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Food Photography Lighting with Ego Artificial Lights!

posted by Julie Evink on August 29, 2014

 Food Photography Lighting with Artificial Lights! Everything you want to know about using Ego Lights for food photography!

 Food Photography Lighting with Artificial Lights! Everything you want to know about using Ego Lights for food photography!

Oh here we go. You know you are all on the edge of your seats! As a fellow food blogger it’s one of the main questions I hear flying around the blogging world.

“How do I get a good shot with artificial lighting?”

Today I am joined by fellow food blogger and photographer Danielle from The Creative Bite to show you what we learned while trying to embrace Ego lights. A little history for you, I’ve been blogging a while now and Danielle is fairly new, but she leads with the photography experience as she is a professional photographer and I am not. Therefore after I start complaining about artificial lighting and food photography she agreed to help me try some new set ups and find the perfect marriage.  We hope this post helps you out as the winter months are looming ahead! My focus lately is making the blog work for me and not me work for the blog so to make this happen I’m doing my best to embrace artificial lighting!

When I shoot in natural light I really like to use back lighting a lot of the time for brown or monotone foods, which I end up shooting a lot it seems! It helps highlight the texture of the food as opposed to front lighting that will make the food appear flat and bland. I also use side lighting depending on the shot and where I want the light to fall.

If you are trying to achieve a more dramatic appearance in your photos I would recommend using back lighting. If your goal is more of a light and airy image, directional light from either the left or right will help you achieve that feeling. Always remember, every food and set-up will need a little tweaking and love. The same thing won’t always work for everything. Take your time, if you have it, and play around with the power and direction of the lighting to find the most flattering light for that particular subject.

One thing I really had trouble with at first with the Ego light and what frustrated me the most was that it was hard to control the power of the lighting. This is where Danielle came into play. She pointed out some simple solutions like the obvious one of putting white fabric over the light or wax paper. We found out that a simple white t-shirt I stole out of my husband’s dresser drawer worked the best for us. The wax paper wasn’t thick enough for the powerful lights. Using the t-shirt to diffuse the light prevented the subject matter from being to blown out in the photographs.

Blown Out

Scratching your head wondering what “blown out” is? Let me help since I too was confused once upon a time, which really wasn’t so long ago! Blown out means the bright parts of the image will be all white and loose any detail in the picture. If you diffuse the light to much, the shadows will be too dark, so you really need to play around with different set ups. Once again, remember different food might require different techniques. Trust me, I wish there was an easy button with this! Reflectors are also important, whether you are shooting in natural or artificial light. A reflector will help bounce some light back on the image to soften the shadows.

When lighting an image, it is important for the light to clearly be directional. When you are looking at a picture you should be able to quickly tell where the main source of light is coming from. If you have the same power of light on opposite sides of the image, it will appear flat, with little or no shadows, which will make the food look as though it has no texture. Overhead lighting will present the same problem.

Beautiful lighting can usually be achieved with natural light with little effort. Simply place a reflector on the opposite side of the window where your natural light is coming from and you are good to go. When it comes to the dark winter months, when we loose most daylight by 5pm, there needs to be an alternate plan. That is where artificial lights, such as the Ego lights I use, come in handy. They can be intimidating for those who have only worked with natural lights, so with the darker months right around the corner, I thought I would show you how I light my images with artificial lighting.

 Food Photography Lighting with Artificial Lights!

Below you can find some examples of different possible lighting set-ups and how they highlight the subject matter.

Light Back Left Reflector Right Front

As you can see there is nothing fancy about my set up I’m using. I’m literally in our empty nursery (notice the crib in the background?) with a folding table and my lights and props. You do not need to be fancy people! The two pictures in the collage demonstrate two different looks you can achieve with the Ego Lights. One represents the Ego Light in the back left corner and the reflector in the front right, which I’m demonstrating in the photo below it. The other just moves the Ego Light to the front left and the reflector in the back right. Pretty similar shots but when I look at them side by side I lean towards the second one with the light in the left front and reflector in the back left. I feel that the picture has less area of trouble like being blown out.

Food Photography Lighting with Artificial Lights!

Ego Light Collage

The two shots we are comparing here look pretty similar. The one on the left with the overhead reflector has a few less shadows in it so you lose out on some of the texture in the picture. When shooting a monotone subject this can be difficult. The shadows make the picture come alive and show the texture. A lot of people fear the shadow but in all actuality you want some shadows to show the texture of the photo subject. This will also create a moody effect if that’s the effect you desire.

Food Photography Lighting with Artificial Lights!
These three pictures are simply comparing how to diffuse your Ego light. The lights are set up completely the same, but the diffusion is different. The first backlit with no diffuser, the second photo is backlit with two layers of wax paper and the third photo has the white t-shirt diffusing the photo. I, personally, lean towards the last photo in the collage with the t-shirt diffusing the light. It provides some nice shadows and textures and really makes the cookie come alive. Also, as I have shot a few different dishes with the set up I find that this works the best overall no matter what the subject matter is.

Is your brain spinning yet? This is just the beginners guide to shooting with Ego lights and really it just takes a lot of time and practice, but it’s worth it because it gives you the freedom to photograph your food whenever you want! I always thought everyone could tell exactly what photos I used artificial lighting in so to see if this was true I posted three pictures in a Facebook blogging group and asked the other bloggers (who are amazing, talented photographers) to pick out the dish with artificial lighting. About 75% of them picked out the wrong picture. This is when I started to believe that I could use Ego lights and be successful with it. Obviously, I know which picture is shot with artificial light but others don’t.

If you are looking for a little more freedom when you take pictures go by a couple of Ego lights and embrace them!

Thank you so much to Danielle at The Creative Bite for assisting me in this experiment!

If you need to purchase the Ego lights you can find them on Amazon for $124.95 currently with free shipping. I highly recommend getting two of them for the best effect!

 *I am NOT a professional photographer and this simply some valuable things  I have picked up through trial and error that I wanted to share! 

*This post may contain affiliate links

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    Comments

  • Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice


    This is such a helpful post! I have never shot in artificial light because I’m not the best photographer (yet), but also because I always assumed it would look horrible. Such great tips here. Thanks for sharing!

    • Julie Evink


      Hope it helps you start off on the right foot Gayle!

  • Paula+@+Paula's+Plate


    This is perfect timing for the looming darkness of winter, thanks so much for sharing your tips! Artificial lighting is something I definitely struggle with.

    • Julie Evink


      Hope you get some good ideas form it Paula!

  • Jessica @ Stuck On Sweet


    This is a wonderful tutorial Julie! I have ego lights and love them but never used the t-shirt idea. Thanks for the tips!

  • Ashlyn+@+Belle+of+the+Kitchen


    Wow, Julie! You and Danielle did a great job putting this together. I’ve never tried artificial lighting before, but I really need it. It’s so hard to shoot during the day with busy schedules and KIDS! I’d love to be able to shoot after bedtime. Thanks for a great tutorial!

  • Jaren (Diary of a Recipe Collector)


    Julie and Danielle, this is such a great post! Thank you so much!

  • Jaren+(Diary+of+a+Recipe+Collector)


    What did you use for your reflector?

    • Julie Evink


      We just used the reflector that came with the lights!

    • Julie Evink


      We just used the reflector that came with the lights!

  • Jennifer


    What is the advantage of purchasing ego lights over using a strobe with a softbox?

  • Jenna


    These diagrams were very helpful. I bought some day light bulbs at the hardware store with one of those silver lamps that you can attach to it. To diffuse the light, I just put a white cloth over it.

  • Shumi


    What do you think, which one is better? Taking shots in natural light or taking shots using artificial lights!

    • Julie Evink


      I always prefer natural light but when in a bind this is a nice alternative.

  • Gigi


    Thanks for this tutorial! I am a photographer by trade and just venturing into food blogger territory. Let me tell you, food and people are two different beasts! I usually photograph with natural light but have been working lately with a strobe, and was considering some Lowel Ego lights for food photography but realized after checking the specs that I could make two of them for 1/4 the price of what one costs to buy, so that’s what I plan to do.

    I hope this doesn’t come off as critical because it isn’t, but I went to school for music and ended up doing photography, so the terminology for both is second nature to me… but I wanted to point out that where you used the word “monotone” (generally indicative of flat sound), I think you were looking for the word “monochrome” (single color).

  • Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy


    This is a super helpful tutorial. I just purchased 1 ego light and now feel confident to give it a go. At the end end of the article, you mention to buy 2 ego lights, but in the set ups, you appear to use one. What is the function of a second light and where would you place it?

  • Runi


    Wow Great tutorial it is very helpful for me.Thanks Juile

  • Helen


    As a graphic designer i think it is the best tips for me.Thanks Julie for your sharing.

  • Sumon


    Very effective tips, I’ll try to share this post our food photographers, thank for share your tips with us.

  • tanzir tanz


    As a photographer and designer, I like natural lights to capture photos. But, it is true when you have no alternative choices you have to use artificial lights.

    You really show how to use artificial lights and the food photography is looking good.

  • Sumi @ background remover


    It is extremely helpful for me. Thank you for taking the time to discuss this.

  • Rahul amin


    First of all appreciate your photography and then thanks for sharing it.
    Some great moments are captured that provides more happiness to people mind.

  • Trackbacks

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