Lighting is sort of my scary topic when it comes to taking photos of my food, so I’m going to be taking this part of the Plate to Pixel series nice and slow! I’m only just beginning to actually understand how it works. When I first started shooting, I thought all light was good. The brighter the better, right? Hmmm… so very wrong. Photos taken right next to the window on a bright sunny day would feel weird, but photos taken on cloudy days came out beautifully and had that soft glow I wanted. What was that about?

Hard light and soft light. On those really bright days, I was trying to shoot in direct sunlight- a common example of hard light. Hard light produces harsh shadows and high contrasts, as you can see in picture of the dough below. This was taken directly next to the window.

Soft light is generally indirect or diffused (more on diffusion later). In this second picture,  the bread was placed on the other side of the room ,much farther away from the window, allowing it to illuminate the subject much more gently. The light could have even been better diffused by placing a thin sheet across the window, but in comparison to the shot above, the lighting feels gentle and smooth.

Soft light isn’t necessarily better than hard and vice versa. The important thing (and the thing I need to get better at!) is to think about the feeling you want the food to project. Hard light can have a dramatic effect, reflecting a more moody feel, and soft light communicates a sense of comfort and warmth.   So the question becomes, what do you want the food to say?

As we shift into fall and the hours of daylight begin to shorten (agony for food bloggers!), I’m going to try to use this as an opportunity to not only get better at manipulating light, but start thinking about how to use the light to actually reflect the feeling of the food or meal. First step? Setting up a beginner’s ‘photo studio’ with some DIY light reflectors and diffusers. I’ll show you how I did it in September! In the mean time, if there are any other food photography topics you’re itching for me to cover in the series- I’d love to hear!  I’d like to be able to implement them into the series.

Oh and this bread? So, so good. Recipe here.

For all Plate to Pixel posts, I’ve referenced Helene Dujardin’s book Plate to Pixel.

  1. Great post! What camera are you using or do you recommend? Look forward to seeing how you set up your studio.

    • Clara

      I use a Canon 2Ti, but there are obviously a ton of great dSLRs on the market! I’d figure out your price range and what you’re going to be primarily shooting and then start to do some research with those goals in mind. Feel free to email me if you would like more specifics on my camera!

  2. Another bunch of great tips and information! Thank you for sharing!


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