How to Use a Flash for Food Photography

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 5Ds review images (5 of 24)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

That beautiful natural light effect that everyone loves in their food photography can be created at any time of day or night–and you don’t need to wait for the best times of the day for it to happen. By using a flash (mostly out of the hot shoe but sometimes in it) you can create those really beautiful food photos that make you want to indulge in all the things.

And to be honest, it’s really, really not hard to do. If anything, food photography with a flash is a one trick pony and what will make the images better are adding textures and interesting compositions/patterns. That part is all up to your own creative freedom.

Here’s how you can use flash for better food photography.

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Better Food Photos With Natural Light

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 12.20.50 PM

Photographer Jenny Woodward recently uploaded a fantastic instructional video to Vimeo on how to get better food photos with window light. The even cooler thing is that everything that she uses to create the better images are household items. She starts by placing a table by a window and blocking off excess light to make it more directional. Then it’s all about diffusing, filling in shadows, and placement of the objects. She uses simple things like tin foil, curtains, foam board, etc.

Even cooler–she creates better images with just her phone. No need for a really fancy camera at all especially when you understand lighting this well.

Her video is after the jump.

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The Phoblographer’s Guide to Better Portraits in Natural Light

Before we begin this article, let’s make this clear: never call yourself a natural light photographer. But beyond that, know the basics. Portraiture is hard enough but actually make the most of natural lighting is really a skill. It isn’t as simple as going out there and just shooting. Indeed, knowing how to use natural light in the best ways has to do with actually knowing how to look at light and judge how it will appear in an image.

Though we always tell folks to learn how to use a flash, here’s how to make the most of what you have if all you have is natural light.

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10 Simple Lighting Hacks You Can Do With a Hot Shoe Flash

This is how we lit the shot of almonds in this blog post.

This is how we lit the shot of almonds in this blog post.

There are lots of cool things that you can do with off-camera lighting that can give you better photos or help you get your creative vision across much better when natural light isn’t available. It can also be very fun to do if you’re willing to experiment. We’ve rounded up a number of hacks that you can do with a hot shoe flash and that can be done in the convenience of your own home with stuff you most likely own or can create in the span of a weekend.

Give these a try and let your creativity run this weekend.

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Shooting Better Food Images With One Light

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 16-55mm f2.8 WR review Graham's images (15 of 19)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.8

Food photography isn’t tough to do, but good quality food photography can be incredibly tough. It’s all about timing, composition, colors and lighting. Good food photography whets an appetite and elicits emotions connected to food. If you can make someone smell the Mac and Cheese that you just cooked, then you’re well on your way to making better food images.

Here’s how to go about shooting better food images by using one light and keeping it simple.

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The Best Times of Day to Use Natural Light For Your Photos


Yes, you’ve heard of the Golden Hour, but do you know about the Blue Hour? Or have you ever looked at the quality of the sun before sunset happens and after it’s at its highest point during the middle of the day? It can be beautiful for so many different types of photos. While everyone will tell you to go shooting only during the golden hour, we think that you shouldn’t limit yourself to only these times. If you’re shooting portraits, you can use the shadows and if you’re shooting all other types of images you should just embrace the light at other times.

Here are the best times to shoot using natural light.

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The Phoblographer’s Introduction to Shooting Better Portraits


Shoulders meticulously positioned to emphasize evenness. You'll have to move one behind the other, Bring the hair to the side side opposite of the key light, part the lips slightly and bring the chin out forward a bit more

Shoulders meticulously positioned to emphasize evenness. You’ll have to move one behind the other, Bring the hair to the side side opposite of the key light, part the lips slightly and bring the chin out forward a bit more

When it comes to creating portrait photos, you’ll need to understand that the process is in some ways a collaborative effort. But it also requires empathy, understanding and a creative vision. You’ll need to be specific about posing, and have a knowledge of how the person will actually look on camera. The best way to do that is to go ahead and make lots of mistakes, figure out solutions, apply them and re-shoot.

But to help you along the way, we’ve got an Introduction to Shooting Better Portraits compiling lots of information right here for you.

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Taming Mid Day Natural Light for Portrait Photos

Most photographers would prefer to shoot in natural light–but the inherent problem with it has to do with making it look better when taking photos. More often than not, the sun can create lots of harsh shadows unless it’s being diffused by a cloud.

So how do you tame it? Photographer Craig Beckta suggests using a five-in-one reflector and a shoot through umbrella, two of the same items that we strongly recommend. His video below the jump illustrates what shooting with regular sunlight looks like, using tree shadows, a shoot through reflector, golden, white, silver and a shoot through umbrella.

The biggest advantage that Craig doesn’t mention though is that by using a five in one reflector, you make the most of the time available to you and your subject. There are many of photographers who will specifically wait until the golden hour or for a cloudy day. But that means that you only have such a narrow shooting time, which can limit you when a possible schedule conflict arises.

Craig’s video on Natural Light for Portrait Photos is after the jump. But also be sure to check out our tips on taking the best advantage of natural light, backlighting your portraits, and how to use it during weddings.

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The Phoblographer’s 2014 Guide to Photography Lighting Tutorials

Model: Asta Peredes

Model: Asta Peredes

When it comes to lighting, you should absolutely never skimp on it when it comes to your photos. Photography is all about the act of capturing light and recording it. But knowing how to work with both natural light and artificial light is a skill.

Lucky for you, we’ve got over 53 solid lighting tutorials for you right here.

This post builds on our original lighting index.

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Radu Dumitrescu on Using Natural Light to Photograph Food

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All images by Radu Dumitrescu. Used with permission.

Radu Dumitrescu is a photographer based in Bucharest who recently undertook a fairly challenging gig–photographing food and making it look incredible. A local bakery by the name of PlayBake hired him to make their food look amazing. “They make these delicious products with very good ingredients, and they all have a rough, almost unfinished, home-made aspect.” says Mr. Dumitrescu. “My purpose was to shoot with an editorial approach.” This means that he needed more of a lifestyle product photography frame of mind to deliver the images to his client.

“I wanted to make people feel the same way I did when I was there, just by watching the photos.”

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How to Effectively Blend Strobe Light with Natural Light

One of the absolute toughest technical things that you can learn in photography is how to create images that effectively blend both natural and strobe lighting. It’s a fine art in and of itself that requires carefully paying attention to certain aspects of the scene and having a distinct knowledge of shadows and how they can affect the final image. Then it also requires knowing how to either boost the abilities of natural light or filling in areas that you feel your final scene needs.

Here’s how to do it with some knowledge from the very start.

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How to Make Strobe Light Look Natural


Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Olympus EM5 Link Cosplay shoot (11 of 23)ISO 200

When it comes to light, your images don’t need to look like there was flash added to them. In fact, some of the best photographers try to not fight natural light, but augment what it can do with flash by adding just the right amounts in specific spots. Doing this takes a lot of shooting and experimenting followed by careful analysis of what you actually are doing to make the changes in camera look like what you want them to.

And to do this, you don’t need anything extraordinary or amazingly fancy.

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Three Tips on Using a Flash in the Middle of the Day

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Impact Quikbox and LiteTrek photos (10 of 17)ISO 200

Shooting with a flash in the middle of the day? Why would you do that? Believe it or not, you’ll want to use a flash during the day more than any other period. Well for starters, you can sometimes get better looking images than what a normal camera and lens can give you and you can also create images that might be otherwise tough to do. You’ll also find that shooting with a flash in the middle of the day can teach you a lot more about the way that light works.

If you want crisper, cleaner, sharper images and to boost the already great effects that natural light has, read on.

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5 Ways to Take the Best Advantage of Natural Light for Portraits

Pro Tip: Despite the fact that we all love bokeh, don't ever let it get in the way of good composition and an even better vision for the end result.

Pro Tip: Despite the fact that we all love bokeh, don’t ever let it get in the way of good composition and an even better vision for the end result.

Sometimes you don’t always feel like toting around strobes and in many situations you downright don’t need them. Even though they can make any image better there are lots of times where it’s just easier to work with natural light. If you’re a portraitist, knowing how to make the best of the light vs being a hipster with a camera wanting to stay true to an ideology and cling to it without any other real experience is something that you’ll want to have in your bag of tricks.

Here are a couple of ways to make better use of natural lighting.

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Food Photographer Andrew Scrivani Shares the Secrets to Better Food Photos

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All photos by Andrew Scrivani

The secret behind getting the perfect food photo has to do with loads more than just lighting–it also has to do with getting the moment just right. Andrew Scrivani is based right here in New York and is a freelance commercial and editorial photographer, food stylist & writer. His work has graced magazines and newspapers worldwide including The New York Times, Eating Well Magazine, La Cucina Italiana, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek.

We found a couple of minutes in between enjoying some epic noms to chat with Andrew about his work.

BY THE WAY: Right now on creativeLIVE, Andrew is teaching a free online food photography course. All weekend long (12 -7PM EST), Andrew will be going through the basics of recipe selection, food prep, and prop styling. Plus, food blogger Shauna Ahern (of Gluten Free Girl blog and book fame) will join Andrew to chat about food blogging, recipe writing, and how you can use photography to make a beautiful blog that will grow your audience.

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Three Items For Taming Natural Light And Getting Better Photos

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Retouches of Dave Shim (6 of 6)ISO 320

Natural light is beautiful and can help you create some equally stunning photos–if it’s used correctly. While you can surely find items in your natural surroundings to help you create better images, it isn’t always possible or practical. But if you want to work with natural lighting and make it work the best for you, then there are three items that I’ve been using for years that I’m in love with.

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Op ED: Three Reasons Why Lights Matter More To Me Than Camera Sensors

After running this website for two + years and testing camera after camera, I often get bored of just looking at pixels all day and every day. But since I started shooting, I’ve built up a collection of flashes and lights to use for various reasons. Modern day digital cameras and film scanning software are capable of so much that I’ve concluded that the only major selling points for any camera system now are the lenses and extra features that one can tack on.

But when you put lights into the picture, the whole scenario changes.

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Making the Most of Window Lighting for Your Photography

I do not know what it is like for other photographers but natural light from windows is very appealing. Photographically, it can be your best friend. This type of light can be used to minimize your mobile kit, especially when it comes to food photography. Natural light from a window can also give still life and product shots an interesting look. If you are photo walking and want to get some quick food and coffee shots, a window can be a great tool that will, mostly, be there for you when you need it.

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Knowing Natural Light: Photographing Weddings

Bride and Veil
Bride and Veil

Bride and Veil

Natural light photographers have become wildly popular in the past several years. Many photographers actually market themselves purely as natural light photographers. There’s a good reason for this: natural light can create some of the most beautiful images that you’ve ever seen. Using natural light whenever possible is a no-brainer to give your images that beautiful, natural, dreamy quality that is synonymous with Weddings. However, there is more to it than just not using lights. People who have mastered natural light photography did more than just not use lights while shooting. You must really learn and understand how light behaves, reacts, and interacts with your subjects.

Click on through to view some tips to start you off down the right path for shooting weddings using natural light.

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Ten Ways to Take Better Photos Without Spending More Money

No matter what your photography knowledge level or equipment are, you can take better photos today than you did yesterday without spending a dime. Every one of my suggestions can be applied whether you’ve had professional training or not, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a $100 point-and-shoot or an expensive DSLR. Geared primarily towards amateur hobbyists, perhaps those of you with more experience can get some ideas as well. Here are some suggestions that are independent of gear.

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