It’s finally warm enough to shoot outside, so today I want to share some tips about shooting with natural light and decided to use this tasty Tomato Carpaccio Salad recipe as an example.
1) Sunny vs. Overcast Light
A lot of people think that a bright sunny day is better than a cloudy day for photography. This isn’t necessarily true. Direct sun can cause harsh shadows and bright spots causing you to lose details that you might want to highlight. Overcast skies are my favorite when I’m shooting food outside because the light is soft and balanced. The clouds basically act as a natural diffuser and the results can be gorgeous.
2) Control the Light
Mother Nature has a mind of her own, and natural light is constantly changing. It’s up to you to control the light and make it work for you. Whether it’s a sunny day or an overcast day, I highly recommend investing in diffusors (softens the light) and reflectors (bounces light back) so you can control how much of the light hits your subject and where it hits your subject. If you have an umbrella on your deck, you can start with that. Take a couple pictures in the sunlight and then set up underneath the umbrella to see how it affects the results.
3) Manual Mode
Manual mode is crucial to really learning how to take control of your images in any situation. If your camera is set on Auto, this means your camera is making all the decisions for you. It sounds less complicated, but you won’t get the results you want. If you want to take better pictures, it’s time to move the dial from Auto to M.
Shooting manual basically means that you control the three most important settings in photography: ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.
ISO is how sensitive your camera is to light. The higher this number, the more sensitive it will be. But, be careful with this setting, because a higher ISO can cause some noise or grain in your images.
Shutter Speed is the amount of time your shutter is open and exposed to light. The faster the shutter speed, the less time it’s exposed to light. A faster shutter speed also helps you capture movement in a sharp and clear shot. The slower the shutter speed, the more time it’s exposed to light. A slower shutter speed helps you capture movement in more of a blur. Be careful with a slower shutter speed, though, because if you’re holding your camera, it can easily pick up any shakiness in your hands. A personal rule for myself is, if I need to go lower than 1/100 of a second, I use a tripod.
Aperture is the size of the hole in your lens. The wider it is, the more light it lets in. The smaller it is, the less light it lets in. The tricky party about aperture is the wider it is, the smaller the number and the smaller it is, the higher the number. For example, a wide setting for an aperture is f1.8. and a small setting would be f14.
Another thing to remember about aperture is the wider the hole (smaller the number), the shallower the depth of field is… meaning the background behind your focal point will be more blurry (or dreamy). The smaller the hole, the more “in focus” everything in the background will be.
None of this will really make any sense until you start playing with these settings yourself. The best way to learn manual mode is to simply start shooting in Manual mode. Is your image too dark? What would you adjust to make it lighter? Is your image too bright? How would you tone it down? Do you want to capture an action shot that’s nice and sharp? How would you do that?
If you need more light – experiment with a wider aperture, higher ISO and slower shutter speed.
If you need less light – experiment with a smaller aperture, lower ISO and faster shutter speed.
You will have to adjust the three settings individually to get the results you want. Take your time and practice, practice, practice.
TOMATO CARPACCIO SALAD
- 4-5 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Extra-virgin olive oil 1 package of fresh raspberries
- 1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
- Handful of basil leaves
- Raspberry vinegar
- Arrange the tomatoes on a plate.
- Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.
- In a small bowl, drizzle the raspberries with a little vinaigrette to taste.
- Crush raspberries with a fork so it becomes like a dressing.
- Top the tomatoes with torn mozzarella and the crushed raspberry dressing.
- Scatter with basil leaves and serve.
If you can't find a raspberry vinegar, use a raspberry vinaigrette.
All images © Regan Baroni 2016.