When I was first learning photography (or really anything having to do with art), I was always fascinated by the process. I always wondered how the person positioned their light, what settings the camera was on, and how they got their backgrounds to be so perfect. I would get frustrated that, even after I knew the controls, my photos were not turning out how I had hoped.

When it came down to it, the more I learned about how to use the light, the more character my photos developed. I thought today I would share my set-up in hopes that it might help shed a little light (ha, sorry) on how I achieve the look I do. When you think about the root behind photography (“drawing with light”), you realize that the food could look amazing but without good lighting (either natural or flash/strobe), it won’t look very appetizing.

Photography Background

I’ve moved around a lot and this set-up is fairly new to me. I live in an apartment that has all north facing windows (which I love) and each room has one window. I filter the light through the white blind that is already on the window (although a sheet, tissue, or any type of translucent white fabric would work).

I have three sets of backdrops that I primarily use. Each one was constructed by me with cheap lumber nailed together, paint, and stain borrowed from my grandmother. Of course, your kitchen table and a wall behind it would also work!  I have two bounce boards that I bought at the store for $2 each (a white and a black one-a thick poster board). I show three shots for each set of boards.

  1. Without a board to bounce light
  2. With a white bounce board
  3. With a black bounce board

A couple notes: Each set of photos below is unedited (minus a quick resize) and shot with a Canon 5d mark ii with a 24-70mm lens. You might also notice that the no bounce and the black bounce are similar. This is due to the lack of windows in my apartment. The black bounce is good if you are shooting in a well lit room with light sources from other angles. You can also see that I shoot with the light coming in from the right. You could try with light coming in from the left or even backlight your photos.

Also, this is in no way saying you should go out and buy/make backgrounds. I urge you to use what you have and play around with the light in your house at all times during the day. Don’t be afraid to open the front door, shoot in your bedroom, or drag a few pieces of furniture around. You won’t know your best set up until you try a few spots!

1. Wood background:

Wood-none

Wood background with no bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/20 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

wood-white

Wood background with white bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/40 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

wood-black

Wood background with no bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/25 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

2. White:

white-none

White background with no bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/20 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

white-white

Wood background with white bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/30 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

white-black

Wood background with black bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/20 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

3. Black Background

black-none

 Wood background with no bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/15 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

black-white

Wood background with no bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/25 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

black-black

Wood background with no bounce. Shot at a 70mm focal length, 1/20 sec at f/4.0- ISO 800

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Erin is one of the creative minds behind Wooden Spoons Kitchen. When she's not working on sites, she's whipping up something delicious for her food blog, Naturally Ella.

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