Getting Started Guide to Artificial Light

A Race Against the Sun

It’s 8pm and your beautiful dessert that you just poured three hours into is now ready to be photographed. But, the sun has gone down.

We’ve all been there and know what it’s like to feel like you’re racing against the clock and the sun.

But, artificial light seems so daunting and, the thing I hear all the time is that it doesn’t look natural.  I’m here to tell you, it CAN look natural, if you know how to use it.

Shots like these were all shot with 100% artificial light:

overhead shot of waffles on a wood backdrop

Skillet of tater tots with pizza toppings

Where do I start?

The best place to start is with basic off camera flash.  It’s my vote for the best bang for your buck.  It gives you a ton of brightness and total control in any environment, because with flash, we can literally cancel out any ambient light and create lovely light anywhere.

This is an absolute must if you’re going to shoot in restaurants.  Like this shot, captured despite being surrounded by those awful overhead tungsten restaurant lights.

What do I need?

To make it easy, I have created starter “packages” of all the exact gear you’d need for a complete set up based on the kind of camera you’re shooting, your budget and the work you’re doing.

The one big caveat is to double check in terms of the trigger, that your camera is compatible. When you follow the link, check the specs to make sure your model is listed. The triggers are made specifically to work with particular brands. Also, some entry level DSLR cameras or older cameras have limitations.  So, just double check before buying.

The mounting bracket that I list in each of the packages is my current favorite because it will be compatible with a wide variety of modifiers (aka, the umbrella / softbox / etc…the thing that modifies the light).  The s-type speedlight bracket I recommend that you’ll see in all of the packages works with umbrella style modifiers AND bowens mount softboxes.

When it comes to modifiers, in each of the packages I list my favorite starter umbrella that is inexpensive, is easy to set up and easy to store. But, if you are looking for a very particular style of lighting, check out the “Other Modifiers” section at the bottom.

The “I’m On A Budget” CANON Shooter ($180 for total package)

The “I’m On a Budget” NIKON Shooter ($180 for total package)

The “I Don’t Have A Huge Budget But I Want Something That Will Last Longer and has more Features” for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji. ($320 for total package)

I Shoot Canon and want Canon lights ($865 for total package)

I Shoot Nikon and want Nikon lights  ($605 for total package)

I Want Exactly What YOU have, Joanie  ($971 total package)

Other Modifiers

If you are seeking a very specific look to your lighting, the magic is all in the modifier.  Here are recommendations below

What Next?

I’m here to help and walk you through every step of the way!

I created a comprehensive course on artificial light: Artificial Academy. It includes everything from how to set up the light, the step by step to get the camera settings to communicate with the light, how to manipulate the light, how to make it look natural, and tons of live demos including shooting light & airy, dark & moody, capturing drinks, shooting in a restaurant, shooting outdoors and capturing headshots.

Skip the trial and error method and learn to shoot flash like a pro within a day’s time.  Too, it includes access to a private Facebook Group just for students enrolled in the course and I’m available daily for technical support and feedback on your images.

Enroll in Artificial Academy

I’m excited for you to jump into the world of artificial light and can’t wait to hear how it’s making your life easier!
Joanie Simon

Joanie is a professional food photographer and recipe developer. She creates drool worthy recipes and images for national brands and her work has been featured on TODAY, the Food Network, Shutterstock, Arizona Foothills Magazine and Food52, among others. You can also find her sharing weekly videos about food photography on YouTube at The Bite Shot.

All author posts
Write a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.