In a new light

Recently, I made two pretty big investments in my amateur food photography endeavors: I bought a Lowel Ego digital imaging fluorescent light and a subscription to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Given that still-life photography is such a huge part of many blogs and given that each of these investments was fairly pricey, I wanted to write a post reviewing each of my new investments, hopefully to help those of you wanting to improve your photography to decide if either investment is right for you.

Editing Versus No Editing

The photograph below was shot using my Canon EOS Rebel t6i DSLR, on my kitchen island at night, using the Lowel Ego light (not diffused). The top half of the photograph is exactly how it came out on my camera, while the bottom half has been processed using Lightroom.

When I started the free trial of Lightroom, I was skeptical that it could do much more than a free iPhone app. I feel like this photograph alone proves me wrong. There is no way I would have been able to achieve that kind of white balance and added vibrancy on my iPhone.

food-photography

I honestly don’t even think I realized how dull the original photograph looked until I edited it in Lightroom.

The colors look so much more colorful, the white so much whiter — everything just looks better when the use of my Lowel Ego light is complemented with good post-photography processing.

So, what about comparing the lighting to not using the lighting?

Light Versus No Light

The photograph below was shot twice: once with the Lowel Ego light on, and once with it off. Neither photograph has been edited.

As you can see, the light alone brought out the white in the brie’s rind, as well as the details in the surface of the grapes. Without the light, you can really tell that it was nighttime in my kitchen. The food just looks dull and lifeless!

Now, I wanted to end this post with a comparison of all four permutations on the same photograph: no light or editing, no light but edited, light but no editing, and light with editing.

I think the results speak for themselves!

No lighting, no editing.png

Looking once more at these photos side by side, I am amazed (though not surprised) at the results.

The unlit, unedited photograph (top left) is about as dull and lifeless as we would expect, despite using a fancy camera. Moral of this photograph: A DSLR alone does not guarantee a fantastic photograph.

Looking next at the photograph without the lighting but that was edited (top right): I honestly feel like editing alone did very little to help this poorly lit photograph. All the editing did was make the grapes a bit brighter. Otherwise, the photograph looks very yellowed! Moral of this photograph: A DSLR and sophisticated editing software still does not guarantee a fantastic photograph.

Now, onto the photograph using the light but not editing (bottom right): Here is where I feel like I can really see some positive improvement. The grapes look delectable, and the bread doesn’t look yellow. Moral of this photograph: A DSLR and proper lighting works wonders!

Finally, looking at the photograph that had the lighting and the editing (bottom left): I love how vibrant and delicious the food looks. The colors all look so real, not washed out or yellowed. Moral of this photograph: A DSLR, proper lighting, and post-processing really does pay off!

So, if you have got about $100 sitting around to invest in your still life photography, I personally recommend investing in a good light before investing in processing software. While they both will do wonders, I think it is clear that the lighting alone will go a long way, while even the fanciest software cannot fix poor lighting. Photoshop isn’t a miracle worker, after all!

Tell me, what are your thoughts and experiences with lighting and editing still life photography?

Until next time,

xoxo Charlotte

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20 comments

  1. I recently ordered some LR presets for food photography that work wonder into simplifying my flow. Etsy is full of them if you eventually want to have a look… Beautiful photos! Lightning makes all the different, doesn’t it? I look forward to seeing more! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I love your photography and always look forward to seeing more of it. Also, I totally saw you on Etsy! I was researching presets, I clicked a link on Etsy, and I saw a review you left. I was like, ‘hey, I know her!’ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aww, thank you! 😊 I might start putting some recipes up on the blog so maybe more food photography in a near future… I look forward to seeing more of your photography too! I always enjoy reading your articles and keeping up with your blog. Yeah, I’m a bit addicted to Etsy… 😉 Did you find some nice presets?

        Liked by 1 person

    • It really is amazing! It’s funny, when I first started teaching myself photography, I would often hear that the hardest thing to get used to is that the way our eyes see the world around us is not the way the camera sees it. Our eyes naturally know how to adjust what we are seeing, while the camera doesn’t, which is why we are often disappointed with the photo that comes out. Once I started understanding the importance of lighting, it really opened my eyes (no pun intended).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not. At. All. I’ve seen some glorious sunsets, but when I try to capture them on my phone, it just doesn’t compare to what I’m seeing. I remember reading an article that tried to figure out what type of camera our eyes were, but because of exactly what you said above, it’s really not possible to do so. Our irises automatically adjust as do our lenses to filter the light and clear up the picture respectively (unless you’re nearsighted like me and need glasses hehe). Lighting is so important. It’s why the next thing I purchase after I get my webcam is going to be proper lighting!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. investing in light is always good, that is the whole purpose and literally the meaning of the word photography “writing with light”. A very handy tool for balancing the blacks, whites and greys is a set of cards (black, white and grey card) this will give you the right exposure for your photo. Also if the contrast between things is too big in your composition then you most likely have to choose wether you go for the blacks or whites. The dynamic range of a camera is pretty big and you can retrieve a lot of information in Lightroom but if the contrast is too big then either you have to overexpose to make the blacks look good or the other way around. The more you try to retrieve the blacks in Lightroom the more noise you will get. It’s always good to make the photo as close as possible to what you want for an end result and this involves your light setup. With photoshoots you are more busy with setting up lighting than setting your camera right. Great post, I like to read these kind of posts 🙂 cheers ✌

    Liked by 1 person

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