The interest in dark food photography has been steadily rising over the last few years. This trend stems from the art world, and in particular the style called ‘chiaroscuro’, which roughly translates to ‘light-dark’.
The composition of the photographs is reminiscent of paintings from old masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. The pictures are imbued with a dark, moody, and rusty feel, and are sometimes highly sought after in the world of food photography.
In this guide, we will cover the basics of dark food photography and go through some tips to help you master this technique.
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Dark Food Photography Props
As an important element of this style, props create the right atmosphere for the picture. The usage of props only enhances the attractiveness of your food. Props give the image an old and antiquated feel to the picture. Props that are beaten up, scuffed, or are simply old, work best.
The best place to pick up props for dark food photography is not in boutiques and stores, but rather old markets and antique shops. You might also find some in your attic or cupboard shelves. Strategically placing these elements in the background, you will be able to create a stark contrast between the food item and the background.
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Dark Food Photography Background
The purpose of dark food photography is to draw the attention of the viewers to the subject of the photo – the food. The idea is to make the subject the most visible part of the image while keeping the background in the shadows.
Dark and muted props along with black surfaces and backgrounds work best. Using white dishes and props will create too much contrast and take the focus away from the food.
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The Importance of Light in Dark Food Photography
In dark food photography, light is used to bring attention to the food. When shooting these pictures, it is important to carve and shape the light so that your subject is in the spotlight.
On the flip side, you can also use the shadows from the light to shroud the subject. To create moody images, you can use side and back lights. Another good advice would be to ensure that the light does not fall directly on the food item. You should also use black cardboard to get appropriate shadows for the images.
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Camera Settings for Dark Food Photography
Exposure is perhaps the most crucial setting when it comes to dark food photography. You typically want to underexpose your photos. This can work in two ways, where the food looks super-bright and shadows are deep, or the image is muted with minimal contrast.
You should ensure that highlights are not blown out and shadows are not too dark. The usage of a tripod is recommended to provide stability. ISO is another important setting. By choosing the right ISO, you will be able to take photos with minimal grain.
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Composition For Dark Food Photography
As a thumb rule for dark food photography, always attempt to place your subject in the brightest part of the frame. This focuses the attention of the viewers entirely on the subject.
You should also choose other props and objects of varying sizes so they can act as counterbalances for each other. You can also use the double bounce technique if your image requires brighter lighting without deviating from the idea of dark food.
Through post-processing, you can make your images pop. You should brighten colors individually to get the right structure of the image. Do not overexpose your images as that tends to take away the depth of the shadows.
Using post-processing, you will also be able to strike a balance between warm and cool shades to get the best out of your image. You can also employ the usage of white-balance and tint since you will not be placing white dishes or other bright backgrounds in the scene. You can also add vignettes to bring back the attention to your subject.
Dark food photography is quite challenging and takes a lot of preparation to get right. However, with practice, you can learn new techniques and use them effectively. Through the aforementioned tips, you can elevate your photography and become a master of the craft.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.