Modern food photography seems to have been stuck on the “one softbox motif” for quite a while now. And while shooting with a single softbox can get great results, the look is now so ubiquitous that some photographers, including Steve Hansen, believe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Hansen demonstrates how to creatively use a number of lights to add interest, color, and texture to what might otherwise be a flat food photograph:
Food photography offers an amazing array of opportunities for being creative, but lately it seems the net has been taken over by a single look: the shallow depth of field macro shot with a single softbox. There are infinitely more options out there. All you need are a few cups of different lighting sources, a couple of tablespoons of different colored gels (quite inexpensive), and a few pounds of imagination. Mix together and you can create a texture-rich, stylized food shot that will stand apart from the rest.
That said, it’s still helpful to have some gear, including a softbox. The other lights will depend on your budget, but they don’t need to be as fancy as Hansen’s.
Hansen’s Food Photography Gear
One big challenge when using this many lights on a reflective surface, is that the light from the various modifiers can and will reflect in every possible direction, including back to your lens. Hansen uses a few different methods to combat this, the most creative of which is using the shadow of part of the subject to shade out trouble spots. He also uses barn doors and a snoot to sculpt the light and a matte box and polarizer to restrict the unwanted reflections from entering his camera.
Laying out the ingredients in front of the tray was also a beautiful touch, and the colors added by the gels allow for a swirling color of highlights and shadows. Sure, it’s a bit complex, but many find the end result far more nuanced and interesting than the standard “light with a single softbox” technique.
What do you think about the look? Does the complexity work for you?
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