, you’ll use white poster board to add more light and black poster board (a negative fill card) to remove light on your subject.
You can see in the images below how light can work:
In the above example, the middle image is photographed without the use of any poster board. The left image uses white poster board to reflect light onto the subject, which substantially lightens the shadows. The right image uses a negative fill card (black poster board), which makes the shadows visibly heavier.
The above was photographed with light coming from the left side. You can use the same technique if your light comes from the front or the back. Particularly if you are using backlight, you’ll need to reflect light onto to the front of your object.
Experiment with light, poster boards and reflectors with every object you shoot. Your reflectors don’t always have to be used the same way. Move them around, while looking through you view finder, bend them into different angles, get close, move away and you’ll see how different your object looks with each set up.
Top images: Dessert for Breakfast
Connect with Giulia at BlogPodium during her Tabletop Photography — Object and Food Styling workshop. Spend this hands-on workshop, learning tips and tricks on making food photos jump off the screen, having your crafty DIY’s and/or objects present themselves in the best light and becoming the art director of your own photo shoot. Giulia will walk you through seeing and using available light, effective framing and creative composition, using surfaces and backgrounds, colour choices, getting the most from simple equipment and building your visual brand. You will leave this design camp with skills that can be put to use immediately.