Hey guys. Kelly has been working on some new recipes, and is eager to post some, but I wanted to take this opportunity to talk you guys (since I’m usually pretty much just behind the scenes). I’m constantly flattered by seeing the compliments people give about our photography, and I wanted to personally thank you all for that. But I also wanted to show you that it doesn’t necessarily take a ton of expensive equipment to get decent shots of your food (or other content, for that matter!) With some pretty standard craft tools and less than $30 worth of supplies, you can improve the quality of your photos (and give yourself a great basis for further improvement).
Now, I know some of the larger blogs that provide tips tend to mention that a soft box (or two) can really help with lighting a shot, especially when you’re stuck with darker environments (like the typically early darkness of Michigan evenings, almost year-round). But that’s not an easy thing to swallow when the typical recommendations to purchase are things like the Lowel EGO Light Unit, which will run you around $150 (or I guess about $120 on sale as of the time of this posting). If you’re like me, and don’t have the money to drop on something like that, but you still want some lighting, you might be inclined to go the DIY route.
I did some looking around, and actually stumbled across this post about the same issue, along with a nice description of building a similar light unit with cheap materials. It is disappointingly lacking in step-by-step instructions (and unfortunately I didn’t document the process myself), but all in all, it’s a relatively simple plan to put together a decent little soft box for only the cost of some foam board, light bulbs, and some light sockets. There’s even a mention (and an incorrect link) in the post to this other setup that it was based off of that’s a little smaller, and potentially easier to assemble for those who are concerned by some of the glued together sections of the larger one (or who aren’t super comfortable with a hot glue gun).
I took some photos of the light box that I assembled to show you what you can end up with (and I even left all the pencil marks on it, because honestly, this is the only time it’ll be seen by anyone but us). In my version of the light, I also used two different types of bulb, one with a rather warm light, and one with a cooler light, to create more of a neutral tone. You can do what I did, or just get two more neutral bulbs, or do something else if you happen to prefer warmer or cooler tones to your photos.
I also took some photos of the other portion of our setup, a simple reflector to get light on both sides of a dish. Some people might go buy some small reflectors, or even build a second light, but I said to hell with that, bent a piece of cardboard, and wrapped it in Aluminum Foil! For being such a simple little item, it does a great job of reflecting quite a bit of light from the soft box onto whatever we’re taking pictures of at the time. It may not be the best solution for someone who does everything themselves, as it requires Kelly to hold the reflector in position while I take the photo. But if you’ve got a partner, friend, lackey, or other variety of flying monkey to do your bidding, it can make a world of difference in the quality of your shot.
All in all, our setup is far from fancy (and some might even call it a bit janky), but I think it does a pretty good job of improving our photos, and didn’t cost us an arm and a leg to put together. I’d love to hear what other people use for their photos though, whether store-bought or DIY, as it’s always possible to improve on what you have. As well, if anybody has questions for me about the assembly of a light box, or our food photos in general, ask away, and I’ll try to answer them as best I can!