I’ve had several inquiries lately about how I light my photos, especially for my food photography, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of how I set up for my photos and show that it really doesn’t take much to get decent results.

You don’t need a studio. You don’t need lighting equipment. You don’t need more than a window and a camera.

Here are the major things you need to know:

1. Take photos next to a window (but not in harsh direct light). No flash, no lamps, no lightbox, nothing. That’s not to say you can’t get good results from any of those, but I much much prefer the look that daylight gives food.

2. Use manual settings on your camera and shoot with a large aperture. Play around with shutter speed until you get the exposure you like (yes, technically you could use AV Priorty which lets you choose a specific aperture value while the camera selects a shutter speed to match…but don’t)

3. It’s not mandatory, but a tripod will REALLY help. You may not be able to see the slight blur in your shot on the playback screen until you upload the photo, and by then it’s too late (because let’s face it, as soon as the photo is taken, WE ARE EATING THAT FOOD). Take a precaution and use a tripod to get consistently sharp photos.

Here is the set up I’ve been using more and more as I’ve been heading to my parents larger kitchen to cook and use their pretty dishes.

Just their kitchen table.

Teriyaki Chicken & Garlic Noodles
50mm f/2.8 1/20 ISO 100

Lemon Honey Balls
50mm f/2.0 1/50 ISO 100

At my apartment I photograph here on my desk:

My little space

I’ll clear off the desk and put a white piece of mat board behind the food to give a smooth background, but that’s it:

50mm f/1.8 1/60 ISO 100

Pasta Fagioli
50mm 1.8 1/1000 ISO 400

Or I’ll use this setup in the living room:

which is exactly what I did for all my cupcake shots last week:

50mm f/2.2 1/200-1/320 ISO 100

The only time I haven’t used natural daylight for a food shot is when I was taking photos at night and testing out my cheap little $30 continuous lighting umbrella kit I found on Amazon.com.

I was pretty happy with the results, although I still love natural light SO much more (and I did adjust levels and color balance a lot in post-processing to get the whites truly white and bright)

50mm f/2.8 1/100 ISO 200

Triple layer cupcake with guinness chocolate cream cheese frosting. YES.
50mm f/1.8 1/125 ISO 200

And there you go! Just start practicing and see what you can do πŸ™‚