Food Photography: Moody One Light Setup Tutorial

Food photography is about letting viewers almost taste what they see. It requires a good deal of preparation and planning and is not as easy as it seems. This may make you wonder about the lighting setups food photographers use to make food look appetizing. But, not everything needs to be complicated. In this video, food photographer Lauren Caris presents simple ways you can create dark and moody food photos using just a single light source:

“Dark and moody food photography is a great technique for adding character and intrigue to your photos.”

By making creative use of dark and light areas in your photos, you can accentuate contrast and draw attention to your subjects. The aim is to set the mood and give your subject character. This technique has been in use for a long time and is also evident in many popular pieces of art.

light and dark areas in portraits

Background and Props

To take contrasty, moody food images, use dark backgrounds and props. They don’t bounce too much light around, which helps you gain more control over the light you’re using.

“It allows them to absorb most of the light, focusing on the texture but not creating a scene too bright.”

Light and Modification

Besides considering the light and its quality, how you modify light also plays an important role in food photography. You can use readily available materials, like a black fill card to create directional light that adds a dark, moody vibe to the image. This technique comes in handy when you need to emphasize the food’s texture.

Light Source

You can either use natural or artificial light; both work great. If you prefer using artificial lighting, you can use a sofbox to diffuse the light for soft shadows. But, if you want the light to be more directional and contrasty, you could add a honeycomb grid to the softbox. Your lighting choice depends entirely on the look you’re going for.

honeycomb grid in softbox for food photography

Modifying Light

Start by placing a black foam core opposite to the light source. This simply prevents unnecessary light from being reflected back to the scene. This will result in the section of the food opposite to the light source appearing dark and contrasty.

black foam core for moody food photography

Next, use two pieces of foam core to block the majority of the light from reaching the scene. Place and adjust the foam core to create a strip of light that falls only on the main subject. The rest of the scene will appear relatively dark, and that’s exactly what will help in setting the mood.

moody lighting in food photography

Radial Filter

Once you’re done taking photos, make use of the radial filter in Lightroom to further control the look and feel of the image. With the radial filter, you can create custom circular/oval/elliptical shapes around your subject and darken the area around it. This helps in making the subject stand out while giving the image a moody look.

radial filter to control mood

moody food photography

This is quite a simple yet very effective way to draw viewers to the food you’re photographing.

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