A simple setup for food photography

Mats Equipment, Food photography, Inspiration Leave a Comment

Ever since i took Andrew Scrivani’s excellent food photography course on Creativelive, i’ve wanted to spend more time on food photography. Not the Instagram “this is what i’m about to eat” snapshot, but photos beautiful enough to frame and put on the wall. I had a few requirements:

  • A mobile setup that can easily be folded up and put away. I don’t have a studio for a permanent setup.
  • I wanted to be independent of sunlight.
  • Lamps, not flash.
  • Multiple surfaces and backgrounds to chose from.

To begin with, i had an umbrella and a light stand. This was a Lastolite kit i bough a few years back. I don’t recommend it. It’s got these small knobs that are very hard to tighten and the flash holder was so bad, my Nikon SB-800 speedlight fell out of it and broke.

DIY lighting setup for food photography

However, i figured i could build a lamp holder for the light stand and make it in such a way that it could not fall out. I cut out two pieces of aluminum that i shaped and screwed together into a “hotshoe” so that it fit into the flash mount of the light stand. This hotshoe, i attached to a piece of wood, that i mounted two lamp sockets on, using strong glue and cable ties. It might not be sexy, but it works.

DIY lighting setup for food photography

Then the lamps. I wanted daylight balanced light, to minimize the need for color corrections in post processing. I went out and found two different lamps. They’re low energy lamps. I got the 30 watt and 45 watt versions. They have a color temperature of 4000 Kelvin. The 45 watt lamps deliver 3077 Lumen. Two of those is plenty for shooting still objects with a tripod mounted camera. The lamps are supposed to run for 10000 hours and 12000 on/off cycles. This is great compared to some other daylight colored lamps that i’ve seen, where they recommend you to turn them off when they’re not used because they don’t last for long. I paid about the equivalent of $10 each for the 45W lamps. Very affordable.

Table tops

I wanted to have a variety of table tops to choose from. I already had an all white MDF board and a couple of large italian tiles, but i wanted to add a few more rustic wooden surfaces. I went to the local building supply store and bought a few 1-by-4 boards that i cut up into two-foot pieces. Six of these pieces make a square fake table top. I didn’t even glue them together, so when i’m done, i just stack them and store them. I painted them on both sides with black stain, brown stain and white stain. The fourth side i wanted to have a weathered look. I abused it with different tools and then painted it with a vinegar/Brillo/tea mix that i found on the internet to create an aged wood look. The brown and black ones were used on the shots below. For the one with the knife and the chopped garlic, i used a bamboo cutting board bought at IKEA.

These are a few test shots i’ve taken using this setup:


Creative live online training

Andrew Scrivani, who’s an excellent food photographer and teacher.

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