Food Photography Artificial Lights

Today we will wrap up our discussion on lighting. If you missed last week’s post, I talked about understanding aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Today we will talk about other tools for lighting that you may find useful to have. Though your camera is an integral piece of improving your photography, sometimes the camera can only get you so far.

White Boards:

One of the cheapest and most useful tools you can have is a white board to reflect light. I use some white foam core boards that came with a light kit I bought a while back, but you could use white poster board or project boards and they will do the trick! I want to show you my photography set up again:

Dining Table mark

While I can usually get good natural light on the right side of my photos, I often have problems with shadows on the left side. The easiest fix to this problem is just to prop a white foam board on the left side of my set up. Let me show you an example:

No White Board

In the above photo, I do not have a white board. If you focus on the left side of the carton, you can see the dark shadows. Now let’s see what happens when I use a white board to reflect the light:

White Board 1

In both of these photos, the settings on my camera are the same. In this photo, I propped my white board on the left of the strawberry carton. If you compare the left side of this photo, you can see there are now less shadows than there were when no white board was used. The effect of using a white board is sometimes huge for me, it just depends on what I am photographing and the light I have. Having a white board of some type to reflect light is a must for food photography and is one of the cheapest tools you will ever have to buy.

Artificial Lighting:

Since I have started this series, I have talked about how I always prefer natural light over artificial. This does not mean, however, that I never use artificial lighting. I pull out my photography lights on cloudy days or whenever I find myself shooting later in the day. When I first started blogging, I purchased this Lowel EGO Tabletop Light. I found it really helpful at the time, but I will tell you that since I started using a DSLR, I haven’t used it since. Not to mention, it’s pricey. I also sometimes found it to be too bright and I actually didn’t really like that I couldn’t move it around if I wanted it higher or lower. In other words, you don’t have to spend so much on artificial lighting!

After a while, I got the CowboyStudio Lighting Kit. It’s half the price and it comes with three lights. I can also more easily adjust the height and angle. I think this kit is a great choice for lighting and you can’t beat the price!

Let’s see how artificial lighting can help you:

Dark Lighting 1

Unlike the photos I used in my last post, I waited until after 4pm to take these. During this time of year, 4 o’clock is not optimal for me. The photo above was taken at 4pm with no artificial lighting and no white board.

Artificial Lighting 1 mark 2

In this photo, I placed one of my CowboyStudio lights in between my two dining room windows. I also utilized my white foam board to fix the harsh shadows on the left side of the photo. Big difference, right? The white board wasn’t as helpful here as it was when I had brighter light, but in a pinch, it did what I needed it to do.

Light Reflectors:

There is one other tool for lighting that I think you might find useful. I got this NEEWER Portable 5 in 1 Collapsible Round Multi Disc Light Reflector a while back and find it to be a nice tool to have handy. This particular set comes with transluscent, white (for use like the white boards I spoke about above), silver, gold, and black reflectors. I mostly use the gold and silver reflectors. Let’s say it’s a cloudy and dark day. You start taking photos and notice that temperature-wise, they are on the cooler (blue) side. Take my breakfast cookies as an example:

Banana-Oatmeal-Cookies-1 cool

When I think of breakfast, I tend to think of warmer, sunnier photos. When I took these photos, it was cloudy out and I felt they were too cool.


By using the gold reflector, I was able to add some warmth to my photos. If I had the opposite problem, I could use the silver reflector to cool the temperature in my photos.

These reflectors are handy, but like I said in my last post, when it comes to white balance, I find it is one of the easiest things to fix while editing. However, these are so cheap, why not use them and have to do less editing?!


Since I have spread out these lighting posts into three posts, let’s do a quick review:

1. In Part One, we talked about how to find the best natural light in your home. Move around and try different spots until you find one that works best for you. In addition to finding a spot, also consider the time in which the natural light is best for taking photos.
2. In Part Two, we talked about learning to understand some of the basic functions of your DSLR including aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. It’s important to understand not only how these three functions work on their own, but also, how they work together.
3. Finally, in Part Three, we have talked about some lighting tools that you can use to improve your photos. Using white boards or other reflectors can be helpful to eliminate harsh shadows or to fix improper white balance. Artificial lights can be useful on their own or as a supplement to natural light.

If I left anything out here or if you guys have more questions about lighting, sound off in the comments!

Next week, we will talk props and styling!

Disclosure: This post contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you buy any of the products I listed, I think I get like one penny :)