Artificial Lighting In Food Photography

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Are you a restaurant, cafe or pub owner hoping to incorporate beautiful food or drink photos into your menu?

For those behind the camera, it can be difficult to find a time in the day to dedicate to your food photoshoot. If this sounds like you, it may be time to invest in some artificial lighting.

Artificial Lighting Vs Natural Lighting

The argument for artificial lighting can be summed up in one word: consistency.

Many photographers prefer artificial lighting as it gives them the power to capture consistent photos. When it comes to your menu design, food photos with varying lighting levels may come across as unprofessional. Moreover, lighting can greatly affect the look and feel of the food photos you are intending to take.

Natural light, on the other hand, can be entirely unpredictable – with so many more variables to consider in order to get a similar-looking shot. The best times to shoot in natural light are in the morning and during sunset, which can restrict your schedule and add extra pressure to cram in the perfect shots.

Thus, artificial lighting is an effective solution if you’re busy running your restaurant, cafe or pub during the day. Regardless of what time of day it is, you have the freedom to pour as much time and thought as needed into your food photoshoot.

Plus, with a stable light source, you won’t need to reset your white balance with every shot!

Types of Artificial Lighting

Contrary to popular belief, a good artificial lighting setup doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Here are the three main types of artificial lights you might find in a professional studio that won’t break the bank:

  • Studio strobes – A type of flash lighting providing a short burst of bright light, similar to an on-camera flash. The quick recycle time means you can take many photos in a short span of time.  
  • Speedlights – A type of portable flash that is inexpensive, versatile and able to be rotated or tilted. These can be fired wirelessly, too.
  • Continuous lighting – A steady light source that shows how the light falls on your subject as soon as you turn it on. This produces softer results and helps you make adjustments more easily.

Making Artificial Light Look Natural

Once you’ve chosen your artificial lighting, other elements in your artificial lighting setup to include and/or consider are:

  • Reflector – This brightens a scene by bouncing light back onto the subject from a different direction. You can even DIY it by covering a foam board in aluminium foil or silver or gold wrapping paper.
  • Diffuser – Is your artificial lighting looking too harsh? A diffuser will soften any shadows by spreading light evenly across the scene.
  • Lighting distance – Remember that the closer your light source is to your subject, the lighter the shadow will be.
  • External light sources – If you find that other light sources are getting in the way of controlling your artificial lighting, shut all your curtains and turn off all the other lights in the room. Overhead lights generally fail to do food photos justice. By working in a dark setting with one artificial lighting unit, you’ll have more creative control of colour tones and light angles.

The Power Of Post-Production Editing

If all else fails and your photos turn out a little too dark or yellow-toned, don’t fret!

The temperature, exposure and contrast can easily be adjusted using post-production programs like Photoshop and Lightroom. For those without access to paid photo editing software, online photo editing tools like Canva work just as well.

Showcase Your Food Photos On Menuzen

Once you’re happy with your stunning food shots, why not load them onto Menuzen?

As a 100% free live menu management system, Menuzen is making waves in the industry with the ability to make, design and share menus across different platforms. By uploading your photos to your menu items, you can add extra flair and let your customers make better decisions.

Did we mention your free account comes with creative and elegant menu templates, ready for you to use?

Sign up to Menuzen to create your own live menu today!