Light and Airy vs. Dark and Moody Food Photography | Daniela Lambova | Skillshare

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Light and Airy vs. Dark and Moody Food Photography

teacher avatar Daniela Lambova, Food Blogger & Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Lighting Basics

    • 3. Shaping Light

    • 4. Light and Airy Style

    • 5. Editing a Light and Airy photo

    • 6. Dark and Moody style

    • 7. Dark and Moody shooting session

    • 8. Project

    • 9. Conclusion & Final Thoughts

    • 10. Editing a Dark and Moody photo

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About This Class

Make your food photography outstanding by creating images in two popular artistic styles: Light and Airy and dark and Moody!

Light is the most important part of photography but it is not easy to master. This course will help you to master food photography storytelling by using just the magic of light. 

What you will learn in this class:

  • Working with natural light in closed spaces (e.g. in your kitchen)
  • How to manipulate and shape light
  • How to create Light and Airy and Dark and Moody photography style through specific lighting
  • Examples of food photography setup at home
  • How to edit photos in Adobe Lightroom for each of both styles

and more tips and tricks to help you create beautiful food images!

Don't forget to download also the class pdf resources!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Daniela Lambova

Food Blogger & Photographer


I'm Daniela, a Food Blogger, Food Photographer and Cookbook Author based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I love everything about food, especially desserts. In my blog Dani's Cookings you will find all kinds of sweets, including sugar-free, low carb and vegan. 

I've been baking since I was a child and I enjoy helping other people become confident in the kitchen. My philosophy is that everyone should be able to eat good homemade desserts, made with love and without guilt.

In 2019 I published my first cookbook about healthy desserts (it is only in Bulgarian for now but I am planning to release it in English soon!)


My second big passion is the Food Photography. Since I started my first blog in 2012, I have gone... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Daniela, and in this course I'm going to teach you how to shoot food photography into very popular styles, lighten or darken movie. Lighting is a powerful photography tool, and especially in food photography, you can change dramatically the results of your photos just by changing the light. During this course, we are going to work with natural light. I'm going to teach you how to manipulate and shape light in order to, uh, has the qualities of the food and create an impressive story. I'm put photographer and a blogger from Bulgaria. Baking and taking photos of food are my big passions. In 2020, I left my management job in order to pursue my dreams to become a photographer and full BAM creative. I also self-published my own cookbook with recipes and a lot of photos, of course. This course is for intermediate photographers. You need to have some basic idea of styling, composition, lighting, and those all you need to be very comfortable using the manual mode of your camera. We are going to talk mainly about lighting and a little bit of editing in Lightroom. We're not going to discuss here composition or styling, because this particular course is mainly directed to understanding light, shaping light, and manipulating light in order to achieve the best results for our story that you want to tell with our photos. I'm so excited that you are here. I can't wait to show you the magic of light. 2. Lighting Basics: Understanding the light is very important in order to achieve the exact mood and style we would like our photo to have before showing your lighting in action. First, I would like to touch on the main dependencies and the main tools we have to manipulate light, which are the dependencies of our lighting. First, it is the distance. The closer we are to the light source, the more intensive is delighting. The first two meters, or around 6.5 feet are where we have the most intensive flighting. So just moving slightly with few centimeters or inches, we will change our intensity of light dramatically it within the perimeter of this six feet. But apart from distance, it's important also, what is the angle on which light is falling on our object? It's important how our window is positioned in relation to our scene. Here is a very simple example that I want to show you in order to clarify whether what I mean. So I made four different photos in four different positions, different distance and different angle from the window. And the settings of the camera were always the same. It's just to demonstrate to you how the shadows change and how the lighting changes in each one of these positions of the subject. And the first one, you see that the bananas are placed in an angle from the window, a little bit below the window. And basically the lighting is coming from the right, but it's from around 45 degrees angle. The second photo is same settings, same distance, but the bananas are more or less parallel to the window saw the light is coming directly from the right. You see that there is a little bit more light. The highlights are stronger and the shadow is kind of deeper. The third photo, you see it's the slightly darker and we have the bananas around a meter away from the window. Light on top is falling nicely, but there is a big shadow. Glass photos showing again the bananas at the same distance around one meter from the window, but they are parallel to the window. So here we see that the shadow is even bigger than the previous photo. I see here a bigger contrast between shadow and light. So you can see the comparison two-by-two photos, the lightest coming directly from the right, we see that there are more highlights and the shadow is slightly bigger. If you want to compare the two photos, then the second two photos again, same distance but the angle of lighting is different. Obviously, the second two photos are darker than the first two. Who see that where the lighting is coming directly from the right, more part of the bananas are in the shadows or the shadow is slightly bigger, but there is a bigger highlights on the right. So it's good to consider how the light changes according to the position and the distance from the light source. Basically, you can change shadows and highlights just by changing the position of your main subject, which is an important part of your story. Now let's talk about hard light and soft light. Hard light is direct light alive that creates intense shadows, hard shadows. And it's basically direct sunlight shining directly in the scene. How did life is a little bit difficult to master if you don't have experience, but it can create quite interesting results. Soft light, on the other hand, is the light that is most preferred for food photography. The DC diffused light, non direct light in nature or environment. This is the light that comes in a cloudy day, meaning the clouds act as a diffuser. If you have direct sunlight in your window, you can use a diffuser in order to disperse it and to create these soft light effect, diffuser is semi-transparent fabric or paper, which you can put on the window in order to diffuse the light. So it can be transparent Curtis, the ones that are thinner, or it can be white baking paper that you just put on the window. There are also diffuser that you came by, their photography diffusers by diffusing the light, we're changing the light source as well. The diffuser becomes our light source. It becomes bigger light source and light source that the software, it's not so strong as the sun is. The sun you see in the sky is shiny object. It's very strong when it comes directly from the window. It illuminates subpart of your scene, but it's really hard and intense. If you put the curtain on the window, then discard them and the window by itself with the curtain, becomes the light source. I will show you this in a simple example. Now, this is a very quick example with a torch. So if we direct the light of the torch directly to the IPO, we see that the shadow is very big and clear, so the apple is very well lit. There are a lot of highlights. If we place the diffuser, this is photography diffuser that I have. You can see that there is light, but it's not intense at all. And if you move the torch Alito, You see the shadow that also is moving. It is a very subtle shadow. That's why it's not really well visible, but it's completely different effect then the effect from the torchlight directed to the fruit. 3. Shaping Light: Now let's talk about reflectors and light blockers. These are the tools that can help us shape the light. They help us to change the lighting conditions no matter where we are. Reflectors are wide objects which we placed around the scene in order to reflect light and eliminate lightly Some bark of the scene which is on the shadow, usually reflectors are white, but there are also silver and gold and reflectors. In fact, if you buy one of these photography diffusers and reflectors, there five in one products. Silver, gold, white Reflector, light blocker, which is black, and the diffuser. They're quite useful because they contain all these tools that you need to manipulate lighting. But the professional reflectors and diffusers are not the only one that you can use. You can buy a form boards. You can buy Cardboard. If too early. I have big foam boards in white, which I bought from a hardware store. And also I have big black cardboard which I bought from Walmart shop. The black ones are the light blockers. So the same way as you put reflectors. In order to reflect the light. You can put light blockers in order to stop the light in places where you don't want it to appear. By placing reflectors and light blockers around our scene. We are basically shaping the light. We are creating the path of the life that we want to create in order to eliminate the parts of the object that we want to be illuminated and highlighted. And in order to put in dark the parts of the object which we want to be your shadow. This is very important for you to understand that shaping the light is one of the main things the photographers do. Photography is not just taking photos of objects. It is creating specific lighting conditions in order to show these objects in a particular way and to enhance their qualities. 4. Light and Airy Style: What is light and airy style lightening? R3 is the photography style with nice light and very soft shadows. The predominant colors are also light, usually white, green, your pastel. To achieve the style, you need to work on several aspects of the photo. The first one is lighting. You have to create diffused lighting without harsh shadows and dark areas in order to achieve that light and they removed, you need to have nice highlights, soft shadows, and preferably blurred background to create a dreamy feeling. Props, you need to choose the props predominantly with light colors. Editing. The fopen retouching needs to decrease further any darker areas and shadows and highlight the lightness of the photo. Important elements of lighten Erin lighting. You need a soft diffused light to create soft shadows. You need reflectors to eliminate darker areas on the objects that diffusers and reflectors are used according to the specific lighting conditions. Here is my sample session. I didn't need a diffuser because the sun was not shining directly on my window. This is a west facing window and I took the photos in the morning. My scene was backlit, light coming from behind, so I needed the reflector on the ground and on the side because the room was full of dark furniture and there were quite a large shadows. If you have a harsh light user diffuser, try taking one photo without a reflector. Then look at it and consider if you need reflectors and where to place them. Usually you place them in front of the light source. On the shadow side of the objects. You may want to add another reflector at another site, if you've seen still looks dark. This style looks even nicer with a blurred background. In order to achieve these background, you use a higher aperture or f-stop. Make sure not to lose the focus on the important objects though. The keys to experiment with different number choice and multiple reflectors. If you should better. It is also helpful to do some quick edits on the goal as the image might look dark at first and with a bit of exposure change, it might be actually perfect without any additional lighting changes. In fact, if you're shooting in R4, you may not need to have high exposure during the shooting by itself, but by increasing the exposure in post-processing, you may achieve very impressive results. 5. Editing a Light and Airy photo: So let's say I edit this photo. This is one of my light and airy photos from the session that I showed you already. It doesn't look very light if you look at it like this, but with the editors who are going to achieve our lighten a remote. So the first thing is to increase the exposure. I will increase it a little bit, not too much. And then we will improve the light style through other parameters in Lightroom. So this is my editing Lightroom. I forgot to start with this. It's lighter on Classic, which are usually used in desktop to edit my photos. The photo has been shot in raw format and it's easy then to increase the light without losing much detail. But here we need to be very careful not to lose detail into the cream of the coffee because this is where I will lead first. And as you can see in the original photo, there is a lot of detail shadows which we partially wanted to preserve in this photo. So this is the challenge in editing these photo. So in terms of contrast, for now, I would like to decrease the contrast even though it is more a personal preference. Some lightened edit photos might be with high contrast, but in fact, contrast is not achieved only through these particular changing, this particular parameter saw will work on the contrast in other ways as well. I want to decrease the highlights, not increase them, because with the highlights we might lose detail in the cup. We don't want that shadows. I will decrease by turning. To write, you see the plus sign, it's increasing the parameter, but in fact the shadows are going down. This is the way Lightroom works. Same is valid for whites were increasing though whites and blacks out just go a little bit to the left side. Not too much because we don't want too many blacks, but we want to keep some contrast in this, in this photo. Light and airy doesn't mean no contrast. This is an important highlight. It means that we want our overall light mood, but there is contrast. I will increase a little bit the clarity, which will help me keep details clear. And i will also increase a little bit the texture which will additionally helped me give the details. For now I want that to saturation and the vibrance. And in the curves, I will increase the highlights, but a little bit. I will increase the light. Not too much. Again. We went a lot. Yes. I will increase also the darks, meaning chi will decrease them because the dark parameters going to the right there, basically losing their strength. And I will increase the shadows, which will create a nice contrast. So you see now we lost a little bit of detail here. So we have ways to fix it. Actually, this issue, maybe I'll try to decrease a little bit the highlights here and decrease them further here via this cease helping. And i will increase Additionally the texture. This will help me as well. Okay? So I'm not touching the colors because they are not that important in this situation. By enabling profile correction, we are lightening little bit the photo additionally. And I will go back to the exposure and will increase it a little bit. Okay? And maybe the shadow says, well, maybe I will increase the blacks. Now we see a big difference between the first photo and the second photo. We see that it's much lighter, nicer. And basically you kind of sense the sun shining on top of the cup with cream. Basically, this is a pumpkin spice latte, But you see mainly the cream on top. If you'd like to further lighten the cup, you can go with just one brush and decide what Honestly, I like the flight shadow that is falling on the front. I think the photo looks good, even though we lost a little bit of detail here. But the biggest part of the detail is preserved. 6. Dark and Moody style: What is dark and moody style? Dark and moody is a specific style with darker colors, which evokes a moody feeling. But dark and moody does not mean underexposed images. The importance is in the contrast between the dark areas and the light areas of the photo. In its most artistic examples, the style is similar to the painting technique chiaroscuro from Italian light and dark, which has been developed during the Renaissance. Chiaroscuro paintings show high contrast, and they mentioned that the objects are created with the use of light in a dark background. The dark and moody style requires good understanding of light by directing the light into specific parts of the scene and leaving others in a shadow, the photographer can create a very impressive story. Again, for the dark and moody style, we have to consider different photography elements. Create a lighting that falls on the hero objects and on the part that we want the viewers to see first into B, mostly in view. So basically, we'd want to direct the light where the eye of the viewer needs to go first. And we want to live in shadow. The bards, which are secondary importance props, we need darker props. There can be lighter elements, but they have to be exactly the ones who you want to highlight in the photon. Like the hero object, secondary objects should be generally dark. Edit the photo in a way so that the contrast between light and dark is highlighted, which are the elements of dark and moody lighting. It is important to create a small lighting source is this way, the resulting shadows are stronger and there are more noticeable highlights. One of the options is to draw the curtains in your room and to create a small thin area where the light will come from. If you don't have curtains, you can place two pieces of dark cardboard on the window that the light comes in through the opening between them. Inevitably, the smaller or light source will create lower over a light. That's why it is better to shoot with a tripod. And Otherwise you would need to increase the ISO alot to have the image properly exposed and this might create grain. You will need to use black cards to block light and also reflectors to help illuminate the objects that are important. Remember, the I is always drawn by the lightest part of the photo. So you want to light and exactly the objects you want to be seen. First, I will show you how I created light for my scene. And you will be able to compare the results from the different lighting setups. 7. Dark and Moody shooting session: So let's check some of the lighting scenes that I created in order to demonstrate to you how lighting works for dark and moody photography. The first photo, we see the settings of the camera. On the left, we see how exactly the objects are positioned. It's again the same window that I used for the light and airy food photography that now I have drawn the cartels, which are dark cartons and they're basically blocking the light. And I have created smaller light source. The room is more or less dark though in this particular picture, I'm not using any reflectors or light blockers. You see that these are 100 millimeter lenses, and I'm also using a tripod because the shutter speed is very slow. It's a nice scene. Backlit. We see a lot of highlights and shadows. The shadows are on the front obviously. And we have the light falling on the backend on top of peaches in a nice way. But I think here the peaches are quite much in the dark. In my opinion, we can increase a little bit the light by placing a reflect of somewhere. So you can see that I placed a reflector on the next photo. Reflector is on the front. I changed also the settings solid albeit, but the most important is that we have different kind of highlights. We have more light on the front which creates a nice effect. And the beaches are the first thing basically the DI sees. The third photo though, I changed a little bit the way the light comes from the curtains, and this totally ruined the effect. I changed also a little bit the settings of the camera, but this is not the important part because the beaches now they look totally illuminated. They look though they lost the highlights and shadows, DCs because the light is falling practically from the top. There is no light directly in front of the Peaches. I blocked the light with some beans and created lighting from above. And I placed the reflector on the front which illuminated Additionally, the beaches. Dc is not the right lighting for dark and validity is not a dark and moody photo. You can see the difference between the three photos. I like the first one and the second one, even the second one a little bit more because the highlights are increased. But the third one is not the right photo because of the light changes. So let's see some more examples. Here. I increased a little bit the light source and placed reflector on the left than light blocker on the right. Led blocker grids, nice shadows in the fruit. Practically, the right side of the pumpkin actually is in the dark, which creates accent on the beaches. And it's quite nice. Also, the reflector on the left manages to keep the peaches and plums kind of lighter and put the accent on them because they're the hero object in this. Seeing the next photo, we made a light source smaller and just kept the reflector on the left, but actually moved it a little bit to the front. This creates even more interesting lighting because the beaches are illuminated. The front part is slightly illuminated with highlights, but because the reflector is also a little bit more far away from the fruit, the light falls nicely on top, but it doesn't increase door much. The light in the front, and I will leave you compare these two pictures. Definitely the smaller light source creates nicer effect and increases the highlights and the shadows. Or basically the, the nice combination of highlights and shadows, which create exactly these dramatic field. Here we have a relatively small light source and we have a light blocker on the right side, nice lights and shadows. The beaches are well illuminated. The rest of the fruit are in the shadow and nice highlights are falling on top of them. In the next photo, instead of light block or on the right, we have a reflector on the left, which kind of changes the situation not in a very good way because now also the monkeys are lit. And these actually moves the attention of the viewer also to the pumpkin, not only on the beaches. And this is not really ideal in this situation. And you can compare yourself. Yes, the beaches are more in the light, but we're losing part of the dramatic effect. And also I don't like the fact that the pumpkin in the front is so well illuminated. This is not the effect we're looking for. Let's see some more examples. Here. We have a thin light source, whichever dark light blocker on the back as well. And we have reflected on the front. And the reflector on the front is illuminating a lot the peaches actually. And now we have the same situation but without the reflector on the front. You can compare yourself. I prefer the photo on the right because it's more dramatic. The next photo, I placed a light blocker on top also. So the light source is becoming even smaller, and this creates a really dramatic effect on top of the fruit. The fruit is kind of quite dark actually in this situation. But it's very interesting how the shadows and highlights are falling. On the next photo are part of the light blocker on top, we also have a reflector on the left which increases the lighting on the fruit. I really love this photo. Actually, this is probably the best photo of the whole photo session that I did. And you can compare both photos. Yes. The one with live blocker on top only. He's also nice, but he's the one with the reflector. We can see that the peaches are well illuminated and we see the whole story. The peaches are the hero of the story. 8. Project: The project of this class will be for you to create one litre Navy and one dark and moody photo and post them in the budget section. You may use the same hero object or the same food. You will just need to change the lighting and the Drops, Of course, in order to create a different story and different feeling and mode of the image. I can't wait to see your projects. 9. Conclusion & Final Thoughts: Lighting is probably the most difficult aspect of photography to master, but it can create really impressive results in still life and especially in food photography, lighting is crucial. Every different light can create a different story. As we saw due to the incorrect lighting, one image might look unimpressive, but if we change the lighting conditions, it may turn suddenly in a piece of art. Thank you so much for taking this course. I hope you learn a lot about lighting and about these two favorite styles of mine, light and airy and dark and wounded. Don't hesitate to ask me any question on the course content. I will be very happy to support you. I will be very glad if you review the course because this will help you drank in the platform. And also it will help me to understand what I needed to do in order to improve it and how to improve my future classes as well. Thank you again for allowing me to guide you in your food photography journey. I wish you best of luck. 10. Editing a Dark and Moody photo: Here is a dark and moody photo that I would like to add it. Let's increase the exposure just a little bit. The fact that the photos dark and moody doesn't mean we will not increase the light parts. It's actually what we need to do is to highlight the contrast between lights and darks. I will increase also a little bit the contrast, but not too much. I will decrease the highlights because in some cases they will go way too much and we don't want to have kind of burned parts. I will decrease the shadows in order to have more detail. Linda for Don, I will increase the white and increase them. Black's. I believed it for dark and moody. The high clarity is very important, especially for the style that I like. So I will bump up the clarity and i will also increase a little bit texture, just a bit. Then we want to play with the curves. I will increase the highlights here. I will also increase slightly the lights. I will also a little bit increase decrease the dark sexually because on the right, you get the darks lightened. And I will bring the shadows down. But not excessively because we are going to lose the detail of the cloth. So now our photo looks more dramatic. We see more texture. As you can see, the blocks are really clear. We see all the details of them. The photo is more or less. If you look at it, it looks pretty nice actually this way. What I would like to do in order to make it even better, I want to do two things. First, I don't like these light spot on top and I would like to soft on it. The here is where the lighting comes from and we can change it in different ways. Also, I want to lighten further the dark parts of the Peaches only and lighten slightly the plants in order to increase the detailing view. And the last thing I need to, I want to do is to kind of change the blue shade. Because these blue, in my opinion, doesn't go that well with red and yellow of the beaches. If I give it a little bit of a greener and forecast, it will look better. So I will use on Adjustment Brush to lighten slightly. Here. Just a bit, k, n slightly the beaches. Let me see the settings because the settings have state from my previous edit. The exposure is good actually, I think this more or less fine. I also want to give it. Additional darkness. By placing some vignetting, we basically increase the dramatic effect of the photon. Maybe. And I want to make it more round. News ladies. I'm trying through deviating to decrease this wide spot on dog, but this is really hard to do. So I might need to use an additional adjustment brush in order to darken it. Yeah, I think it's more or less fine like this. So I will use additional new brush. Decrease the contrast and the exposure to decrease also the shadows. And let's see how to work more. And I want to be stood strong Because then it might become not really nice. Yeah, I think it's upto but it's fine. Like this. I would leave it the way these. And the last thing that I want to do is to change the color cast. So I will bring the blue a little bit to see how it changes immediately and bring the blue. So I wanted to slide greenish cast without going too much with it. Terminates. Let's work with the of course situation. And that will decrease the luminosity of the blue. And there'll be, and it will increase the luminosity of our Quad so that there is some contrast in the plums. I think overall, I unlike it. Maybe now we lost a little bit of the lightness of the front of the beaches. Maybe we can increase it a little bit. Let's look for our kids here, our light adjustment. I will just increase the shadows further. Maybe this is better. We see highlights, we see shadows, we see a lot of texture details. I liked the photo.