NATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

I was a natural light food photographer for quite a while before I switched to artificial lighting. And, although I highly recommend artificial lighting now, some professional food photographers and bloggers prefer to stick with natural light. My reasons for loving natural light were that it’s beautiful, it’s less gear to work with and it was simply a comfort zone for me. However, natural light can also be tricky to work with because it’s constantly changing and there are only so many daylight hours to work with. I am sharing five natural light food photography tips that helped me create beautiful food images.

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NATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

Natural Light Food Photography Tips

Tip 1: Shoot in Manual Mode

First things first, are you shooting in manual mode yet? If you’re not, it’s time. This was one of the biggest game changers for me as a photographer because I was taking full control of the exposure. Natural light is constantly changing, so you’ll have to adjust your camera settings accordingly to create the look you want. Remember, you are the artist and your camera is an amazing tool to help you bring your vision to life. Take control of your camera and turn that dial to M.

Read More About: How To Shoot In Manual Mode

Tip 2: Set Up By A Window and Use Diffusers & Reflectors

I can’t emphasize this enough… setup near a window that has beautiful natural light pouring in. Don’t depend on your kitchen lights or dining room lights to capture the beautiful colors of your food.

And, ohh-la-la I love diffusers and reflectors. These help you soften and direct the light that hits the food. Diffusers will soften the light and will sit between your light source (your window) and your subject. They help you avoid hot spots and soften areas of your image that might look overexposed. Reflectors will bounce light back to your subject and will sit opposite your light source.

I have a variety of different sized diffusors and reflectors and sometimes I simply use a sheer white window curtain. I have seen photographers use white bed sheets too. It’s absolutely ok to get creative with what works for your space and budget!

Tip 3: Use Black & White Foam Core

Who would have thought that white and black foam core could be so useful in food photography? Whenever I pull these bad boys out on a shoot, people look a little confused. 😉 They’re cheap boards, but oh-so-effective as reflectors for shaping light. They can also work as a surface or background for your food photography.

THE SETUP (White Foam Core)

This behind the scenes setup demonstrates setting my camera up on my overhead setup and using natural light from a window on the left with a sheer curtain to diffuse the light. I also have a white v-flat on the right to bounce the light back to the scallions.

Camera Settings: Nikon D750; 105mm 2.8; 1/6; f14; ISO 100

NATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPSNATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

THE SETUP (Black Foam Core)

This behind the scenes setup demonstrates setting my camera up on my overhead setup and using natural light from a window on the left with a sheer curtain to diffuse the light. I also have black foam core on the right to emphasize the shadows between the scallions.

Camera Settings: Nikon D750; 105mm 2.8; 1/6; f14; ISO 100

NATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPSNATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

Tip 4: Get A Tripod

When you shoot with natural light, you’d be amazed at how underexposed or overexposed your images can start to appear if you’re not using the appropriate camera settings. I always recommend having a good tripod on hand for food photo shoots to stabilize your camera, so you have more flexibility with adjusting your camera settings.

For example, for this photo shoot, I used a much slower shutter speed so I could keep the ISO low while also using a higher aperture for sharpness. Using a tripod allowed me to set my shutter speed slower without picking up any camera shake. If you noticed my camera settings listed above, my shutter speed was 1/6.

Best Tools for Natural Light Food Photography

DIFFUSERS & REFLECTORS
WINDOW CURTAIN
WHITE BED SHEET
BLACK FOAM CORE
WHITE FOAM CORE
MANFROTTO TRIPOD WITH BALL HEAD
OBEN CT-3535 FOLDING CARBON FIBER TRAVEL TRIPOD

Tip 5: Practice Editing Techniques

Editing is a big part of the photography process. When you look at images straight out of the camera on your computer, they can appear flat because they haven’t been edited yet. It’s important to shoot RAW so you have full editing capabilities during post production.

There are several different editing techniques that can help alleviate some of the struggles with using natural light that you can’t necessarily solve with your camera alone. I use Lightroom and Photoshop for my editing and highly recommend these two workshops by CreativeLive to learn some really cool tips and tricks.

LIGHTROOM
PHOTOSHOP

Compare the before/after image below and notice how the edited image on the right appears more vibrant and more colorful with a little extra contrast in the shadows than the unedited version on the left.

virant image before and after

See the final image below using natural light from a window on the left diffused with a sheer curtain, a piece of black foam core on the right with final editing touches in Lightroom.

Read More About: Getting Started in Food Photography

light source for photography

Natural light is a beautiful light source to use for your food photography. However, it’s important to control the light so you can create the type of images you want. Learn how to adjust your camera settings, gather some diffusers and reflectors, stock up on foam core and practice your editing skills. I can’t wait to see what you do! Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Happy Shooting!

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.

  1. Matt says:

    This is awesome! Very straightforward – sometimes these kind of posts get so technical – it’s refreshing to see and I learned a lot!

    • reganbaroni00 says:

      Awesome, Matt! So glad you found this post helpful!

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