Tutorial on How to do Dark Food Photography

In order to keep the viewer engaged with the main subject in the photo, one approach that a photographer can take is to play with light and shadows. By illuminating the main subject and by keeping the rest of the scenario under shadow to give a dark and moody look, a photographer can direct the viewers’ eyes towards the subject. This trick can be applied in food photography too. Photographer Aaron Lyles demonstrates how you can achieve a dark look for food photography with simple things that you may have lying around at your house:

What You’ll Need

  • 3 black foam boards to place behind and at the sides of the food to be shot
  • spring clamps to help you hold the foam boards in place
  • a sturdy tripod 
  • a level to ensure that you get your lines straight
  • tethering cord if you want to get a larger view on your computer monitor
  • window for natural light
  • light stands & transparency paper to hold and modify any additional light (optional)
foam board setup food photo

Foam Board Setup

Once you have these basics in place, you’re ready for some dark food photography.

Settings for Dark Food Photography

As far as settings are concerned, go with the base ISO of the camera as we are aiming for dark food photography. This will also help you get cleaner images.

Make sure the aperture is not too wide, as the food can get out of focus. Lyles uses f/3.2 in the video demonstration and a shutter speed of 1/30 second  at 70mm. As he uses a tripod, a relatively slower shutter speed isn’t an issue. Also, an aperture of f/3.2 allows him to get sufficient light for the dark shot, with most of the subject in focus and good bokeh.

Editing Dark Food Photos

To enhance the dark look of the image, you can add some vignetting.

post processing food photography

Also, you can use local adjustment tools like the brush tool to add exposure to the main subject (the food), and make other areas go darker.

dark food photography with edits

Have you tried this style of food photography?

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