Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to shoot moody images: Food Photography tutorial

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Over the last few months I have been getting lot of requests to do a  “ how to “ tutorial of moody images.  I wish I could just do a video tutorial, but video is not my thing. I will try to do my best and if you have any questions please feel free to comment leave me a message on Facebook or just email me.

Background and props 

I use dark color backgrounds and muted props if am going with any props to start with. You don’t want a white jug shining at you when everything else is muted, our eyes always go to the brightest part of an image. We need to create an autumn-winter kind of mood but our main hero is still the food, the props are playing second fiddle, we only use props to create a mood.  Similarly, with color,  complimentary colors work better, creating a monochromatic look. Warmer color tones play better too.  Again these are not rules, just guidelines.

See the image below - the background colors are all muted shades of brown and brown-black.
If we analyze the image it has warm tones, muted monochromatic background, this is only in respect to propping, we have not talked about lighting and camera yet.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

Even the color of the food is almost the same family,  again this is not a rule but makes things easier.

However I have also done, images where the colors are not complimentary but it is still a moody image. But I might not use a white with a black background for moody, it will distract the eye.

Kind of props : rustic props really work wonders for a moody shot, again not cast in gold. You can do a very modern dinner setting and still be moody and romantic. Arrangement of the prop is your creative choice and will not effect the moodiness of the image.


Lighting is the key to any great photography, how you bend it and use it to create an image is your artistic expression. It eventually translates to your style and your trademark if I may say so. Moody images DOES NOT mean absence of light or dull images. Let me try and explain. When you are setting the table for a romantic dinner, you have subdued lighting, yellow warm light not a white dim light bulb, it creates an ambiance, you use light to create a mood. Similarly for a moody image you block light, and keep just enough to be able to display the hero, i.e food. You can play with the intensity the way you want, it is your creative choice. I am using natural light here.


Manual, get your camera to manual mode. I am assuming you understand aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If you don’t go read up your manual and get your fundaments clear.

Camera : any DSLR - am using Sony NEX-6 for this shot
Lens : Prime 50mm is what I will be using. It is a very versatile lens and if you don’t have it, might be a good time to think about it.

Shoot in RAW mode. So you can have total control on how the final image looks like. If you shoot jpeg, the camera will make certain decisions for you. Also in RAW you have complete control over editing.

We are going to be creating this image today.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

Grab some fruits from the refrigerator. Look at the colors, grab a matching board, preferably a darker color and set up the fruits the way you want it to be captured.  Here is a tutorial on how to paint boards.

Here is my set up showing you the direction of light. Not the light fixture, but the window.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

As you can see it is a sunny day and we have plenty of light, and we may not need to use all the light we have, so how do we reduce that ?

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography
Image - 1

Above is image -1 without any defectors or blockers. It is a good time to study the color and texture of the background. It has gray, green and blue. The blue brings out the blue in the purple grapes and the gray compliments the box that carry the fruit.

Camera setting : F 3.5, Shutter 1/60 and ISO 100

Now we  block the light on the left.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

You can see the shadows are creating depth on the left in image 2. The camera settings remain the same

Camera setting : F 3.5, Shutter 1/60 and ISO 100

Now we block the light on the right, a bit diagonally so we still have some light towards the front apple.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography
Image 3

More depth and shadows adding texture and lifting the images up in image 3 ?
Camera settings remain same.

Now am going to add a reflector to the grapes in image 4. Now if I don’t add a reflector to the grapes it will be too dark and it might just merge into the background. Not only will it add light but some lovely highlights to the grapes. By this time, it became a bit cloudy and even thou the camera settings is the same the image is a bit darker, which is great for us.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography
Image 4 

Even now there is too much light, so we play around with camera settings. I think I want to pick F5 as my aperture, I want all my fruits to be in focus and clear, ISO - 100, no reason to go up, there is more light than we need. Having said that,  I will keep playing with the shutter speed till I feel I have the desired look. With me so far….? questions ??

  I ALWAYS expose my images a little more than I desire and the reason is, I want to capture as much information in the image as I can. I can always play around in post processing. I play with my shutter speed ( keep an eye on camera metering) and settle for 1/80. The sun is playing hide and seek at this time.

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

Now for post processing  I used photoshop elements.

I darkened some areas with burn tool.
Removed unwanted white specks on grapes with spot healing and added more light to the grapes by selecting them and using levels.

Am still learning PSE and hope to use it better in the future.
The final image once again ….
#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography
Now scroll down and leave me a comment, do you like the post, want me to do posts like these ?? Inputs ?

Now that we are done with the tutorial some eye candy for you guys. Some of my favorite moody shots from yours truly.  Will do a bigger version of these image in my next 365 days of photography post. What’s with moody shots ? Can’t get enough of it … you guys too ?

#foodPhotography #FoodPhotographyTutorial #HowToShootMoodyFoodImages #SimiJoisPhotography

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