Food photography for beginners – the power of natural light.


Good evening, or good day, wherever you are on the planet!

How are you all? The days here in the UK are lengthening slowly,  which can only mean good things when we have been swamped in darkness for the past few months. It is such a fantastic feeling when you walk out of a building and it is still light. It makes you feel ready for the next season, and with that comes a new routine and change to your days. I like how our seasons change. It revives you and feels natural to step from one to another.

Food photography is still a very hot topic here at inastew. I am still mildly obsessed with watching food styling videos on You Tube,  and scrutinising food photos in magazines  wondering how on earth they got such a perfect shot. Why is it that they make it look so easy? But I will not be deterred and continue my quest feeling positive about all that I have to learn. I continue to teach myself the science of photography. The all important factors of the photography triangle and, most importantly, how to balance that triangle.

The concept behind food photography is simple. Lay out your food in a naturally lit window. Diffuse the light if it is too bright. Take the shot with it either back-lit (light behind you), or from the side with light to your right or left. Easy, I can do that no problem. Then adjust your manual settings, ISO, aperture and shutter speed and bingo you have a perfect photo of your food. Wrong. Light has been sent from the evil world. It has been sent to test and frustrate on a level that I didn’t even know existed until I started to learn about photography

Take a look at the photo below. It has reasonable composition, you can see what the cake looks like, and I as a beginner would have thought that the lighting is OK. Actually, it is not. It is far too dull. Plus the brown of the background is too close in colour to the brown of the coffee and the cup I have used.Carrot and cranberry loaf

So, let’s look at my next photo. This was taken at the same time, in the same place and yet it now looks blue! In the previous shot I had diffused the light with a sheet at the window, but for this one I took the sheet down.

Carrot and cranberry loaf

At the time this photo was taken I was still getting to grips with the 3 settings I mentioned above; ISO (camera’s sensitivity to light), aperture (how open your camera’s window is open) and shutter speed ( how fast or slow the shutter on your camera opens and closes).  With this in mind, these photos were taken in a photography fog and mystery.

Carrot & cranberry loaf

I captured this photo completely spontaneously. I finished playing around with food styling and photography and literally plonked this plate on the kitchen table along with some dried cranberries. It was only when I glanced over from the kitchen that I saw the sunlight streaming in and catching the plate. It just looked like a brilliant picture, so I quickly took a shot and this was the result. In my humble opinion, I think it looks natural. It is obvious where the light is coming in from. You can see the food is on the table where it belongs and the colour of the table compliments the cake and the cranberries. It probably could have been a little bit brighter, but with all that I have said about the mystery of camera settings,  I think I did alright. I know it isn’t perfect!

A week after these photos were taken, and with some time spent studying,  I decided to have another practice. This time with courgettes. I love vegetables in their raw state as it inspires me to cook. In this instance I took them outside where the light was slightly brighter.

I love this shot. The light is beautiful. and the courgettes look magnificent. Now, I’m going to get a bit technical now. Are you ready?

These are the settings I used – ISO 400 ( I used this to try and get extra light into the camera because here it was a bit gloomy. This is not the standard for food photographers as they like to keep the ISO low, about 100 or 200) My shutter speed was 1/125, which is 125th of a second. Because this is quite fast I could achieve a reasonable result without the need for a tripod. If your shutter speed decreases, and therefore slows down, a tripod is essential, otherwise you will get shake and the shot will be blurred. I am just about to buy a tripod to allow me to practice with slower shutter speeds. My aperture (also known as the f.stop) was 4.0. I will talk about this in my future posts.


This shot proves that if you simply practice the art of photography, and the science, it does begin to get easier and it begins to make sense. It does require lots of practice, and I am only a beginner, but very quickly with time and effort I am starting to improve. It is worth learning the basics of photography and I will look forward to sharing with you my next set of shots.

Looking at my images below it is possible to see the immense power of light.

Thanks for reading and happy food photography!! L x

courgetteCarrot & cranberry loaf

Carrot and cranberry loaf

Carrot and cranberry loaf



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