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Lighting for Food Photography: Beyond Natural Light

Lesson 4 of 4

Expanding Your Range with LED Steady Lights

Andrew Scrivani

Lighting for Food Photography: Beyond Natural Light

Andrew Scrivani

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Lesson Info

4. Expanding Your Range with LED Steady Lights

Lesson Info

Expanding Your Range with LED Steady Lights

So what we're gonna do now is change this out a little bit. So we're gonna take that strobe light down and we're gonna change out our I'm gonna get back up on the ladder and hope for the best Unless Greg is tall enough to grab those which he is. This is this is a good thing. OK, I'm going to describe this while Greg is breaking this down. So now led lighting is NuWave lighting. It's very, very different than traditional movie lighting, which is H m I lighting or like or hot tungsten lights very different in that they run cool. You can adjust color temperature very easily. Most of the time, you can plug him into the wall. Those are the good parts. They all the parts are. They don't throw as much power. So you really have to be mindful that you're not gonna get is much flexibility in your set up when you're using an H, uh, led light. So the ones that I have are about 1000 watts piece, which for table top of this size is about perfect for the kind of settings that we're gonna try to get o...

ut of them Now, this is going to be, ah one and the two lights set up because this is not gonna push. Is much power on one side on the show you how to adjust it because it's such a fine tuning and it's very easy to do. I condone drop the second light down to 1/4 power. I can filter it really easily, and then all of a sudden I have about another balance. But also, the height and angle of the lighting is gonna be similar to what I've just done. I'm not gonna be able to create as big a wide light source. So these these lights and this is the one that I use. This is these in mind, brought them from brought them from home. These Eircom made by a company called Felix. And they have all the standard modifiers and all the things that you can put on sort of a movie light like this. It has a ballast, and then it plugs into the wall. So it's It's a pretty powerful instrument. Now it has this little bowl modifier, which is pretty much the only thing I'm going to use right now. Sometimes will take it off to get a little bit more power out of it. But this filter's it nicely, but I also have focusing lenses for it. I could show you that one. When we're done, I'm not gonna try to attach it today, but I definitely will show you what it's meant to do. And it's supposed to meant make that light broader and wider. But I want to basically broaden in this light by bouncing it through a scrim. So we got this. These for these are three by threes, four by fours. These are four by fours and about probably like a stop 1/4 of a stop. So this is not as thick as the one we hung up here because modifying a strobe is a lot harder than modifying something like this because of the power output. So this isn't putting out as much power. So we go with lighter scrim, and this is meant to broaden and diffuse the light. So what we're gonna do is put this up in front of it like this. So when this light is kind of shining through it, it's giving us a little bit of ah, softer, wider look, so let's do that first. And let's get power to this guy Powers behind me, OK, we could take this V flat down at some point to, you know, I would like to enjoy the view today as well. Okay, So for those of you who are a little unfamiliar with something like this, don't be intimidated. It's really easy. So it controls on the back. I've already tuned this into the light temperature, extra points for person who remembers what my life temperature was. Good people are listening. So this I dialed in around that like temperature already. I have it at 100% power, and I can adjust the hue of delight. But right now I'm gonna set it at zero. And then I could always adjust it now by putting it in the daylight range of where I'm comfortable. I'm already not going to struggle with that part. The power aspect of this is the only part of this that becomes somewhat problematic at times. But the idea is creating the light you like, and then making your adjustments in camera. So we're gonna get this really close once. Ah, we have that now. It's right. Always sandbag your lights, please. Please. And your tripod and anything that's holding anything that's expensive. Yeah. Okay, so the other thing I like to do with my diffusion in this situation is kind of angle it. So this is on a on a knuckle so we can angle it. Sort of down. Yeah. So, like, kind of like that. And then I can kind of either bounce this straight so that I'm not getting the harshest part of the light hitting or depending on what it looks like when I'm done. Uh, I will angle it back down. So if we can set up the 2nd 1 on the other side and I'll turn it on when I need it the same set up. Great. So in the meanwhile, we're gonna test the light. I will see where we're at. So I'm shooting this light across the top of where I am, So it's probably highlighting this side of things more than normal. So maybe by making an adjustment this way, As you could see, it's giving me a little bit of a different look. So let me see where we're at as faras the meter and we're little under. So at this point, I'm not bound by strobe light adjustments to the camera. And I can, um I can either lower my, um, shutter speed to a point where I can get where I want to be. Or I can play with my I s so which you can always, obviously also do. Um, so to get to where I want to be here, I need to move my I s 0 to 400. So by doing that, I'm right in my range of 125th of a second hand held at 4.5. Perfect. And obviously most of the cameras that we use today are very comfortable in that range. As far as I eso is concerned, Um, and I think what we want to do is swap out, are deliciousness, and let's do something a little different. Okay, so I got a nice well, patina pan. I got some really nice cookies that cliche made, and I'm gonna try to highlight one hero, so I need to pick the winner. And then your question about how to frame it comes into play. Now, I would I prefer at this point to handhold the camera because I want to have multiple angles and because I'm not really reliant upon the strobe at all, I'm can treat this just like daylight on DMA move around the table just like it was daylight. So I think my settings air good. I don't like when my white balance is There it is. Okay, so let's take a test shot according to the light and see where we're at. Okay? We're one directional. We could use a little more focus. And that shadows a little harsh as far as I'm concerned. So I have a couple of options on how to fix that. Now, I can readjust this light to make that a little bit less harsh. I could either add another layer of diffusion here. I can dial this light back a little bit, or I can add some Phil on this side. So before I do any light adjustments, let's take this card that we have laying over here and add some Phil. Now, I don't know if this is gonna give me what I want, because I don't want it to fill it so much that it creates no shadow, but Let's say again, I'm side lit and let's see a little drop Shadows OK, but this isn't really looking like soft. They like to me looking a little hard. So let's make an adjustment. Let's see if I do what I said before and shoot it over the top, see what that does to our settings, not much. And go right back to it. And I've already seen the camera that that is a little bit softer than it was before. So there's there's the before and there's the after. So you see that shine That happens when you get direct light on something that has softened significantly, and our drop shadow now is more palatable. It's workable, it looks nicer, it's softer, and I like that. And the idea is, there is my focus, sort of in the really middle the edge of that. And then if I take a different approach here and I put that focal point right at the front of the cookie, let's see what that gives us see now It's really shallow, maybe shallower than I would like to be. But here's the problem With this light and the power output, it has to get more out of it. I gotta push my I s so even higher or get on a tripod, which is fine and go with lower shutter speed. But, handheld, that's just a tiny bit too shallow. But that's OK. It's totally fun. I like the lighting. I like the approach. I like the softness around it. Um, and then if I go from the top, which I'm going to try to hand hold this at eight. I can't promise, you know, camera shake. So when I want to see what that looks like because now we're gonna have a very different look to this lighting. See, Now, I don't have I think that shadow is much too harsh from the top, so this wouldn't be the exact way to do this. I would probably filter that light further. So instead of 1/4 stop, I could put 1/2 stop in here, and that would knock it down a little bit further. Um, do we have a handheld one? That I could just stick in there and just see what we got? Okay, great. Okay, so in the meanwhile, questions take a couple questions. Meanwhile, so one question that came in from the Egger wall. How do you decide on your hero or subject? For example, in this, which one do you want to eat? In this case, it's really easy. I can't eat any of them. But, um, yeah, I mean, I think the one that has the most appeal the most balance in shape and color, sometimes the garnishes the nicest on on one thing or you get something that's very distinctive, like a certain crack or something that you really want to highlight a focus on. But I think it's subjective, obviously. But I think you got to go instinctual when it comes to food and look at something and be like, Wow, this is terrific. I really like it. Okay. Um well, try that other experiment in a moment. I want to try to recreate something a little bit before we break down. Um, I'm going to use the bars if you put him on here for me. We want to try this. Yeah, we only have 15 so I won't do that. Okay. I'm gonna switch out my surface and one of the shots that I've made over the last few years I made it in daylight has become a little bit so it above a signature shock for me. And I've never tried to make it with anything but a light. So I'm gonna try to recreate it here. So the lemon bar shot I know if you've ever seen it. If you've looked at my portfolio on my instagram feed its there, um and I'm gonna try to recreate something like it here. Not exactly. Uh, you want to stack those for me? Perfect, actually. To stack to two stacked not to Stax Nobody's p She's not listening to me. No, to lemon bars stacked on top of one. Another one, too. He gave me a dirty look. I know. I know. Just to total. I know. Can you repeat the name of the led life? Yes. This is made by a company called Philex. F I l l e x. And unlike the last time I tried on led on creativelive, This one works. Okay. Cool. Thank you, sir. Know we're running. The shot is from table level, and it goes very dark. Toe one side and we'll see what happens. Uh, okay, so not exactly an exact recreation, but we're definitely in the ballpark. So let's see what the lighting is. Pretty close. The lighting is really close to what it waas. Although I think the lights have been getting toe are lemon bars. So they're getting They're getting a little mushy, but we could have one of the tricks you might want to do with this. If you are working with something like this from a food styling perspective is put it in the freezer, it'll firm up and then let it defrost just a little bit. So it looks natural and get it in front of your camera. Things like ice cream and anything that has that kind of softness to it works that way. Yeah. Hi. Um, so I've noticed that everything you've shot is kind of one dimensional sort of flat. So how do you deal with when it's something that has branches or something like that with the shadow? Is the same technique with that are footing me by branches? I'm thinking like mint or something, or oh, you mean you mean okay. You mean things that have that's a little bit bigger than something that's just boy? Or it could also be the set design, you know? Yeah. I mean, I think ultimately you have to adjust your aperture settings to give yourself the depth of field in the amount of focus that you want now, these things that clearly was focusing on very small things, letting it go out of focus and not really bracketing an entire job, you know, just showing and demonstrating the lighting. But I would say that when you're looking at things that have a wider range of focus, you gotta add aperture and get in there. But the idea is that using the macro lens allows you to get a little bit of a broader looking in the camera while still allowing you to have some fall off. This is why I end up using a macro lens, even when things that I'm not shooting right on top of, because it still gives me that drop off with the amount of focus that I like. If you start to use a regular lens and start to add aperture and add aperture and an aperture, what's gonna happen is everything's in focus, it gets really flat, and then it's not nice anymore. The other thing I want to talk about this before we do. One more question is I could turn this camera now into a video camera and shoot video of this if I wanted to. So if P. Shea wanted to do dusting it on camera, and we want to add that to whatever an instagram post or we wanted to build into something of a video, we have that opportunity with steady lighting because it's clean and it's consistent. And it's something that we can always rely on so I can shoot it the way I just did with still camera. But then I could flip right over into my video mode and shoot a little video of it. So that's a really nice option tohave with the L E. D s. And you can run them all day long. You're not heating up yourself. You're not heating up the food, you're probably not gonna blow a fuse, and you'll probably be OK with that. So, um, did we have more questions? Because I can show one more thing unless we have questions. But I want to give time for questions. Yes, I realize you kept the screen scream very close to the light. Yes, is there a reason for that would not be allowing the light to spend more. If you have the screen, well, then you start to play with the idea of how much power you have. So I mean, the further away you move it, it's you're diffusing the power even more so, yes, I could have made that adjustment and move the light around and played with it a little bit more. And if I give a little bit more distance, I'll probably lose a little power. But it won't be a sharp, hard same spot about Scream. Yeah, either way, even light back with a scream back yet. Either way, we can we can adjust it to give a little bit more or less of what we've experienced already. Think you're anyone else? Yes. If you're forced to work with a lot of reflective items like silverware. Um, are there any tips that you have for that? Yes. Stay right there. I brought some props, and if you can see, these are some of my favorites of forks. What do you notice about them? They're dull. They look they look like they have some age and patina. They have that kind of sort of a more romantic feel to them. And that's the goal I'm looking for in my work is not highlight these things, but to add them as accents, everything about the propping that I choose and use and work with prop stylists and consult with people about how I want my stuff to look is I don't want anything to be shiny. See this plate? It's made of black porcelain. It's not has no glaze whatsoever on it. And I know a potter specifically who makes them So the idea is that seek out the things that you know we're gonna highlight your photography and for me, anything that's not shiny, including my surfaces, my plates, my props, all of it will add to the idea that you're trying to highlight the food. So we're going to turn this other light on now and add some Phil on this side and I'm gonna try to start it at half power and see what it gives me. I could play with this old day. It would be fun. We don't have all day. Okay, so we saw what we got here with no Phil. And you could see that this had significant fall off between where the light hits the lemon bar on the right and where the fall off is on the left. Now we just added this subtle Oh, boy. OK, let's try something else here because thats guy died in the on the vine, but see, starts on here. Great. OK, so we'll try something else. The lemon bar Recreation was not quite what we thought it would be. OK, so we have Let's take a test shot now, quickly, without the light so we can have a comparison with this subject. So if I focus in here double shot, okay? But we're looking at light here, so let's look at the light. Okay, so you see that shadow t the left of my lead there? We're going to see if What? What? This? What does this do to that shadow? And what does this do to the overall composition? You don't really have to wait for these toe warm up either, Which is another nice feature of the led. Okay? I don't know necessarily that that has enough power to influence that shot, but let's look very subtle. Very, very subtle. So this is still got about 30% more power to go. Well, let's call the temperature, make sure they're what they're okay, So now I just push that to 100% and we'll see if that makes a difference. The other thing I think we might try is was your suggestion. Let's back this up a little and let's get a comparison on that just a little. So as we adjust focusing on the middle of my middle tarp, Okay, that's different. See, the drop shadow is now a little bit more subtle. The edges aren't is hard. The light is a little softer on this side. So the suggestion to separate a little bit definitely helped, right? But the idea is that that Phil now is a consistent soft fill on that side, where if we take it off now, let's see what happens with the same shot. And of course, we can move that closer further, getting closer, turn it down, whatever we want to do as far as the adjustment is concerned, and if you have all day to play with it, you can really balance it out and find something nice to work with. But let's see what this does now were considerably darker on that side. As you can tell through this shot, see that Nice timing, that circular kind of drop shadow that we're getting and that also the one in the back sort of falls away a little bit more so you could see that just these little tiny adjustments. And you start to attune your eye as a photographer as well, to adjust, you're lighting to your eye and what you start to see. And the difference is you start to see in just the grades of a shadow and how to make that fine tune adjustment and make it work for you. And then the idea is that if this WAAS Okay, I did a job for the science section of the Times a little while ago where I wanted to make it look like pop art. So I had very bright colored surfaces and products that you can buy in a grocery store because it was all about having too much salt in the food. So I wanted to look very pa party because I didn't want it to look like food, and I didn't want it to look appealing and I used this set up without that, but this was very harsh, and it created this kind of deep, dark shadow on these light colored surfaces, and it was effective. And it was something that I was able to employ to in effect instead of it being something I'm fighting against when I'm working with food. It's something I was aiming for when I was doing a different type of a project, which is again speaks to the idea of flexibility when you're working with lighting and the idea that food photography isn't always just about making it delicious, sometimes it's about making a statement. Sometimes it's about doing art, and there's a lot of other avenues you can take in food whether or not, um, just doing it the way we do it in editorial, this gives you lots of flexibility. So any more questions? I have one final question for you. Final question. Yeah, question came in about trends, and there any particular things that we should be aware of or see with regard to trends and even lighting trends, since that's kind of what we're talking about as we move forward, well, there are two things that come to mind. And the first is that when we first got started in food photography, this really super shallow that the field look, which kind of was employed here a little bit, was sort of very trendy. Um, and then we've moved to a little bit more depth of field in food photography. And the second thing is three idea of it being for lack of a better terminology. Because this is the terminology that got thrown at me for a long time. In the business is, ah more masculine. Look versus a more feminine look. Now I don't necessarily ascribe to that thing, but I would use it as a more lighter look versus a little darker look. And we're definitely in the darker look like realm right now, which makes me very happy, because it's where I employed my style. And it's how I formed my style around the darker, moody or look. And now that has a tendency to be much more prevalent even in healthy food magazines and mainstream food magazines. That that rich, moody look for food photography is definitely a trend and is definitely something I'm really happy about. So tell us, Andrew It's so wonderful to have you back here on creativelive, especially again in your hometown. Where could everybody follow you? Make sure that they're up to date with everything that you're doing well. My website is just my name. If you could spell it, you could find me. It's everything in my social media repertoire is also just my full name without a space. So Andrews Cavani one word in Twitter in Facebook in Instagram, especially, Please come visit Instagram. It's my favorite part of this whole social media thing, and there's a new one I'm involved in, called Foodie, which is based in San Francisco. There have a growing population. It's P H O D I E, and it's not Onley food photography. But it's a recipe sharing. It's a fun. It's a really fun site. So it's It's still just growing, but it's ah, it's a lot of fun. So come and visit on social media. I'm always there and thanks for coming, and it's been a pleasure to be back

Class Description

Join New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani as he shares how he uses strobe and steady lighting techniques for your food photography. 

In this class you will learn: 

  • How to mimic natural light by using artificial lighting 
  • How to incorporate strobes into your food photography based on your budget 
  • How to use LED’s for a steady light technique to be used in stills or motion tabletop food shots 
Andrew will explain how he incorporates both new and old technologies to create the best food image. By the end of this class, you will be able to create light artificially that reflects your daylight style seamlessly.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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a Creativelive Student

A fascinating introduction to the ways Mr Scrivani uses artificial light, this course provides an outstanding companion piece to his more comprehensive course on food photography. Brilliant work, as always.

Carol Glisson

I enjoyed this class so much that I searched for other related classes by Andrew Scrivani and purchased two more. A nice guy, a good communicator, and obviously a very skilled individual. It was a good investment for me because I learned a lot. Greatly appreciated, I will keep my eye out for more :)

Emma Sammels

Interesting. Looks like I have lots to learn. Thank you!