Have you had trouble taking pictures inside a kitchen? Don't worry you are in good company. Architects generally don’t think of photographers when designing a kitchen space. The line of a busy restaurant isn't the best place to take pictures. Tight corners combined with a mess of tungsten and fluorescent lights shining from a multitude of directions make it very difficult to create mouthwatering images. A residential kitchen isn't much better. It may offer window light, but odds are it will be over a sink and not the ideal place to take a picture.
With these conditions, you will often end up with a picture looking like this. Yellow, flat, and boring. This doesn't do the dish justice and doesn't make your mouth water. There is a solution, and it may surprise you how easy and inexpensive it is. Take the food outside the kitchen. Find a garage, loading dock, large window, or doorway. Any large opening that will provide you with light coming in from one direction is ideal. In this example, I am using a garage door.
Take a large white bed sheet and hang it from the top of the door. Use A-Clamps to attach the sheet to the door. If it is windy, attach the bottom of the sheet to a heavy object, like a propane tank. This will provide you with a nice even diffused light source. To complete your set, all you need is a reflector. You can use a collapsible 5-in-1, but if you are shooting alone, you will need one that stands. You can quickly put this standing reflector together.
With an A-Clamp, metal bracket, and foam board, you can make a reflector that stands on its own. Just attach the bracket to the foam board and adjust so it will stand on its own.
Place your subject, the potatoes, in between the sheet and you reflector. Use the foam board reflector to fill in the shadows to the level you desire. Here is what the final image looks like.
You’ll get beautiful color, nice soft lighting, and overall, a much more appetizing image. When shooting food, you can use a similar set up at almost any restaurant or kitchen that you visit. Remember that shooting food involves a much smaller set and a closer shooting distance to your subject. A garage door, door jam, window, or loading dock that wouldn't work for portraiture, could work perfectly for beautiful food pictures!
I'm Taylor Mathis, the newest member of the Fstoppers team and a food photographer based out of Charlotte NC. I am also a blogger, cook book author, and creator of the magazine photographing FOOD. I will be sharing tips on how I shoot food and other stories that will make you hungry!
This is so helpful! Thanks for the great tips!
Or just light it w/ strobes/speedlights indoors....
this is way more elegant and faster to work with...
agreed. Bring your own light and take full control
This works great for anything smooth and glazed. Textured surfaces need a different approach, which I'm sure will come in future articles. I look forward to more food pieces. Great start Taylor!
Easy set-up! Thanks!
I would just use strobes and fill cards, much easier and more control
while a superb idea for great cheap lighting, I do wonder about the occasional gust of wind, and the diffusers used here becoming a sail, and the after math.
Love following Taylor's blog and reading everything and anything he posts. Tay this is great stuff and I love seeing all the new ingenuitive ways you create perfect light on a dime. I've sent the link to this article and your blog to my Dad who also just started blogging. Look forward to more Taylor!!
Excellent ideas, thanks
Great article and tips Taylor.