Lighting food with Strobes

Lighting trends come and go. For a few years natural light was in favor. Natural light is beautiful, requires less technical skill to use and of course much cheaper that artificial lights, however it has it’s drawbacks. The biggest negative about dealing with natural is consistency.  Back in the days of film (yes, I said it), working with strobes was a bit more challenging. Now days you don’t even need a light meter which was a requirement before the digital days. You can basically eyeball the exposure and  adjust it on the fly. No need to wax nostalgic about the good old polaroid and film days  Quite frankly having shot both film and digital, digital is just much easier to deal with.  There are so many other things that are involved in making a great image, removing some of the technical obstacles just makes it easier to actually take a photo.

I use Broncolor packs but any strobe will do.

I have both mono lights (free standing units with a power pack self contained) and separate packs with heads.

Regardless of what type os strobes  you choose to use the key is that they keep the light consistent.

You will also need a soft box or a diffused light source.
A soft box is a light tool that soften the light and spreads it out.
Every soft box requires a speed ring which attaches the head of the strobe to the soft box. I prefer to pull the front diffusion panel off to make the light a little harder. To me it emulates the feel of natural light better.

Here is an example of a simple food lighting set up that requires 1 head, 1 soft box,  sync cord or  pocket wizards, 1 stand , mirrors and a  bounce card.

As illustrated here.  I like to light from the right side but you can place the

source on either  on either side of the camera.  I generally place the light at an angle slightly above and never directly form behind.  This can cause lens flare and difficult reflections as well. Another reason is that when the light comes from the side somewhat you get some wrap around from the light and you only need one bounce card. I also use a mirror to pop some light into darker areas and to give it some specular light. Compose your image and take an exposure.

Even though I shoot digital, I still bracket the exposures. Monitors both on the camera and on a computer fluctuate wildly and it’s always easier to create a bracket than to correct in post. The results of this simple 1 strobe technique are shown below.


Photographer Bill Brady