If you shoot on location, you know that the size and weight of the gear is important. Shooting in bakeries, restaurants, and kitchens will provide you with a wide range of room size and lighting conditions. There may not be beautiful window light, outlets, or a large area that you are able to shoot in. To be prepared for any shooting environment in the culinary world you need a light-weight, compact, and battery-powered lighting system. In designing this system, you have two choices: LED or Flash.
In the following examples, I shot a group of brownies on top of a 2'x2' painted wooden background. I used a collapsible diffuser clamped to a metal bracket as my light modifier. For fill, I used a foam board V reflector. This set-up is small, light weight, and can be used with many different light sources. Both shots used the same lighting set-up. The only difference was the light source. Let's take a look at the images taken with a Canon 580 EX II.
These images were shot with a Litepanels Micro Pro On Camera LED Light. LED panels come in a variety of different sizes. This panel is designed to fit on your camera's hot shoe mount, so it is small enough to easily fit into your camera bag. The following photo was taken at ISO 1000, f/3.5, and 1/100 sec. If you need an LED with more power, you can use a larger panel.
If your assignment calls for video and stills, an LED light source will work well! You can use florescent lighting, but if the size of your gear is a concern, LED panels are the better choice. So, what is best for you? That is something that you will have to decide for yourself.
Do you shoot stills and video when on assignment? What light sources have worked well for you? As LEDs become more powerful and less expensive do you see yourself using them in your work?
Interested in learning more about food photography styling and lighting techniques? Check out Issues 1-6 of photographing FOOD.