One thing I know for sure is that artificial lights for food photography are expensive, but if you're on a budget, using a little ingenuity and some good techniques, you can actually make your food photography lighting look pretty stunning without having to sell a kidney!
Whether you spend $900 on a studio strobes or $20 on a cheap work light, you will want to check out my free guide for making your artificial light for food photography look natural, HERE!
Let me walk you through how I spent less than $30 to make some really beautiful artificial light for my food photography in 4 quick steps.
Food Photography Lighting Setup For Less Than $30!
STEP ONE: Watch the video below to see the entire process in action. Be sure to check out the images below to see the comparison between this $30 food photography lighting setup and the same scene taken with all my pro gear. I think you'll be surprised and maybe a little happy!
STEP TWO: Find the perfect light for you. I personally found this HDX 500w halogen work light at my local hardware store for less than $20, but you could also get this one here for around the same price.
You could opt for the 250w light for food photography or even LED, however I prefer a light above 500w as it allows me to use an aperture of f5.6 and above at ISO200.
Some issues with this light is that, as a constant light source it will quickly get really hot. It is definitely not a light you would want to photograph ice cream with. The halogen light is also not daylight color balanced, although this is a simple fix either by changing the white balance in your camera or going into Lightroom and adjusting it there. If you need help with editing your photos check out this Lightroom Course for Food Photography HERE!
STEP THREE: This small constant light will give you some really hard light for food photography. If you watched the video above you'll see what I mean. Just shinning the light on your food will give you some really deep shadows and nuclear highlights leaving your food almost unrecognizable.
To fix this is simple. Normally, I would use a large oval diffusor like this one here. It's not too expensive, however what's even cheaper for your food photography lighting setup on a budget, is good old fashioned parchment paper. To go along with this you'll also need some A-clamps and something to hang it from, like a curtain rod, extension arm, or because you're simply hanging paper even fishing line will work.
STEP FOUR: As you can see in the video and the behind the scenes shot below, I chose to double up the the parchment paper to give me some extra diffusion. This will soften up your food photography lighting, creating feathered shadows and subtle highlights while still keeping beautiful contrast. Hard light sources like this 500w halogen work lamp, shining through large diffused material, create stunning natural looking light for your food photography.
To tell you the truth, I'm pretty surprised with the results I achieved below with this 500w work light and parchment paper diffusor, using my basic 18-55mm kit lens. The light has somewhat of a built in reflector, that kept the light from bouncing around, producing some nice contrast in the image. While the white parchment paper, helped tone down the tungsten like color cast of the halogen bulb.
Side By Side: $30 Food Photography Lighting Setup VS Pro Food Photography Equipment
HDX 500w halogen work light + Parchment paper diffusor using 18-55mm kit lens
Elinchrom Pro HD 500w Monolight + Pro Diffusor with Canon 5Ds and 50mm f1.2L Lens
At first, I was really doubtful that this cheap food photography lighting setup would actually produce any professional results, although I would have to say I'm pleasantly surprised. When comparing the two images, I see that the light in the budget setup, is slightly duller, less crisp with shorter highlights.
I'm not convinced to sell all of my studio equipment, but I'm also more than satisfied to be able to recommend this as a viable option for those looking for cheaper alternative to studio strobes.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, however this post does contain affiliate links to some great photography gear, products or services I currently use or have used in the past. If you plan on shopping for some new great stuff, please click through the link and I'll receive a small commission. Every purchase helps me continue on my never ending quest to provide amazing content. If you would like to view my disclosure policy click HERE.