Light and airy food photography is a beautiful style. It’s incredibly popular in the food photography world, because the images evoke a fresh, inviting and appetizing look. If you’re looking to improve your light food photography, I have some great tips to help you out.
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Light and Airy Food Photography Tips
No matter what your creative direction and vision is, you’ll will always be considering the same things for all of your photo shoots – you’ll just be making different decisions about each of them to achieve the look you’re going for.
- CAMERA SETTINGS
- WHITE BALANCE
- BACKGROUNDS & SURFACES
Let’s dive into the tips!
Tip 1: Shoot In Manual Mode
Shooting in manual mode helps you control the exposure of your images. Whether you shoot with natural light or artificial lights, being able to adjust your camera settings for the proper exposure is really important. If you aren’t familiar with shooting in manual mode, I have a great blog post that dives into aperture, shutter speed and ISO, so you can learn how to create the exposure you want.
READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE
Tip 2: Play With White Balance
Your white balance adjusts the color temperature of your images. Images will either look more blue (cool) or more yellow (warm) depending on your lighting situation. You’ll want to find a balance so your lighting looks natural. You can start with setting your white balance to AUTO and see if your images look too blue or too yellow. Sometimes Auto White Balance works out pretty well, but your camera will have other settings for you to try as well. You can also adjust your white balance and colors during editing.
Tip 3: Use A Tripod
Using a tripod really comes in handy in food photography. If you’re shooting in natural light, you’ll want a way to stabilize your camera so you can adjust your camera settings accordingly. Whenever I shoot with natural light, I find that I need to slow my shutter speed down quite a bit to accommodate lower light situations. If I’m holding the camera and I need to use a slow shutter speed, my images will pick up camera shake. A tripod allows me to slow my shutter speed down without having to worry about camera shake in my food images.
Manfrotto 055 with Ball Head
I use and recommend the Manfrotto 055 with Ball Head. It’s a sturdy tripod and packs up well for traveling on location. If you plan to shoot overhead with this tripod, you will want to consider an extension arm as well so you can extend your camera far enough over the table.
My Overhead Setup
I usually only use my tripod for angled and straight on shots. For overhead shots, I have a special setup. This setup works beautifully for overhead shots and results in gorgeous images every time. And, not having to readjust my tripod and extension arm in between shots saves a bunch of time on set.
If you want to avoid extra steps in editing, shoot tethered. This means your camera is attached to your computer so you can see your images on a larger screen. Shooting tethered helps you see your images larger so you can make adjustments before you get to the editing stage.
READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST OVERHEAD SETUP FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
Tip 4: Use Brighter Surfaces & Backdrops
This is one of the easiest ways to start experimenting with a bright and airy look for your food images. It’s cool how just switching between different surfaces can affect your image so drastically. If you’re going for a dark look, you’d use a dark surface. For a brighter look, you’d use a light surface. It sounds so simple, because it is!
Check out the two images of the Cowboy Caviar recipe below. I used the same cast iron pan and the same natural light, but just switched out the surfaces to create two very different moods and looks.
Note: Grab the recipe at the end of this post!
Tip 5: Use Brighter Props
Much like experimenting with lighter colored surfaces, using lighter colored props is another easy way to start experimenting with a light and airy food photography style.
In the image below, I used a light surface by Erickson Surfaces, a clear wine glass and a lightly textured plate from Crate & Barrel. The light and neutral surface and props really let the colorful tomatoes stand out, creating that light and airy look.
Tip 6: Lighting
As we all know in photography, lighting is very important. Whether you use natural light or artificial lights, there are three ways for you to control the light and make it do what you want it to do.
- ADJUST YOUR CAMERA SETTINGS
- USE LIGHT MODIFIERS
- ADJUST THE POSITION OF YOUR LIGHT SOURCE
Adjust Your Camera Settings
As mentioned in Tip 1, take the time to learn manual mode. When you learn how your aperture, shutter speed and ISO work interchangeably to create different exposures, you can get much more creative with your images and how they’re exposed.
Use Light Modifiers
Light modifiers help you direct and control your lighting. Whether you want to create more direct, hard light with harsh shadows or prefer more balanced light with soft shadows, light modifiers are your BFF on set. I’m listing some modifiers to consider including:
- BLACK FOAM BOARD
- WHITE FOAM BOARD
- 5-IN-1 DIFFUSOR & REFLECTOR
- SOFTBOXES (ARTIFICIAL LIGHT)
- UMBRELLAS (ARTIFICIAL LIGHT)
Adjust The Position Of Your Light Source
Your light source is either your window (the sun) or artificial lights. Move the food around (if you’re using natural light from a window) or move your lights around (if you’re using studio lights) and watch how the light interacts with your food. What happens if you move further away? What happens if you put the light behind the food? The position of the lighting is going to affect the results, so don’t be afraid to play and see what happens.
READ MORE ABOUT: NATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Tip 7: Play With Editing
Editing is the icing on the cake in photography and plays a big role in the mood of your food images. A little can go a long way to bringing your images to their final form and the options are endless with what you can do. I recommend getting Lightroom and Photoshop for your editing.
BEFORE AND AFTER EXAMPLE
See the before and after image of the scallions below. Notice how the ‘before’ image looks more flat and maybe a little dull, whereas the ‘after’ image looks more rich and saturated? Don’t be afraid to play with the variety of editing tools in the software and watch how different settings affect your image. It’s probably my favorite part of the food photography process. 😉
Photography Editing Tutorials
I have some great editing tutorials that I discovered on CreativeLive to get you started with Lightroom and Photoshop. I highly recommend CreativeLive as an online resource – I frequently watch their classes and always feel like I’ve walked away with valuable information to help me become a better photographer.
In conclusion, light and airy food photography is a gorgeous style. Take the time to learn manual mode, get a good tripod, find some pretty light surfaces and props, practice different lighting positions and find your editing style. You’ll be amazed at the images you can produce when you just take the time to practice!
Reach out with questions anytime!
Happy Shooting (and don’t forget to grab the recipe!) 😉
- 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 can corn, drained & rinsed
- 1 small jar pimento, rinsed and diced
- 1 jalapeño, diced, seeds and stems removed
- 2 poblanos, diced, seeds and stems removed
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1-2 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients and mix together well.
- In a small pot over medium heat, combine the sugar, olive oil and rice vinegar.
- Stir while bringing to a boil and let boil for 1 minute or so.
- Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Once cooled, add the oil/sugar mixture to the beans and peppers. Mix well.
- Let chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Drain the mixture so it doesn’t sit in too much oil and become soggy.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Store in containers in the fridge and serve with chips or other dinner varieties.
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.