I do a lot of photography for restaurants and food chains, in and around Sydney; and I love it ! every outlet is different. Sometimes we shoot at my Studio, but most times I go to them as it makes things easier for the clients.
I get asked often about my lighting setups and what I bring with me when I am on location; as I said, every restaurant is different and depending on the location I approach the shoot in a way rather than another – an inspection is definitely a must, before the shoot.
However I can share a simple lighting setup that will work every time and in every place, if you need to artificially light the scene, and you need consistent shots; i.e if you are shooting a restaurant menu.
It’s a no brainer: 2 lights setup, nothing else needed – except a white wall ( but you can it, if there aren’t any).
The first light is your main light; it could be a soft box, or an umbrella and anything in between – just not a bare flash ( too harsh). This is the light that will create highlights and shadows and dictate the mood of your shot.
You place it anywhere between 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock and you expose for the highlights. Depending on its dimensions, the light source will be sitting approximately 1 to 2 meters from the food – have a play with it.
The second light, is your fill light and it comes from right behind your camera – on axis fill. This light source should be considerably bigger in size than the main light source. That’s why i generally bounce a strobe off a white wall.
This is the light that will soften the shadows and bring out important details – you decide the relation between the two; I usually have 1+2/3 stops difference.
I don’t even use reflectors with this setup, it’s that simple!
I hope you can find it helpful next time you find yourself on location!
Dario Milano is a professional food photographer and food stylist, based in Sydney and servicing predominantly advertising and commercial clients, restaurants and the food packaging market.
He also teaches regular food photography and food styling workshop in Sydney, as well as in Melbourne and Brisbane.
To get in contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org
And as I said, if you’re out of luck with white walls, you can use a little of creativity to fake one – I use a white bed sheet .