I admit it. I have an obsession. Perhaps even a borderline (OK, full-blown) addiction. I have a feeling my husband wouldn’t be able to count the number of times he’s heard me gasp & then say, “Oh my gosh – look at this LIGHT right now! How amazing is this light?!..”

As a photographer, few things in life are more important than good lighting.  And, ohhhhh, when you hit that ‘sweet spot’ and find that magical few minutes of every-fleeting, perfectly-balanced light, it’s amazing.

Warm, soft balanced light. Yes, I was eating this cheese at home when the light caught my eye… time to grab that camera and set-up a little impromptu food photo shoot by the kitchen window!

That said, I suppose it really is a matter of opinion – what IS ‘perfect lighting’? It really depends on what you’re shooting – and what you’re trying to communicate with your photograph. Just take a look at the following 4 photographs of the same subject (all of which are original photos straight out of the camera – no fancy photoshop tricks used here!) and what an immense role light plays in the final image:

As a food photographer, my favorite scenario is getting a table, during the day, next to a window with plenty of natural light. I own a flash, but have never once used it during a food photography shoot. There’s just something about natural light that makes cuisine so much more appealing – and a flash just adds a harshness that I’m not a fan of. I mean, when’s the last time you ate a meal with a giant, bright light shining right at your food? It’s not how food naturally looks – So, if ya’ want my opinion on how to make your food photos instantly look better, then put away that flash immediately!

The Perfect Food Photography Scenario: On a table next to a window with plenty of natural daylight.
Natural light = How you see your food. No flash required.

It’s the job of a photographer to make our subjects look great, though, no matter what the conditions are. And lemme tell ya’ – 99.9% of the time when you show up to a shoot location you’ve got to make do with what’s handed to you lighting-wise.  It’s learning how to manipulate light and make it work for you that takes practice, practice, practice – and a dance that keeps photographers goin’ and doin’ what we do.

So, have some fun with lighting – experiment – practice – and see what your favorite look is. After all, there is no ‘right’ answer – this is why I love photography. It is subjective – an art form – each photographer has their own look & feel, and you are free to explore and find what grabs you.

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