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Managing Reflections in Food Photography

Understanding reflections in food styling and food photography is the first step to managing them. Reflections affect an image in two distinct ways: unwanted reflections on your subject and producing extra light when needed. A highlight in your food subject can pick up the colors in your immediate environment. When you need to add a little extra shine to a food, reflectors are the tools to use.

Blocking unwanted reflections in your shot

Say you’re taking a photo near a window with a lush, green garden outside. If your subject has some shine, you may unintentionally pick up some green reflections in your foods. If you’re using a stool for the shoot that has a strong color, that color can also be picked up in your reflections.

Be aware of your surroundings and control your environment as much as possible. You can block out many extraneous objects in your environment by covering them with white sheeting or other fabric. Covering or blocking a distracting object from view can remove an unwanted reflection or color cast in an image.

If you’re not using natural lighting, close any curtains or blinds, which can let outside light in, to help reduce reflection. You can also use a scrim — a large panel of translucent material that acts as a light diffuser — and place it between your food and the window.

Adding light with reflective materials

Another facet of reflections to consider is using reflective materials to beef up the lighting in your subject. When you need a little extra lighting in a shot, position a piece of aluminum foil as a reflector to shine a little bounced light on the area that needs a little boost.

Alternatively, using a small mirror can serve the very same purpose. You may want to keep a couple of mirrors with you anytime you shoot food so you can enhance the lighting setup. Having a white bounce card also helps when you need a little extra light on your subject.

Use a reflector on a food setting to add extra light.
Use a reflector on a food setting to add extra light.
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