Last week we introduced the basic concept of how to photograph food. Today we would like to explore a more advanced yet simple technique of photographing food using natural window light.
If I can use natural light I will as it is always my first choice. Using natural light is not as easy as it seems. It took me years before I could master this technique. The main benefit of using natural light there is no need for lighting equipment. Here are some tips that will help you to overcome some of the problems.
Problems you might experience using natural light and the solutions.
On cloudy days color temperature can jump sporadically every minute, shifting white balance from 4800 to 6500 degrees.
Solution: White diffusion should be used.
On overcast days I use: Tough Silk Diffusion. (a really fine thin diffusion that keeps light in a beam and fine tunes white balance)
On sunny days (Indirect light / north exposure) I use Opal Tough Frost (light diffusion, it keeps the beam focused and white balance leveled)
On sunny days (direct sunlight) I use Tough White Diffusion (thick diffusion keeps light evenly diffused) or Tough Frost (also thick diffusion but keeps beam more focused at the center and makes the image a bit less flat compared to Tough White)
Note: White balance should still be checked and fine-tuned before taking your final shot.
When we are in need of extra light you generally add another light, right? Having the sun as your light source limits you to a single source.
Solution: Light can be bounced back onto dark areas (when needed) using a white card or white bouncer. Mirrors can also be utilized to bounce sharper directional light. See basic use of reflector: Still Life Photography with Natural Light
The sun is not going to work overtime.
Solution: Plan accordingly and keep track of time. It’s always a good idea to have a backup light (tungsten or strobe) just in case. With the camera on a tripod shooting is still possible as the sun is setting by controlling the exposure using very slow shutter speed.
When shooting with diffused natural light. Your exposure might require slow shutter speeds.
Solution: Use a tripod. Consider using the mirror lock up function in your camera to minimize camera shake, also consider using a remote trigger.
Notes on soup steam: Steam can be captured naturally without using cigar smoke. But be prepared to shoot within 15 seconds of the soup hitting the set. Also, a lower angle is preferable when emphasizing steam. Dark backgrounds will help steam show up better. (I had very specific angle instructions for the shot in the video above)
Sometimes steam can play against you as it will diminish the color and appeal of fresh beautiful ingredients. If you are shooting a job for a client it always good to shoot both versions with and without.
Take control of the natural light and treat the sun as you would any other type of photographic light source. Do not forget to have fun and enjoy your meal.
Photography Equipment Used in The Video:
Assignment: Shoot your food using window light. Post results here using “Share Your Shot” feature in comments
Soup Styling by Maria L Rodriguez a Food Stylist in New York