Placing Lights for Food Photography - dummies

By Alison Parks-Whitfield

Part of Food Styling and Photography For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You could be the greatest food stylist in the world, but no one will know if you don’t light your photos properly. Knowing where to place lights for your shoot can really benefit the look and quality of your photos. And poor light placement can result in flat, dull images. Check out the following options:

  • Key light: A key light is the main or principal light that provides the majority of light for your setup. You should place the key light in front and to the side, which ensures that you get good reflections in the highlights.

  • Fill light: A fill light is a light that’s either lower wattage or placed farther away from the subject. The purpose of a fill light is to fill in and shape the light in a food subject. It’s a secondary light that decreases and controls the contrast when shooting.

  • Back light: A back light shoots across the very back of a setup. The back light provides a little smidge of light that allows a slight distinction between the subject and the background.

The setup in the following figure is a pretty common placement for a lighting setup. The key light on the left is closer in and stronger, and the fill light on the right is farther back and more subtle.