In food photography, a window is often used as the main light. The main light can be either backlight or side light. To make the food look appetizing, we generally fill or brighten the shadows.

The side of the food away from the main light will be dark. To brighten and soften the shadows, we reflect light from the main light into the darker side. Adding fill evens out the light. It reduces contrast. You can’t simply correct for this with software. When you do, you will lose detail in the brighter areas to get a good exposure on the areas in shadow.

The fill in a photo studio may be another light but in my home window studio I used a piece of white cardboard folded in half to stand up. You can try a piece of computer paper if you don’t have white cardboard. Use it to reflect the main light – which is the light from the window – back onto the subject. It will brighten the shadows and even out the light.

Working with a window as your main light, photograph a few small food items, using back and side light, both with and without fill.

First pick a background. Arrange the items on the background by the main light. Create a pleasing composition. You can shoot either from directly overhead or from a three-quarter angle which is between overhead and eye level. If direct sun is coming in the window, put tracing paper or computer paper over it to diffuse the light. If you are using a clamp light put tracing paper or computer paper in front of the light to soften it.

Shoot the scene with backlight and then add the fill.

Then shoot the scene with sidelight and then add the fill.

Adjust the final four photos in Lightroom bringing the shadows up to +50. Make sure to adjust all four photos exactly the same. I adjust all 4 photos below: Exposure +.5, Shadows +50, Black +50

Describe your process including how you set up the shot: If you are using a window or other light source, if you needed to diffuse it. What did you use to reflect light into the shadows. Did you get better results from back or side light?

Category: Lab: Week 11 – Back and side light