Food photography is all about understanding and learning about the simple, yet complex concept of light. We learn early that light is the foundation to successful capture and engaging story telling. Capturing beautiful light really makes your heart beat a little faster and it really can inspire and motivate to capture more.
We have two types of light - Soft light and Hard light. Our soft light is what food photographers aim for as this diffused soft light allows total focus on the food itself and it creates dreamy, more gradual shadows. In this post I focus on hard light - the perfect light to create that summer feel in your imagery and to create some high contrast interest and focus points.
Regardless of your chosen preferences in the type of light or if you use natural or artificial - this is a post worth reading.
We are the light chasers,
creators of scenes of captivating light!
I love this exciting spring time when we start having some beautiful scenes of sunlight and we have a chance to create imagery with that perfect summer mood with late afternoon lunches and cocktails in the sun. And the best way of capturing that certain summer feel is with hard light.
I personally love hard light. Some call is harsh light and as a little site note - I don't like the word harsh when it comes to hard light. As "harsh" has a negative word association to it.
In my opinion hard light is positive thing as it can be manipulated in so many ways in our advantage.
This dramatic, illuminating light gives me amazing artistic opportunity to play with shadows and creating scenes with mood, intensity, atmosphere and all that WOW feel!
Hard light is a positive things - it creates depth, dimension and a strong story telling - it creates scenes of emotion and excitement. Hard light can also create a sense of calmness and zen ....
What is hard light ?
Hard light is when you will have a direct, undiffused light hitting your scene. This light will create crips razor sharp shadows, which are well defined. The light is very focused and shadows are clearly identified. While soft light would be the opposite, where the shadows are soft and the light seems to be wrapping around the scene.
As said - You can identify this high contrast light by its well defined, intense and graphical shadows where the transition from dark to light is immediate rather than soft and gradual like it is with soft diffused light. Hard light is created when you have a small intense light source and vice versus soft light is created when you have larger light source.
Larger light source will distribute the light evenly and widely in your scenes while smaller light source does the opposite.
When we work with natural light and want to create sharp shadows in our scene - we need direct sunlight. Sun being very far from us becomes a small intense light source creating those razor sharp shadows. All my images in this blog have been created by the nature's own hard light source - the sun.
Hard light can be created and manipulated to our favour. It can be diffused into soft light but you would not be able to manipulate soft light into hard light. So that said - think hard light as your new best friend.
The challenge hard light can present requires the understanding of the camera settings to balance the light coming into the scene and into your camera as well as your capabilities in post-production. I usually like to under expose the scene when using hard light so that I won't run into the risk of loosing detail in my image. You can use your "highlight clipping" indicator in Lightroom to show if there is loss of detail (indicated in red - #2). You can sometimes return this details by dropping your exposure or whites in post-production, but not if the original image was over exposed.