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Food Photography & Lighting: Creating "Natural" Daylight

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If you want your images to look like they were shot using natural light, then you need to study what you see, and consider how you can then re-create it in the studio. Some of the best ideas are out there waiting for you.
part02_ch05_opener.jpg

arrow2.jpg This scene is lit by just one light and a fill card.

ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/8, 50mm lens on Canon DSLR

Food Stylist: William Smith, Prop Stylist: Nora Fink

Assignment Five: Natural Light with Flash

I was having lunch one day at a local restaurant, and with a new DSLR at my side I couldn’t resist photographing my meal. After taking a few shots of my plate, I noticed something interesting. I reviewed the images on the tiny LCD screen. I really liked what I saw, especially the lighting. What was it about this light that was so appealing? I had purposely sat near the window at the restaurant, but as I studied my surroundings I realized that it wasn’t just a window, but a large group of them just to my right. And the light that came through from outside, although bright, was not direct sunlight. Toward the back of the room there were other windows too, but they were less intense.

I thought about how I could create that same effect in my studio. Then it occurred to me—if I used large pieces of foamcore to bounce my light, I could recreate the same light I saw coming through the bank of windows at the restaurant. I have always used small pieces of foamcore for fill cards to bounce light back on my subject in the studio, but rarely have I used full 4′ × 8′ sheets. And to get the same quality of light that the back windows at the restaurant provided, I could just bounce a light off my studio wall.

I went back to the studio and began to experiment. I discovered that by moving the light that was aimed at the foamcore closer, then farther away, I could change the quality of the light from something that had direction to a very soft light, especially if I put two or three pieces of foamcore side by side. I also found that lighting a 4′ × 8′ sheet of foamcore was very inefficient, as the light bounced in every direction—especially up. To remedy that, I decided to bend the foamcore at its midpoint, so that it formed sort of a bowl shape and directed the light back down at the set. The result created what I had seen and liked so much at the restaurant.

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