Food Photography on a Budget: $20 Work Light Vs. $900 Strobe

Photography can get very expensive very quickly. Once you've invested in a body and a couple of lenses, don't expect it to stop there. For those interested in artificial lighting, the who process starts again with lights, stands, modifiers, and triggering systems. But is it all necessary?

High-quality equipment is a necessary part of the working professional's day-to-day life. When asked to produce a certain quality of work for a client, that working professional cannot afford to have equipment fail and have no backup in place. However, as a learner of photography, you may not need all the shiny pro-grade equipment that so tantalizingly stares off magazine pages at you. You might be able to get away with much cheaper and simpler equipment but still get much of the result you will achieve by spending thousands of dollars. 

In this video, Skyler from We Eat Together shows us the very real differences between shooting with a phone, mirrorless camera, and a DSLR along with a comparison between a $20 work light and a $900 strobe. He approximates expensive modifiers with parchment paper to keep the lighting kit well and truly in the budget realm. This is actually a technique I've used before on several food shoots where we needed to light large areas and it has worked really well. 

To be sure, this is not a setup you would likely take along to a high-end food shoot. But if you're just getting a taste for food photography and learning how it all works, this is certainly a great option as you take your first steps into artificial lighting. 

Dylan Goldby's picture

Dylan Goldby is an Aussie photographer living and working in South Korea. He shoots a mix of families, especially the adoptive community, and pre-weddings. His passions include travel, good food and drink, and time away from all things electronic.

Log in or register to post comments

They don't call 'em hot lights for nuthin'. Make sure you have LOTS of ventilation and cooling, or you're going to be drenched by the end of your shoot. ;-)

It's not all bad, at least this way the food will stay warm.

Halogen lights and food? Thats just hilarious. Just another step towards the market for mediocrity in photography.

Google "LED work light". They are identical, except for the price. They stay cool, and use a fraction of power.