Food photography is challenging because food touches so many emotions. I've been steadily improving my technique, and here I show a light stand I built to aid in taking better pictures.

All images were taken with a Nikon Coolpix L4 (in fact, the same camera we gave away in a previous contest here). The Nikon is a low to medium range digital camera and can probably be found for around $100. I choose to use it to demonstrate the quality of pictures possible with an affordable camera using my setup.

Undoubtedly, the pictures could have been better through the use of different equipment, different lights, or a more experienced photographer -- consider this an introduction for you to improve on.

Step 1: Motivation, parts, and estimated cost

My previous attempts at food pornography involved a mishmash of desk lights, a set of 500-watt halogen task lights (that double as lights for our dinning room!), and a light tent. The pictures' colors were always too hot, and lacked the dinner table context you see in a food magazine or William-Sonoma catalog. So, with this setup I am trying to get better color-balance from a portable set of lights I can set on the dinner table. Having the light fit around my light tent is a bonus.

scrap wood from a dumpster - free
12 x 24 inch light tent - $35 or make your own bigger, better, and cheaper one here or here.
tripod - $30
5 clamp-on lights - $6 each at Home Depot, but you know you've got at least two sitting around somewhere
5 compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) - $10+ depending on rebates, energy star discounts, and whatever governmental price discounts are available. I've paid as low as $1 per CFL at times!
extension cords - $5

Including my purchased tripod and light tent, I spent around $100 in addition to the camera for this setup. If you built your own light tent and used a bunch of milkcrates and chairs as a tripod, this could easily be a $25 project consisting of a few new lamps and CFLs.
<p>Hi, From where did you get those lamps. I live in India, trying very hard to get similar kind of lamps but not finding it here. Need some online pointers.</p>
<p>Photo by: Mohammed Taha</p>
taking tweeting pictures of their own food to a whole new level <br>
I know this ilbe is old(ish). But I wonder if useing reptile CFLs that have rare earth on the buld to emit UVB/UVA would make the light box look more like the pic was taken outside... I do think I will try it when I get home...
I haven't tried it. But, I personally use a happy light i bought at joann fabric - it has a cool effect and makes pictures look incredible. I may even buy another..i bought it just to have more light during our long winters..but found a better use for it! I love it!!
ah excuse me sir it might be a typo error ,,,,its not food pornography .....its food photography...sorry for interupting..
set your white balance PLEASE!!!
I can't really see that much wrong with thewhite balance. Picture looks great too me. Nice and warm
TIP: next thing you need is inexpensive postprocessing and better when it's free, here is one: http://2Dbin.com/Autoprocess/fnikydqv
Everything was set automatically, including the white balance. One of the points of the project was to use a low-end camera in fully automatic mode and see if I could take great pictures.
Yes it can! But not with halogen lights... Halogens are avoided in photography due to causing problems with white balance.
&quot;Food photography is challenging because food touches so many emotions.&quot;<br /> &quot;food touches so many emotions.&quot;<br /> <br /> What the hell.<br />
The lightstand is cool and I can't help but notice the outdoor of your photo. Some nice view to shoot at too. Nice place.
Woa -- those look like Canida's plates o.0 I also like the no flash, no halogen -- but no flash - with halogen, no tent also looks good to me (but I prefer a warmer image) :P
Whoa- that looks like my tablecloth too! Hey ewilhelm, no more breaking into my house to shoot food pornography.
:P The little details amuse me. That, and I apparently can't spell "whoa" :)
Do people recognize your plates in the street yet? Are there fanclubs for your plates?
I'm starting to be concerned. Next time they go outside I'll make sure to provide sunglasses and fake mustaches.
I like how you got the wood from a dumpster.. Reuse is even better than Recycle The photos look great too... Although the shiny bits (especially the apple) reflect the lights pretty badly... What if you put something translucent in front of you lamps to soften them.. maybe just a piece of paper? It probably wouldn't be such an issue with other dishes that don't have shiny bits...
This is swell! I just got to this site yesterday and made a comment about one (or two, counting the fish) of canida's entries and got a reply encouraging (I think) a submission, and I have never photographed food before (unless it was something that dropped on my blouse and was captured inadvertently) in my life. I even have a few of these lamps in my attic. Maybe now I can start with something simple to click and easy to fix. Thanks.

About This Instructable


76 favorites


Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
More by ewilhelm: Mad Max and War Boy Nux father son costume Nautilus Bookshelf Grass-fed beef liver with brown butter carmelized onions and dried California plums
Add instructable to: