Photographing Food in Natural Light


If you want to shoot an eye-catching photo, the most important element to consider is lighting. For food photography, it’s been proven time and again that you’re better off using natural light. As the name implies, natural light will make your subject (food, in this case) look far more bright and natural, thereby making it appear a lot more appetizing. Here’s a short list of three important factors to consider when shooting food with natural light:


Pick the right time of day

  • Afternoon or evening light is prone to casting a bluish tint, so evening should be avoided if you want bright photos
  • For best results, photograph during the middle of the day, when the sunlight is at its whitest
  • Note: Don’t take your photos directly in the path of a sunbeam (this produces a severe shadow)


Set up your shot

  • A clean, white background makes your photos look far more appealing
  • Consider propping up a piece of white board paper to use as a background, or using your white-topped stove as a set for photos
  • Be sure your set in clean, without debris
  • Make sure your background is near a source of bright, natural light


Adjust your Depth of Field

  • Pick your depth of field (i.e., how much of your food is in focus); the most popular depth of field (DOF) in food photography is a short DOF
  • Short DOF = subject is focused while the background is blurred
  • To change your DOF on a dSLR, adjust it via the aperture setting
  • If you’re using a basic point-and-click camera, set it to macro


The importance of natural light in photography, especially food photography, cannot be overstated: obtaining a good light source is the first and most important step in photographing any subject, and with food photography, it’s paramount. Setting up your shot and adjusting your depth of field will enhance your photos, but they’re nowhere near as important as your light source. Once you master all three of these steps, you’re certain to produce high-quality, captivating (and hopefully appetizing) photographs.

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