We all love the minimalistic, light and bright food photographs using Light and Airy styling, where all the heroes can stand out, we see the beautiful play of white props that differed in shape, texture, and pattern while creating a wonderful, calming atmosphere around the delicious food.
In this episode of the 'Let's Talk About...' post series, I will talk about the most important elements and stylistic choices that together make the most attractive Light and Airy images.
Are you ready to improve your photography and styling skills? Let's do this together!
When we capture a Light and Airy scene, it is crucial to get the white balance of the images right, because with plenty of white surfaces included it is instantly visible if they get too cold or warm tones. The first thing during the editing process of RAW images is that you chose the white balance so the photo looks as natural as possible.
I am not encouraging anyone to use auto mode when shooting since there is no control over the gear in that case, BUT: if you always end up with too yellow or too blue photos, I totally suggest using the auto white balance setting of your camera because it will give you the result close to perfect! If you are not happy with what you see on the images straight out of the camera/on your camera's digital screen, just simply play with the white balance setting options. Another common option to try would be the 'daylight' setting that compensates slightly blue hues, the 'shade' that balances overly blue hues, or the 'tungsten' that can compensate super orange ambient light indoors.
I know how popular filters and presets are, and they might help you to create a consistent style and feed, but they can easily distort the white balance of your perfectly natural-looking photos. This will sound slightly bitter for anyone who loves these time-saving features, but editing your photos one-by-one will regard you with the results that truly compliment your photography workpieces.
So, how true are the colors of your image compared to real life? Instead of talking about this too long theoretically, let's see an example below:
- The airy feel comes with the large aperture = shallow depth of field settings. Learn more about this basic camera setting by reading this blog post.
- Avoid harsh shadows, too dark tones won't help you create that desired Light and Airy look. Use diffuser(s) to soften the light.
- Also, avoid having no shadows at all. I think it is the most common mistake anyone can do is to over-correct the shadows just to get rid of the darker tones of a Light and Airy photo. This way the image will look flat and the scene will lose its 3-dimensionality.
- By using the right props and backdrops, your hero dish can truly stand out! This styling path does not mean that you cannot include dark food such as a dark brown chocolate mousse or a vibrant red smoothie. Use white or very light coloured props, and by doing so you did the biggest part of creating a Light and Airy image.
- As with any other photos, make these images more interesting by adding a movement. Read more about the tricks and tips about adding a human element to your food photos in this blog post.
Exercise: Light and Airy Food Photography
Next time you are planning a photoshoot, try Light and Airy styling:
- Select white and light backdrops and props.
- Test and get familiar with your camera's white balance setting options based on your chosen lighting scenario. Choose the one that fits your setting.
- Try to create soft shadows: on a cloudy day, it works perfectly as clouds are the sky's diffusers or set up a diffuser.
- Avoid over-expose the image or killing the shadows completely in post-production.
I invited a professional photographer friend to process this topic by digging deeper into the technical and stylistic considerations about creating light and airy photos, so welcome Fanette Rickert on board!
Who are you and what is your photography specialty?
I am a food and product photographer helping eco-friendly and sustainable brands spread their message with beautiful, light-filled images. I focus on fresh ingredients and carefully chosen props to help my clients tell their brand’s story and values.
I also share my experience of building a successful photography business on my blog and social media. I show photographers how to craft an exceptional client experience and share powerful resources and tools to help them streamline their work, so they can focus on what’s truly important.
Light and Airy photography is a great way to present a certain mood. What messages or feel do you normally deliver to your viewers by using this popular styling and photography method?
I love fresh ingredients, and in particular fruits and vegetables. I like my images to feel like the ingredients were just chopped, or even better, just picked. By using a light and airy style, I want to share my love for fresh food, simple recipes, and to an extent, organic produce. Light and airy for me usually carries out a feel of fresh air, sun, natural light and therefore the idea that just outside the photo extends a window overlooking a bountiful garden.
Is there any prop or colour that many photographers afraid to use on Light and Airy images but it works perfectly according to your experience?
I usually love to play with pinks, but I have recently been working on creating images with a warmer and more earthy feel and tones, so I have been experimenting a lot of yellows and oranges, which I usually shy away from. I have had a lot of fun experimenting with these new colors (new to me anyway) and it even made me reconsider editing to give my pinks a warmer, more orange hue.
What are the main camera settings you focus on when capturing a Light and Airy scene?
The aperture. I usually shoot on a tripod so I set my aperture first and dial in my shutter speed to obtain the desired exposure. I love the softness it creates in bright and airy shots and it helps get all the attention on the subject. I have also been playing with creating some deeper shadows recently, even in the light and airy style, so I have been modifying my light source a lot to create a more directional and moody look. I also try to keep my ISO pretty low so I can submit my images to stock photography websites.
Which editing software do you use during post-processing? What main adjustments do you make on Light and Airy photos?
I use Lightroom. I usually start with the tone curve. I shoot in raw so the photos usually lack contrast. I usually add a little more whites and reduce the highlights and add a little bit of clarity. Then I play with the HSL panel and I finish with the local adjustments.