The #1 thing to know for stunning food photography


AUGUST, 2016

If I were to ask you what was the #1 thing you needed to achieve stunning food photography, what would you say it was?

An expensive DSLR camera?

A plate of beautifully styled food?

A designer kitchen to shoot in?

While all of these things are important (except perhaps for the latter – there are many creative ways to get around having a photogenic kitchen to shoot in), I would argue that

The #1 most important thing for getting a good food shot is lighting.

Lighting really can make or break a photo, and good lighting can not only make an image more appealing, it can actually add mood and emotion, and help to tell the story of your food which creates a connection with your viewer.

In the world we live in today, this is increasingly important as we are swamped with images of food everywhere we look and to sell your products; to get people to click through to your blog; to get them to go to your café; to get them to buy your cookbook; you need to be able to engage with them.

So what are the key elements to getting the correct lighting?

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

– George Eastman


Artificial lighting can add a certain unattractive hue to your image, and can make you food look somewhat artificial itself. The most complementary lighting for food photography is natural lighting. Unlike artificial lighting though, natural lighting can appear different in different settings, different time of the day, different times of the year, and in different rooms in your house.
L – A very yellow and unappetising pot of pasta sauce – you wouldn’t know by looking at this uncomplimentary picture that this sauce is actually my Nonna’s family recipe and is one of the most delicious pasta sauces you will ever eat (truth!)  R – A much more appetising shot of Nonna’s pasta sauce. Can’t you just imagine some of that slathered on top of some homemade, freshly rolled fettuccine? Washed down with a glass of my Nonno’s red wine…




Whether you’re after a really light and bright look, or you prefer that dark, moody type of photography, you can achieve either through learning how to manipulate light. This is also important when we want to shoot in conditions that aren’t favourable when working to a deadline (or when you’re losing light at dinner time!)
L – There is no way to tell these delicious chocolate bars actually have an amazingly fudgy centre with way too much shadow cast across the font. The yellowing tinge to the “white” background doesn’t help matters. R – Much better! This image uses shadow to create depth and mood in the background, with light bounced back onto the front of the bars so that you can see the deliciously crispy filling.




Learn how to correct white balance. If you’re anything like me, this was something that I struggled with for a long time. My photos used to alternate between having a blueish green hue, or a warm yellow/orange glow to them. In the Guides, we discuss how to get an accurate white balance when shooting your image – or if all else fails, how to correct the white balance in post-processing.
I was so excited the first time I made savoury granola, but I just couldn’t get the white balance quite right in the images, no matter how hard I tried. These pictures (above) still make me cringe…

I re-shot this image a few months ago – it actually looks quite tasty here!


So – the million dollar question!  What is the easiest way to get correct lighting for food photography?


I wish it was as easy as giving you a few simple tips – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but getting the right lighting can take a lot of practice. It can take a while to start to recognise what natural lighting looks like. But – it does get easier, I promise!

In the meantime, make sure that you are only shooting in natural lighting. Turn off any artificial lights – whether it’s the ceiling light in the room or out in the hallway, a TV or anything else in the room with a bright LCD display – any of these things can cast an ugly glow over your images. And importantly – ensure the flash on your camera is turned OFF.



In the Food Photography + Styling Guides, we discuss the various forms of natural lighting and how to choose where in your house has the best lighting (it may not be the most logical or obvious place!) and what time of day to shoot to get the look you want.

You’ll learn how to manipulate light, creating shadow to add depth, contrast and mood, or adding light to create brightness and vibrancy, depending on your desired style.

You’ll also learn how to shoot in manual and master the “exposure triangle” – that is, to perfectly balance the light within your camera when shooting.
The soon-to-be-released editing module also includes guides on attaining that light-and-bright lighting or dark-and-moody vibe, as well as correcting white balance.

You’ll also learn how to make your own filters for constancy in lighting and colour throughout your images.

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