Setting Up Your Photos for Success

SETTING UP YOUR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY OR PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY SCENE

Author: Ferenc Beleznay

Welcome to the land of food photography! In this guide we will be going over where to set up, what tools will you be needing and how to work your way through a photoshoot to get started photographing your beautiful subjects in natural light!

FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY SETUP
1. First things first, let’s find the right spot! Ideally, you are looking for a big window letting in plenty of light. This should be your only light source, so turn off any lights and close the blinds of other windows. The largest window in my house is a glass sliding door which works perfectly as well, but for the best control it’s good to have curtains which we will address later. When you have found the right window, place a stand or piece of furniture to place your backdrop on, about 2 ft (1m) away from it with the minimum height of the ledge.

 

2. It’s time to choose our backdrops! For the hard Drop A Wall 23x23 base we can just lay them flat or use Drop A Wall L- brackets to make a set from two surfaces. Place your setup towards the front of the board so you can leave room for your depth of field from the camera's viewpoint.


For the larger DropAWall vinyl backdrops such as the 36x48 inch size, you can hang it on anything, like a clothes rack or even a broomstick. I’ve used a “C-stand”, a cheap photography tool that I couldn’t recommend more. You can hang backdrops on it, use it to hold bounce cards and diffusers or you can hang props from it just to mention a few functions. Whatever you set up, you should do it in a way that the light (window) is on the left or right. This will be your main light, and on the opposite side you can use modifiers to fine tune your image (step 5) 

Optional step: use a gray card. You can find these at most photography stores and web shops, and they should be a specific 18% gray. This specific tone of gray in the photography world is a standard across all boards, and is used in post production softwares such as Lightroom or Photoshop to make sure your image has true colors.

 

3. Pick your angle! If you’re doing flat lays, shoot right from the top. If you have backgrounds attached together, you can explore your scenery more by choosing a 45 degree or straight on angle. A tripod helps for photos, but if you are trying to do video or stop motion it’s a must.

 

4. Fine tune your lighting! You can do a couple of things to control your lighting. First let’s start with the windows. Depending on the day you can have direct sunlight, overcast light or even light bouncing in from other buildings. You can take advantage of this and feel inspired by these lighting scenarios and create some beautiful images. But if you’re looking for consistency you can diffuse the light to be able to get a similar result over and over again. You can do this with white sheer curtains that let a good amount of light through, or a diffuser from a photography store. In the example below I’ve used a C-stand and pop up diffuser.

  

5. Fill in the light! Now we are working with some nice directional light coming in from the left, and we can leave it here if this is the aesthetic we are going for! But if you would like to achieve a brighter, airy look you can do this by adding this optional step. On the opposite side of the light source, we can place a white card or reflector to fill in more light. The white card will just fill in the shadows while the reflector will give it more of a brighter shine.

Now you are ready to create some magic, have fun!