On my food blogging journey, artificial light has been my hero.
My apartment has a lot of perks. Great location, nice amenities, covered parking (a rarity on the Eastside of Milwaukee), the list goes on. It also has some drawbacks. Namely, very little natural light. It could be a beautiful, sunny day without a cloud in the sky, and I’ll have to turn on a light in the kitchen to find a spoon in the silverware drawer. This creates challenges when I’m photographing food because I need light to make the colors in my dishes pop, plus the overhead lights in the kitchen add an unappetizing orange hue to photos.
I’ve made several failed attempts to use natural light in my apartment. First, I tried setting up shots on my balcony, but that attracted bugs and unwanted shadows from the railing. Next, I tried setting up in my bedroom which has a large window. But juggling plates of food across the carpeting proved messy.
Finally, with the help of Google and Pinterest, I found artificial lighting. It’s my go-to for almost all of my photos. I can take photos at nighttime and not have to arrange my schedule around the sun. Plus, I can take photos right in my kitchen instead of lugging fragile dishware around the house.
There are two setups that I use for artificial lighting. One is a DIY setup I created fairly inexpensively, and the other I purchased from Amazon. Below I walk you through the setup of each one as well as the pros and cons.
Artificial Light DIY Setup:
- 4 1/2in x 2ft PVC Pipe
- 4 1/2in PVC Elbow
- 2 Spring Clamp
- LED Portable Worklight
- Parchment Paper
- Poster Board
Instructions: Build a square frame from the PVC pipe and PVC elbows. I was able to tightly screw the PVC sections together and did not need glue. Next, tape parchment paper over the PVC pipe frame to create a filter. Attach both clamps to a section of PVC pipe to create a sturdy base for the frame. Fold the poster board in half to create a reflector. When you’re ready to take photos, plug in the LED light, place the frame in front of the light, add your dish and then use the reflector made from poster board to bounce the light onto your subject.
Pros: This setup is fairly inexpensive to build. I spent less that $40.00 on everything.
Cons: It takes some time and finesse to create the frame and attach the parchment paper. The frame is also a little bulky.
See photos below for setup and results of the recipe for bean and corn salsa.
Artificial Light Purchased setup:
- Lowel EGO Digital Imaging, Tabletop Fluorescent Light Unit
- Amazon has discontinued selling the Lowel Ego but here is a link to their model, the AmazonBasics Portable Photo Studio
Instructions: Follow instructions included with light unit.
Pros: Sooo easy to move around and arrange for photos. Light unit and reflector are convenient to store because they don’t take up a lot of room.
Cons: I thought initial setup was a little tricky. It took two of us to setup the light unit. I also found it to be expensive at $124.95 before tax.
See phots below for setup and results.
Ultimately, the big trade off between the setups comes down to cost. In my opinion, the purchased setup creates better photographs, making it worth the extra investment. The ease of storing the purchased setup is another big plus. It takes up a lot less room in closet and cleanup goes that much faster since there are fewer parts to disassemble and put away.