Fast Food

I did a series of photos for a food blog in a friend's kitchen. Here's a quick and dirty post about shooting food with the standard lighting kit

The gear:
  • Two YN-560's. 
  • One umbrella
  • One light stand 
  • One small soft box on a Gorillapod
  • Two radio triggers

The setup:

We did photos of the food prep, and then the finished dish. For the prep, ingredients were arranged on the end of a counter. The lighting goal was to imitate bright window light. One strobe was put on a light stand with the strobe shooting down, and slightly from the rear. The other strobe was set directly behind the ingredients to provide rim light. Shooting from a short stool, even a small section of soapstone countertop gave us plenty of neutral space to work with. 

The settings on the lights are just a matter of trial and error until you find what you like. Food should look enticing, so brightness and shallow depth of field are a good starting point. When lights are placed close up, as here, I usually start at 1/32nd power and shoot at f/2.8, ISO 100. One strobe had a radio trigger, and the other was set as an optical slave. Shoot, chimp, adjust the strobes, repeat. It's a quick process that takes only a couple of minutes until you find the lighting you like. Once the lights are set, you can concentrate on arrangement and framing. 

Keep in mind that we aren't worried about mixed light affecting white balance because we are shooting at a very low ISO and using only the strobe light for the exposure. This kills off the ambient light, eliminating any white balance issues. That would be different if we were working in an environment with bright artificial light. Usually, though, you can drown out the ambient light for projects like this. 

For the finished dish, we used just a single light set off to the left, slightly back. It could have gotten more complicated, but there was no reason to.

The standard kit is extremely portable, very versatile, and can be used to light all kinds of things. It's just a matter of trying!