3 Editorial And Lifestyle Photography Techniques To Unlearn

Food is a fundamental part of survival, the first thing we do when born is eat, and our brains recognise food on both a primal and instinctual level. Our brains can also automatically reject or call into question food images that do not look authentic.

When it comes to lifestyle and editorial photography, it’s important that our brains recognise it for what it is, and that the images provoke feelings that make us salivate at the thought of it. Achieving this goal does take the right kit and the right food photography props, but it also takes an understanding of how food behaves, lighting, and understanding how and where we eat.

Food photography can take a slightly different set of skills to general product and lifestyle photography, and some skills are valuable in other types of photography that may harm your images when shooting food.


  1. Stop Front Lighting Your Subject

A common mistake for the food photography beginner is using front lighting. Food photography needs shadows to create depth to the image. It’s not something that can be fixed in photoshop afterwards and only serves to make the image look flat and fake.

Also, underexpose your images when shooting. This really helps to preserve the needed shadows that you will pull up in Lightroom.


  1. Stop Using Multiple Lights

Instead of a complicated array of studio lighting, you want a single light source, typically placed anywhere between 9 and 3 o’clock, and at a 0 to 45º angle to the food. It is similar to how to portrait photography works, and portrait photographers will already understand the basics of single-source lighting.

Shooting food in this manner creates depth, specular highlights that signal to the brain that the food is delicious, and replicates how the sun is in the sky during periods when we frequently eat.

Instead of using fill light, carry with you a series of white, black, and grey cards to bounce or absorb light where you need it.


  1. Stop Dodging and Burning Your Food Images

Dodging and burning - the technique of enhancing shadows or highlights in post-production -  adds a fake look to images that the brain can’t accept, even if you don’t consciously know why. If you are new to Lightroom or have always relied on dodge and burn, it only takes a few tweaks to add depth and dimension to your food images.

You should start by lifting your shadows and white levels, then drop your highlights and blacks. This will be dependant on the positioning of your light and the angle of the source. Adding some dehaze, clarity and texture is fine, but only a little.

Once you’re getting where you want to be, then add a slight S-curve to the Tone Curve, adjust hue, saturation, and luminance in the HSL block, and finally, add a little blue to the shadows, and some yellow to the highlights in the Colour Grading panel.


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