Food Photography with Artificial Light

Disclaimer: Some of the links are affiliate links, and I earn a commission when you buy through them. All of the products in this article are ones I have personally used and love.

When I started, I thought that the only way I could get beautiful photos of food was to use natural light.

Natural light is beautiful. Times, however, we don’t always have natural light. You may have a full-time job, and your only opportunity to take photos is after dark. You may live in an area where the winter is characterized by 30 days with little or no light.

It’s good to know you don’t need nature in order to get beautiful light. You can create stunning artificial light right in your home. You DO need a little knowledge about artificial lighting, and I’m going to show you how today.

This post will cover: 1 The advantages and disadvantages of artificial lighting2 My setup for food photography lighting2.1 Basic gear2.2 Other useful pieces of equipment2.3 A basic setup An introduction to how to use flash and camera settings in artificial light3.1. Let’s start with Let’s3.2 Camera settings.


Before we get into my setup, let’s be honest about the pros and cons of artificial lighting.

The ability to shoot according to MY schedule, and not that of the sun, is the greatest benefit for me. Like many of you, I have a full-time day job and blog, so I can shoot at night, which means I don’t need to spend weekends shooting photos. Major plus.

Artificial light has the advantage of not changing as much with the weather, time of the year, or day. You can make up the difference in learning to use different types of gear by not having to deal with multiple kinds of lighting on a single shoot.

Artificial light does have a major disadvantage over natural light; however, it requires additional equipment. You’ll need basicYou’llment if you want to achieve stunning artificial light. It doesn’t have to be negative: my first setup was around $100, and my current one is about $160.

My food photography lighting setup

Let’s talk about the latest camera settings and what you need to do to take stunning pictures.


Here are the essential pieces of equipment for artificial light photography.


To light my images, I use Yongnuo YN560-IV Speedlite. Be aware that not all speedlites are compatible with all camera brands, so check the specifications before purchasing. These external flashes are about $50, and they’re a good choice. They begin if you have no experience with speedlites.


You’ll need one since we won’t be using that on top of your camera. You’ll need a triYou’llo to synchronize your camera (i.e., Setting off the flash. What you use will depend on the camera and flash. I use the Pixel Enterprises Limited Pawn Wireless Flash Trigger for Canon. It was $10 on Amazon many years ago, but it’s no longer available. The Yongnuo RF-603C III Wireless Flash Trigger kit would be a great choice for Canon cameras, as I do.


I have two diffusers I love and use: a folding 47 “x71” diffuser and an “and “umbrella softbox. In a future post about manipulating artificial lighting, I will go into more detail on how to use these diffusers.

You can make one yourself if you have a limited budget. All you need is a large frame and white fabric. You can make this diffuser by removing the entire frame (including the glass) and rolling the fabric underneath the metal pieces that hold the picture and the glass in place. When I first started, I made this type of diffuser, and it cost me between $10 and $15.


There are many commercially available options for reflectors. However, I still use foam board. You only need a piece of glossy foam board.

To make it stand up, I cut along the middle of the board. Be sure to only cut through one side. You can then fold the board slightly to help it stand up on its own. This also allows you to adjust the angle of the light.

Other HELPFUL Pieces of Equipment

These additional items are not required for a basic artificial lighting setup, but they will come in handy.


You can set your speedlite directly on the surface that you are shooting on. However, a light stand allows you to change your light by moving it up and down, as well as farther away.

To attach my Speedlite, I use a Neewer 6ft light stand with a swivel Anwenk mount.


A tripod is another useful piece of gear to have when shooting with any light. It’s also important if you want to shoot with a slower shutter speed. Manfrotto makes a good line of tripods, and I use this one.

Basic Setup

My artificial lighting setup is speedlite – diffuser – subject – reflector. Your diffuser should always be placed between the light source and the subject. The reflector, if you are using one, should be on the other side.

In a future blog post, we’ll discuss how we’ll modify your light, but for now, this basic setup is a great place to begin to achieve soft, artificial lighting.


It’s not possible to have a one-size-fits-all solution for camera and flash settings. But I did want to give you some ideas to get you started rather than leave you to try to figure it out on your own.

Let’s start with Let’sLASH.

You’ll find it on the rear of the Yongnuo Speedlite YN560-IV if you choose to use it or a similar model. These settings determine the intensity of the light that comes out of the camera’s flash.

Ycamera’se a fracYou’lln the upper left side of your screen. This number is the strength of the flash. The Yongnuo YN560-IV has a maximum strength of 1/1 and a minimum strength of 1/128. Every fraction in between is roughly half as powerful as the previous fraction.

This setting allows you to select the camera lens that you’re using. It would be best if you chose which camera lens to use.

Camera Settings

There’s one manuaThere’sng that is different for natural and artificial light: shutter speed.

A shutter speed that is too fast or too slow with a Speedlite will result in a dark picture because the shutter closes either before or after the flash has been fired. Avoid this problem by keeping your shutter speed within 1/100 to 1/200.

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