How To Take Great Food Photos In Low Light

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn’t need to be. With these five tips, you’ll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.

It seems like people get really frustrated with the lack of light in several situations and you might find yourself to be one of them.

  1. The first non-ideal situation is Winter. The light is certainly not as abundant as it is in the Summer or
  2. You might be faced with dark and moody photography for the first time and you have no clue as to how to handle the low light situation.

Let me tell you, that you have nothing to fear.

I live in Slovenia and during late Autumn and until early Spring the lighting situation is far from ideal. It’s cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy… And all these things affect the amount of light coming through the windows.

If you’re faced with the same situation you’re in the right place. I’m going to show you a few tips, that will definitely help you embrace the low light.

Let’s get started.

1. Use a tripod

You’ve probably heard me say this a million times, but a tripod is your greatest friend when it comes to food photography. It doesn’t even have to be an expensive one. You can get something extremely cheap for 20€ (around 20$) and it will still be a massive improvement from hand-holding your camera.

2. Don’t be afraid to use long exposure times

When you’ve used a tripod, you can get away with much longer exposure times than when you hold your camera. If you look at the photo below, you’ll see that I often use very long exposure times, even longer than a second. Wow, right?

A few things to consider when shooting at long exposure times:

  • Use a tripod
  • Use a remote or software to remotely trigger the shutter button
  • Be still. Don’t move when the shutter is released. Any movement around the camera can cause a blur.
Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 100 – f6.3 – 1/3 seconds
Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 100 – f9 – 1.3 seconds

3. Embrace the high ISO

Oftentimes we get scared of bumping the ISO, but the reality is that most hobby cameras will handle ISO up to 800 and if you have a more advanced camera, you can get much higher than that.

Now, I try to keep my ISO at lowest, because this will mean I have the sharpest image possible. The thing is that oftentimes (and I say that from experience) is that we tend to prefer to keep the ISO at lower settings and underexpose than to bump the ISO and correctly expose the photo.

Why is this important?

If you look at any photo closely, you’ll see that there’s always more noise in the shadowy part of an image. So when we underexpose we create more shadowy parts in the image, meaning more noise. And this can result in more noise than we would actually get if we shot at a higher ISO and make that photo brighter.

See, high ISO is not the enemy 😊

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 2000 – f2.8 – 1/320 seconds

4. Get closer to the light source

I was recently talking about low light in one of my 1:1 coaching sessions. My client was struggling with her dining room being really dark in the Winter. She was shooting on her dining table which was in the middle of the room.

Do you see the problem yet?

When you move away from the light source, the amount of light reaching your subject decreases significantly.

But there’s a simple solution to that. Just move the subject closer to the light source aka window. Don’t shoot at your dining table. Those are usually in the middle of the room and most certainly this is not an ideal place if the light is really low.

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 1000 – f3.2 – 1/25 seconds

5. Use manual focus

When it comes to dark places auto-focus is not very reliable. It might miss the focus completely or even refuse to focus.

Getting friendly with manual focus helps you solve this problem. Set your lens to manual focus and use the zoom tool to really see where you’re focusing.

How To Shoot Food In A Dark Room by Useyournoodles on Jumprope.

Final Thoughts

Okay, phew. Did you just realize that low light not bad at all? I really hope you did and I hope you’ll try the methods above. If you wanna learn more about how to manipulate light in order to improve your photos either bright and airy or dark and moody I’ve got a free e-course and you can apply through the form below.

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