Food Photography

5 Easy Ways To Achieve Dark Moody Food Photography

November 20, 2020

PHOOD spills the beans with our top 5 tips on on how to achieve dark moody food photography.

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How do you achieve dark moody food photography in 5 easy ways?

Shooting dark and moody food photography has become quite the trend in the food photography industry over the last few years. A movement popularized in the food blogging industry by Katie Quinn of What Katie Ate. Since then, this “chiaroscuro” photography style—which uses strong contrast between light and dark—has quickly become trendy in magazines, blogs, and cookbooks. PHOOD spills the beans on how to apply the dark moody look to your own food photographs.

Before we get into meaty details, one of the ultimate mistakes new photographers make when attempting dark moody photography is shooting images that are underexposed (too dark overall). Make sure to keep an eye on your histogram to ensure you’re not guilty of this. otherwise you’ll end up with flat and boring images.

5 Easy Ways to Achieve Dark/ Moody Food Photography
PHOODie tips on achieving dark moody food photographs.

First Tip to achieve a dark or moody image: Reduce fill light

If you’re shooting in a room with white walls, ceilings and light colored furniture, they will all reflect light back on your set and food. This reflected light is known as fill light and reduces the intensity of the shadows around your food.

To control unwanted light and reflections, use negative fill or black foam core boards around your set. Also be weary of your clothes. If your clothes are light in color, they will also reflect light back on set. PHOOD always recommends wearing grey or black on set.

Natural light with no light manipulation to create a dark moody photograph
Dark moody food photography- Meringues shot using natural light and no light manipulation.
Dark moody food photography by using a negative fill card
Dark moody food photography- A negative fill card placed on the left side to darken and intensify the shadows.

Second tip: Experiment with distance from window/ light source as a way to transform the image into dark or moody

Without going into the details of the Inverse Square Law, as you move away from the light source/ window, the amount of light decreases. so if you find that your window is too large and you have too much light in your room, the easiest solution is to move further away from the window.

Keep in mind that as you move further away from the window, the contrast in your images will also decrease. You may find you need to carve the light more as you get further away from the light.

Third Tip: Use dark props and backgrounds to achieve dark moody photography

Using muted props and dark backgrounds helps in two ways:

  1. The darker surroundings will absorb more of the light and reflect less back on the food. They act as a natural negative fill and preserve any shadows.
  2. They help to focus the eye on the hero food. When the background and props are dark, the main food will be the brightest part of the image. The viewers eyes move straight to the brightest or most colorful part of the picture.

Fourth Tip: Incorporate highlights to add a flare of dark moody in the image

As we mentioned before, your eyes alway move to the brightest part of the image. The brightest part of a dark moody image should always be the food and one of the easiest ways to selectively draw the eye to the food is ensuring its has highlights. You can brush food with a little bit of olive oil to create highlights when possible.Otherwise, PHOOD highly recommends exploring different angles whilst shooting to see which angle is best for catching the highlights.

Manipulating light to reflect from certain parts of the food
Dark moody food photography- Specular highlights are when light is reflected off certain parts of the food like the chocolate ganache.

Fifth Tip: Use a tripod to facilitate your dark moody food photography

In order to build shadows around your food, the ambient lighting usually needs to be at a minimum when shooting with natural light. This means you need to use a tripod so that you can have a longer shutter speed to capture as much of the light available as possible. A longer shutter speed ensures your images is correctly exposed and well lit but also, it means you can keep your ISO to a minimum. This helps to reduce any noise that may appear in your photos and decrease its quality.

Facilitate your images with a tripod
Dark moody food photography- Shooting on a tripod allows you to have a slower shutter speed and low ISO.

That’s a wrap on PHOOD’s top tips to shoot dark and moody food photography. Have you ever tried shooting in this style? What were your biggest struggles?

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