Lifestyle Food Photography: Shooting in Your Own Space Using Natural Light | Cassie Zhang | Skillshare

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Lifestyle Food Photography: Shooting in Your Own Space Using Natural Light

teacher avatar Cassie Zhang, 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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Quality of Light


    • 4.

      Lighting in Your Own Space


    • 5.

      Shooting Angle


    • 6.

      Background and Styling


    • 7.



    • 8.



    • 9.



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About This Class

If you're passionate about capturing the essence of delectable dishes through lifestyle food photography but struggle to achieve that enticing visual appeal, this class is tailored just for you!

Drawing from years of experience, I've honed techniques that seamlessly infuse texture and charm into food photography. I'll share valuable tips and tricks that have saved me countless hours, offering you greater command over your culinary visuals.

In this class, you'll discover:

  • Harnessing the art of lighting and composition to enhance texture in your food photography
  • How to skillfully compose and capture a variety of mouthwatering dishes
  • Useful tools and props to help you add life to your images
  • Settings for achieving captivating textures in post-production editing
  • Versatile techniques applicable to any food photography project

Get ready to showcase your culinary creations by creating:

A visually appetizing food composition using the techniques covered in this class

Whether you're stepping into the realm of food photography for the first time or refining your skills, these accessible and effective techniques are tailored to elevate your work. Join me on this exciting journey to master the art of lifestyle food photography and make your dishes visually irresistible!

Meet Your Teacher

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Cassie Zhang



Hello, I'm Cassie Zhang, a Brooklyn-based photographer. I shoot people, still life, and food. You can view my recent work in The Five Elements CookBook. I also have other personal projects going on that I share on @cassiezyz and my website. I hope to make meaningful connections here!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: As someone who adores both food and photography, I enjoy the process of transforming a simple meal into a visual masterpiece. I love playing with lighting, experimenting with different plates, and incorporating objects around me to make my food truly shine fellow food lovers and inspiring photographers. I am Asi Zane, a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. I shoot people still alive and most importantly food. You might have seen my recent work and the five elements cookbook. Today I want to take you on a journey through the intricacy of lifestyle food photography. We're dive into six lessons here. We will start with the fundamentals, exploring the basic lighting characters to help you understand how to use lighting in your own space. Then we will learn about food styling, discussing how to arrange the plates and choose the background. Discovering how to frame your shots, and exploring different angles that can tell a compelling story through the lens. Post processing is an essential step. I will share of some of my favorite lightroom adjustments to help enhance your food photos. Remember, there's no strict rules. Play around, mess it up, and most importantly, learn from the process. This class is designed for beginners who are eager to dive into the food photography without the need for professional equipment. Your project is simple. Create some food photos on your own using what you already have in your space. Let's embark on this visual journey together. I can't wait to see the unique stories you will capture. Let's get started. 2. Orientation: Welcome to the class I thought through to your joining this journey with me for this class. It will be ideal to have a professional camera, but all the tips and tricks I'm giving you can be applied to mobile phone shooting as well. I'm using my icon 72 as a tool here. The lens I'll be using are the 24, 70 millimeter and 100 millimeter micro lens. The 2,470 gives me a wide range of focal length which allows me to be flexible on the spot. The hundred millimeter creates a nice compression which makes the whole image looks clean and neat. But honestly, you can use any focal lens as long as it fits your purpose. You will need a subject for this class assignment for practice. Whether it's a cup of coffee, a plate of salad, or bowl of soup, they will all be great starting point for you to practice your food photography. For this class project, you will try to identify the lighting situation in your environment and strategically use it to image making process. After you decided the lighting angle in the shooting directions, you will then stylize your food to your taste so it makes images more interesting. Here I'm going to give you a handbook which includes all the talking points I'll be discussing in this class. These images and the diagrams will help you understand lighting and the composition. Make sure to share you before and after photos so other students can understand your editing process. Hopefully, you will benefit from this course. I will see you soon. 3. Quality of Light: Welcome to my class about lifestyle food photography. I understand the fact that not many people have access to professional lighting equipment. And sometimes you just want to make the whole set simple and easy. That's where the natural light comes into play. It changes during the day, which gives you a lot of different lighting situations for image making. Let's begin with the fundamental, the quality of the light. There are two major ones, soft lights and heart lights. There is an easy way to identify the two kinds, which is looking at the shadows. Soft lighting results in gentle, diffuse shadows. They lack distinct edges, creating a more even and subtle appearance. Lighting produces heart shadows. They have a clearly defined solid edge, accentuating the food texture. In what situation can you find soft light and heart light? When it's sunny outside and the sky doesn't have a lot of clouds, you can get heart lights because the sun is directly casting lights on your subject. When it's cloudy or even raining outside, you will get a soft light because the lighting from the sun is diffused by the cloud. The next point I'm going to talk about is the direction of the light. The direction of the light can change the mood of the photo completely. When the source of the light is hitting the subjects from the front, the shadow falls behind the subject. They're hidden from the lens. You don't see many depths and shapes from here. The front side of the subject appears to be very smooth and appealing. When the lighting is hitting the subject from the side, you will see more depths and definition. In addition to the two previous situation, there is also back lift photos, which is not very common in food photography. When the lighting source is hitting the subjects from the back, the shadows automatically falls in the front, which creates a dramatic and moody feeling to the image. The distance between the subjects and the lighting source also creates a difference. When the subject is further away from the lighting source, we will get even longer shadows in the image. There will be more shapes, more texture, and more depths to play with. As we can see, the direction of the light really plays an important role in our image making process. The shadows and contrast of the image is what our human mind used to perceive shapes and depths in the three D world. Hence, the choice of lighting is essential for us to set up the overall mode of an image. For this class, I want you to pay attention to the lighting around you and try to identify whether it is soft light or hard light. And how you can use to your image making process. This practice will help you in the long run because the environment is always changing. But our ability to identify soft light, hard light, and direction of the light will help you in any situations. Next, we will take into real practice to find a lighting in your own space. 4. Lighting in Your Own Space: In this lesson, we will focus on finding lightings in your own space and how we're going to use it. When we take photos, the most common natural light source is the sunlight from the window. This is where I usually take my lifestyle through photography. When it's sunny outside, we will get hard light. And when it's cloudy outside, we'll get soft light. This is what we already know from the previous lesson. But I also want to give you some tips on how to modify the lightings. Some of us may have curtains and blinds. They're great lighting modifiers. When you can use them creatively, say that you want to use soft lighting, but it's sunny outside. You can use your curtain as a diffuser to diffuse the strong direct lighting and make it soft if you want to create a shadow area in image. You can also use a blackout curtains to completely block some sun light from the window. The same methods also apply to blinds. Blinds can create some interesting shapes on your subject. Use it to advantage, can give your photos an extra pop. In addition to lighting in your own space, I also wanted to introduce reflectors to you. This might be a little bit advanced, but it's very easy to understand. Reflector is something we use to reflect lighting to a subject or scene. It doesn't create lights, but rather it helps you redirect lights. A white reflector will give you a soft, natural glow. A silver reflector will reflect brighter than the white one. A golden reflector offers similar brightness, but it has a warmer tone to it. If you don't have a reflector nearby, don't worry. You can use any white surface as a reflector. A piece of white paper or cardboard can do the exactly same thing to your image. Now that we cover the basic lighting knowledge, let's move on to the composition and the shooting angles. 5. Shooting Angle: In this lesson, we are going to dive into food styling and composition. It can be confusing at first, where you couldn't find the right angle for your food. First of all, I would like to make an assessment on the appearance of the food before I even start shooting, Here are some categories that will help you to understand why I chose different angles for different food. The first one is flat lay. This cover a majority of food photography when you lay out the food and props in the flat surface and take a photo from the top down view, flat lay photo considering a plate of salad or giant pizza, the best way to photograph them is from the top down. From there you can see the shape of the food, the ingredients, and the styling of the food. It is also very festivals when you have multiple plates in the frame. The second one is side angle. This angle works with food has a height. By that I mean when sometimes food piles up, it will be beneficial for us to show the side of the plating. For example, when you're shooting a Sunday, you wanted to capture all the ice cream layers as well as the chocolate chips and the cookies. Another perfect example would be a pile of pancakes or burger. These are the two basic angle of shooting food. I consider all other angles a violation of these two. Once you have chosen your subject, you will choose an angle that works the best for it. Sometimes both angle works, but sometimes one angle works better than the other one. 6. Background and Styling: Food styling is a really important part of food photography, since the scenario is to shoot at your own space with the subjects you already have. We're going to discuss what can be used as background props to elevate your food photography. The easiest answer for a background is your desk, your kitchen counter, or your dining table. Usually the background already have a lot of color and texture. They can be the perfect backdrop for a food photo. Well, this can be a little bit basic for you. What I usually use is a piece of colored paper. Usually a neutral tone paper can work with any dish you have. If you want images to look a little bit moody, you can choose a darker tone paper. Some paper with textures also helps. Another great things to use is any fabric you have in your own space, whether it's a table cloth, a scarf, or even bedsheets. They can be great backgrounds as they create a warming feeling to your image. When it comes to props, putting multiple layers in your image always helps for flat lays, considering using different sizes of plates to create a visual interest. Also, the use of chopsticks, silver utensils, a cup of water, or even drinks can add layers to your image. From the side angle views, you can see the set as three layers, foreground, subjects and background. You can always adding something in your foreground or background to create depths in image. Now that we have talked about the lighting, the shooting angles compositions, as well as food styling, let's put everything together into the real practice. 7. Shooting: In this lesson, we will explore food photography and some techniques to make your dishes look even more delicious on camera. Let's dive right in, check out this example of how I shoot these plates of food. I went for a wooden table as the background and used a dark green plate for the food. Keeping it simple, I placed all the ingredients right in the center of the plate. The vibrant food color really pops against the darker backdrop. For lighting purposes, I position the table and the plate not too far from a window to soften the sunlight. I use the curtain as a diffuser. My camera angle is from the side with the lighting coming in from the right. I also tried different positions to capture virus angles, including a top down view, which creates a flat lay photo. Now let's talk about styling. I used a simple neutral tone bad sheet to add texture to the frame. Tucking it under the play gives a more dynamic look. Most of the shots were taken from the top, creating a balanced and interesting background with the fabric and a table. As the lighting changed, I felt that the shadow on the field was a little bit too dark. I introduced a light wooden box as a reflector to bounce some light. Remember, experimenting with props is key to finding what works best for your set up. In some situations, you may have the light coming from behind the subject, which can leave the front side in the shadow. In such cases, using a book as a reflector can help bounce some light onto the subject. Now, as you add more plates to the scene to fill the frame, you will need to do a little bit more styling. Try placing the smaller items in different parts of the frame to see what complements the main plates. The best experiment with virus shooting angles to convey the mood you want to capture. There's no one size fits all approach. It's all about what you want to emphasize in your image. Food photography is all about creativity and finding the right balance of elements to make your dishes look irresistible. Play around with lighting backgrounds, props, and angles to create stunning food photos that leaves your audience hungry for more. 8. Editing: When it comes to wrapping up a photo session, I like to sort through all the shots to pick the best ones. After going through all the takes, I narrow down the selection, weeding out similar shots to keep the strongest ones. For the final line up editing is where the magic happens. I start by cropping the images, favoring a four by five ratio that's not only aesthetic pleasing but also perfect for social media post without further adjustments. Adjusting exposure is key. I tweak a little bit brightening the shadows for more detail, and dialing down the highlights for subtle nuances. I tend to add a touch of warmth to make the food more inviting. Adding texture and lifting shadows helps bring out those intricate details, like the vibrant color of the purple rice. Then I dive into playing with the curves to balance the tonal range. Fine tuning from the darkest to the brightest areas. Sometimes I aim for a vintage vibe. This is where I use the color curves, infusing a hints of sim by manipulating the dark side of the red curve and adding some yellow by tweaking the dark side of the blue curve for the overall tone curve. I still try to bring down the highlights and adding some details in the mid tone as usual, bringing up the color temperature for the perfect feel. The goal of these addits is to make those full colors pop and create a welcoming and warm atmosphere. Occasionally, I use light rooms, gradient mask to tweak specific parts of the image, adding the final touch. What is fascinating here is how different angles and composition can totally transform the same set. It is a reminder for us to always experiment, move around, and explore new perspective. You might stumble upon something even more captivating. Remember the art isn't just in the set up and shooting, it is in the editing too. That's where your vision truly comes to life. 9. Conclusion: Congratulations, you've made it through this class. We have learned about identifying different kinds of lighting and the quality of the light. How to find a light in your own space and use modifiers to adjust it. How to use background and props to stylize your food. And how to add photos in light room to enhance your photos. I want you to always remember trying something new when you're photographing your subject. Try a new plate. Try a new angle. Put the plates in different directions and maybe choosing a different prop and a different color background. Challenge yourself when it comes to photography. A little challenge goes a long way and make sure to have fun with it. Thank you so much for following along. I hope you've learned a lot and start to create your own pictures. Make sure to share the photos in the project section of this class. It will be great to see your photos and get inspirations from the others. Take care.