Useful Photography Tip #64: How a Small Reflector Can Enhance Your Food Photography

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“I’m a natural light photographer” doesn’t need to mean that you can’t manipulate the way a scene is. In fact, whether or not you’re a natural light photographer has nothing to do with light sources and needing a source in a specific spot at just the right moment. Lighting geeks will tell you that the only way that you can get more light is to introduce another source of it. But there’s a little technical workaround for that. With a $15 Pocket Reflector from Photojojo, you can add just enough of a subtle difference in your food photography to give it an extra pop.

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Gear Used

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For this demonstration we used the Olympus EP5, 17mm f1.8, MeFOTO Daytrip Tripod, and the Photojojo Pocket Reflector. But to be honest, you don’t really need all that stuff, and you can do this with just your phone and the reflector. We’re only mentioning these products for transparency.

No manipulation was done to the images.

The Science

Let’s think of it in terms of a concert for a second. Let’s say the lights are totally off. How are you going to see the band play? Well, chances are that they’ll be performing in the dark.

But if you add one big light in front of them, then you’ll be able to capture some details. Add another big light on top of them, and the stage is now evenly illuminated plus they have full frontal lighting. Add even more colored lights all around them and you’ll get some really cool effects.

See what we did there? We literally just created a scene. But that scene wouldn’t be complete without all the lights that we added.

Without a Reflector

Without a Reflector

Now let’s miniaturize this: let’s say that we’re photographing food by window light. That window is the main source of light. But it is creating some shadows that we don’t really want. In a case like this we could do one of two things: embrace the shadows and make them pop or get rid of them.

With a reflector

With a reflector

When you add a reflector right under the window light and aim the reflection at the food, you start to see some more details come out in the food. Sure, there are still shadows but it still totally has that natural light look to it.

The Results

Now let’s try this again.

Image without a reflector. Window light is camera right.

Image without a reflector. Window light is camera right.

Notice how the shadows are all coming from the right side. That is because the window is there. And that is also the only source of light.

Added Reflector camera left

Added Reflector camera left

And when you add a reflector camera left, more details come out in the blueberries and cherries.

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