Do you struggle to shoot good, quality food pictures during the dark winter months?
If so I get you!
I live in Denmark and for the past few weeks there´s literally been NO good daylight available. Normally, I love myself some grey skies and often use it as part of my style, but at the moment it´s so dark it´s impossible for me to get any decent photos – especially when I shoot food indoor. So if you´re in a similar situation this tutorial is for you.
A long time ago I bought a Studio Photography Lighting Kit; two white umbrellas with light stands and 5500 kelvin bulbs. The funny thing is, I actually bought the kit just for the umbrellas, because I needed them for my audio recordings. Yes, you heard that right. It´s a dirty little trick to sit under an umbrella when recording in order to bounce the sound onto something soft rather than a hard ceiling.
I thought I would never use the light bulbs that came with the kit so I just stored them in the back of my closet. Little did I know, that they would be very much needed for my food photography.
So after spending a few weeks in frustration over the lack of daylight, I finally remembered that I had these light bulbs. I decided to give them a go even though I was very skeptical. I have used other types of artificial lightings in the past, and never liked the result. But, it was worth testing. Trying and testing is always better than complaining and being frustrated, right!
I started with just one light, and it turned out to be enough, so I never ended up using the second one. Instead I used a reflector to help bounce the light more evenly on my scene.
I had just made some delicious Meringue Swirls and they became my choice of subject. So here´s how I did it.
[ Spoiler Alert: these photos looks like it´s in the evening, but it´s around lunch time….so you get why I need extra light! ]
I decided to test the artificial lamp as backlight. I put the Meringue Swirls on a rustic plate, placed the lamp behind the scene and tilted it slightly down towards the food. It took me a little while to get my camera settings just right. I used a 40mm. Shutter speed 1/80, f-stop 2,8 and ISO 200. I really liked how the light brought out the texture of the meringue.
The key to using the lamp as backlight is to bring it close to the food, without getting the lamp in the frame. The closer you bring the light to your food, the stronger it will be and if the light gets to harsh you just move the lamp further away to soften it.
The great thing about using artificial light with a white studio umbrella is that it gives hardly any shadows. The light is so soft, it washes out the shadows. I think maybe the light would be even better with a big softbox, so if you have a softbox already you should definitely test it out.
Another great thing about the 5500 kelvin bulbs is that the light is “clean”. By that I mean it´s not yellow like your normal house lamps and it´s not blue-ish either. It look very neutral and when used with a white umbrella, softbox or diffuser you get a pretty good white balance in your photos.
When you shoot with artificial light make sure to turn off any other light that you have, so you avoid any yellowish colorcast in your photos. I also recommend that you stay close to a window or pick the brightest room in your home, so you have as much naturel daylight available as well – then the artificial light is just helping you bring in that extra light you need.
If you shoot in a dark room with no window and the artificial lamp as your only light, it will be some really dark images and you will struggle to lit all of the image – but of course that can be a style as well.
The next set-up is the sidelight. This is properly the most used form of light in food photography. Again move the light close to your scene – so it´s just outside your frame. Place a white reflector or card board opposite the light, or if you want even more light bring in an extra lamp.
Also consider where you want the light to hit. Really look at your scene. If you turn the lamp a little to one side pointing into your scene it will also bring more light and attention to the background. In my photo above I think the wall behind the cake stand is lit up a little too much. It makes the raw texture on the wall stand out – which I would love to have avoided. So to be satisfied with the background I had to soften the wall a bit in photoshop.
If you turn the sidelight a little to the other side so it´s pointing slightly away from the scene (and more in the direction of you), the background will automatically become darker and get less attention.
Below, you can see the equipment I used. I got my kit from Amazon.uk. This is the kit I bought. (NOT affiliate). The kit is affordable compared to most photography gear and the light bulbs have around 5000 hours of lifespand!! To you get value for money – and hey, you can even use the umbrellas for shooting video, a rainy day or a podcast studio…haha…wink, wink.
The umbrella soft light photography set is very light and comes with a storage bag. That means you can also travel with it. It´s incredible easy to install, all you have to do is place the Light Bulb socket on the light stand and screw in the bulbs. Then finally attach the umbrellas. It literally takes two minutes to set up. The light stand can be adjusted from a height of 60cm to 200cm(27″-79″), and it can be tilted to the direction you need.
NB. Because I got this kit from Uk, it came with a UK plug. I cannot use a UK plug in Denmark so I had to also get a European lamp plug. So depending on where you buy your light just be aware of what plug it comes with.
Last, let me just show you how the images (below) turned out when shooting in a super dark room with no windows. The artificial light is the only light used and no window to support with extra light. The light falls perfectly on the subject, and the area around it stays dark. Perfect for the dark and moody style.
That´s it! I hope this tutorial was helpful.
If you wish to see how I edit my photos(without any use of expensive presets), I teach that in my online photography course. The workshop has more than 150+ helpful + inspiring photography, styling and editing tutorials and of course you have access for life, so you can study on your own terms.
Let me ask you this; have you ever had the best intentions to go after a goal – a goal that you really wanted to achieve, only to let yourself down?
Maybe you neglected your goal because life got busy and you got caught up in the daily grind. Or maybe reaching that goal was harder than you imagined so you gave up along the way.
Or maybe you felt lack of motivation, lack of support from your surroundings, or lack of trust – trust that you actually had it in you to make it happen?
It´s easy to feel like a failure when you promised yourself you would do something and then you didn´t. It´s easy to blame yourself for giving up because it didn´t go according to plan. And it sure is easy to get angry with yourself for not following through!
The truth! It happens to ALL of us — especially when the new year is knocking on the door, and we are deciding on our New Years resolutions.
Even if you truly desire to accomplish this goal you have in mind, it often ends up not happening. Why?
Is it because we humans are lazy? Is it because we set unrealistic goals? Well in some cases it is….but for the most part, it´s really because you never learned how to set goals and achieve them. I mean think about it.
Have anyone in your life ever taught you how to set goals properly. Have anyone ever said let me tell you how the mind works around goal setting, so you can prepare yourself and make sure you reach your goals successfully?
My guess is no one did that for you. So how can you put the pressure on yourself to be the perfect goal-setting ninja, if you don´t know what you need to be aware of?
It´s like driving a car without knowing how to find your way to your destination.
You know HOW to drive the car. You know WHERE you want to go – but you don´t know HOW to get there. So you´re just driving around the best you can, without a roadmap, without a GPS, trying to guess your way to your desired destination.
Maybe, you get there with a lot of dedication and a lot of luck. But in most cases, you´ll end up frustrated and confused. So you pull the car over to the side, and you simply give up and go back to your starting point.
We simply can´t be perfect achievers all the time. But what we can do is to take responsibility for learning how our mind works psychologically around goal-setting. Knowing your mind well is your best compass for moving in the direction of our dream life. The more flexible your mindset, the faster you´ll succeed.
It is not how motivated you are, and it´s not about how enthusiastic you are – your goal is not going to happen if you have the wrong mindset or if your goal is not meaningful to you!
So, if you are feeling like you need to shift things around in your life so that you can design a path that leads to your desired life then the following goal-setting framework will be helpful to you.
Let´s get started.
1. Let Go Of The Past and Forgive Yourself
I know this sounds like a big thing. But really it doesn´t have to be. All it takes is you making a decision to let go of the past and forgive yourself. You decide whether to hold on or let go.
The more you beat yourself up about the goals you did not reach the more difficult it will be for you to make the changes you want in life. Being hard on yourself will keep you stuck in a negative spiral making it extremely difficult for you to create new positive changes.
Take some time to think about last year; in what areas of your life did you not live up to your own expectations? What negative experiences are you holding on to? What are you blaming yourself for? What goals did you not accomplish? What are you beating yourself up about?
Let´s take one example; Let´s say you made a goal last year to rock your Instagram. Let´s say your goal was to post daily and really grow your following. But looking back you only posted continually for a few weeks and then you gave up and fell back into your old ways of doing things.
And ever since you have been beating yourself up about it. “I´m so bad at growing my Instagram”, I´m never following through with anything”, “who am I to think I can grow my Instagram when there are so many great Instagrammers out there”, “what´s the point, I´m not even good at taking pictures”.
So instead of spending time sticking to your goal and growing your Instagram, you ended up spending more time criticizing yourself. And it drained you from all motivation and desire to stay on track.
The key to effective goal-setting is to stop holding on to all the self-critique. And instead, aim to focus on the lessons you learned from those setbacks.
You need to look at it from a neutral position. Instead of criticizing yourself, you look at it from a non-judgemental position and ask yourself; what can I learn from this. Understand that everything that occurred last year was simply a result. Don’t get caught up in labelling it as failures.
What are you not happy with in your life right now and why? This could be personal, professional, spiritual.
What self-blame or self-critique do you torture yourself with? And how is that working for you?
What goals did you not reach this year? Do you use these “failures” to put yourself down?
What regrets do you hold on to, that keeps you stuck? Identify what you need to let go of and what you need to forgive.
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions; the answers to the hardest of questions will only help you grow.
Your past results are just feedback. Learn from this feedback and commit to tackling things differently from now on.
The actions that made you NOT reach your goal last year will NOT be the same actions you take this year. You decide to forgive yourself, and then you open up to new approaches.
You see, there are really only two things that can stop you from reaching your goal; not learning from the past and beating yourself up about the past. Don´t stop reaching for your goals when something goes wrong. Forgive yourself, re-adjust and put yourself back with forgiveness and self-compassion.
If we don’t forgive ourselves and let go of the past, then we allow the past to shape our future. We drag the past into the future and then it pops up in unhealthy ways. And pulling the worst of the past into the best of the future is a sure way to fail your goals.
So now that you have decided to let go of the past and forgive yourself, it´s time to move on to step #2. And this next step is crucial. If you should take just one thing from this training and implement into your life, let it be this;
2. Commit To Setting Smaller Goals
One of the biggest mistakes we humans do when it comes to goal-setting is that first of all, we set goals that are way too big – which makes them super overwhelming, and second, we forget or neglect to build a solid plan how to achieve it.
Let´s say you decide to lose 20 pounds, but you don´t create a system to follow so you just wiggle it and after a few days or weeks of trying to figure out what to eat, and negotiating with yourself when and if to exercise, it´s getting too hard to convince yourself to stick to this goal.
Or maybe you decide to start a business, but after setting up a website and an Instagram account, you realize that you don´t really get any responses, so you become overwhelmed and confused. This cause too much pain and frustration, so you give up.
Or maybe you decide to run a marathon, but when you go out on your first run and realise that you cannot run around the block without losing your breath, your excuses for not running are drowning your motivation faster than you can say “new years resolutions sucks”.
Don´t get me wrong. I´m all for big goals. And I believe you should set goals big enough to scare you. That´s not what I mean by this.
The key is to divide your big goal into smaller goals. And then take steps so small that you don´t get overwhelmed. SMALL is truly the magic word here.
Instead of setting a goal to lose 20 pounds, you start by asking yourself “what is the smallest step I can take daily to lose weight?” And then “how can I make a plan to make sure I take that action daily?
So maybe instead of “losing weight” your goal becomes “eating a healthy breakfast daily”. And your plan is that every Sunday you prepare seven healthy breakfast meals so that you don´t have to negotiate with yourself every morning about what to eat.
And instead of putting pressure on yourself to grow your Instagram with a daily photo along with a clever caption – you post one really great photo a week. When you take the pressure off yourself and make it easy, fun and doable it becomes motivating. It´s suddenly much easier to stick to a plan and a new routine that gives results.
Most people overestimate what they can do in a month and underestimate what they can do in a year. Think small steps. Steps so small you can do it easily without getting stressed or overwhelmed. Instead of going for massive action in a short amount of time, you move forward one small step at a time. It´s all about creating momentum and staying consistent.
Success is born out of consistency. If you consistently invest in your goal with small daily actions you will be amazed at how much you can do. And if you consistently neglect your goal, you will not make it.
And that leads me to step #3…
3. Stop Relying On Motivation
Perhaps the most important point to ensure you “make this year your best year” is to hold yourself accountable. The secret to holding yourself accountable is to have a system.
What gets planned gets done and what gets measured gets improved. Not having a system, not planning will hold you back more than you think.
How many times have you known exactly what to do …and you’ve even wanted to do it …but you just, well, didn’t?
Listen. I’ve done it too. We all have. We’ve all had an idea and we just put it off and didn’t follow through.
And the problem is that in so many cases, taking action and following through is the ONE THING that separates people who reach their goals …from those who don’t.
But I’ll give you a secret. The answer isn’t “more motivation”.
Instead, it’s having a SYSTEM for making sure you stay focused and take action …so you can get what you really want, step by step.
Successful goal-setters don’t always have to be motivated before starting something. They know that if they rely only on motivation and self-discipline, it will be like a car running out of gas at some point.
Because what happens when you run out of motivation and your self-discipline dies out? You start to feel resistant to the things you know you need to do to accomplish your goal.
New goals require new actions, and new actions typically require new skills. And let´s be honest here; even if your goal is super amazing – you will most likely have to go through some “not so nice steps” to get there.
If you want to travel the world, you might have to work really hard for several months to save enough money. If you wish to start your own business, you have to learn a lot of new things, like setting up a website, writing newsletters, doing taxes + how to sell and brand yourself. As wonderful as your goal is, just as hard can it be to go through the steps that lay before it.
And when you´ve been on your journey towards your goal for a while resistance and pain starts to appear. Testing us; is this really what you want? Really? Are you sure?
When resistance and pain catch up on us on our way to our goal, it doesn´t feel good. And that´s when we truly fail ourselves.
When we come up with resistance to take action on what we have planned, we might tell ourselves that we are not motivated and we believe that we need to be motivated to complete our goal. But it´s not true.
Don’t make decisions based on how you feel in a moment of resistance, make them based on what result you are really after. In other words, you need to embrace being uncomfortable – embrace doubt and embrace resistance. Because I can guarantee that it will be part of your journey and that´s why people quit.
And that´s why the more effort you put into creating a system, the more support you´ve set up for yourself. If you think of your daily goal setting grind as cutting down a tree, then your system represents taking a moment to sharpen the saw.
4. Develop A System
So what is a system really?
A system consists of smaller action steps, a series of preparations that you do to make sure you get things done. A system is something you do on a regular basis that helps you stick to your plan and stay on track in the long run. If you do something every day to support your bigger goal, it’s a system.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight you know you have to do two things; exercise and eat healthy food. So the question is; how can you help yourself, and support yourself to make sure you do that? That´s going to be your system.
If I want to make it easier for me to go to the gym in the morning, I make sure to have my workout clothes put out before I go to bed, so I don´t have to spend time looking for it when I get up in the morning.
I make sure my gym bag is packed and placed by the front door, so I can just grab it when I go. I don´t have to spend time packing it when I´m tired in the morning. And maybe I get a friend to pick me up, so I don´t have to drive myself. All of these things are done to avoid me going into a dialogue with myself to discuss whether or not I really should go to the gym.
The system is all about preventing that you start to negotiate with yourself – because let´s be honest; your mind will try to talk you out of reaching your goal because most goals worth achieving takes time and effort.
A system makes your goal real. It’s super concrete. It gets you moving. When you put your system into action, you’ll be very likely to reach your goal, because you have a map to get there. The system is all you have to worry about to achieve your goal.
When I created my first online photography course almost ten years ago, my kids were little, and I was working full time during the day. I knew I wanted to create an online course but my time was very limited, and I didn´t want to spend more time away from my kids to pursue a new career goal.
I also knew that starting a new business would take a lot of time and effort, so to reach my goal I started to get up two hours earlier in the morning. So instead of getting up at 7 I got up at 5.
Getting up early to write the lessons for my course became the most critical part of my system. I placed the computer right next to my bed, and every morning I would roll out of bed and onto the chair in front of the computer. Every. Single. Morning. Even when I didn’t feel like it.
Those two hours became 60 hours a month, and 180 hours in three months that I could invest in building my new dream business. Every day was a small step – but it felt good because my system worked and I could still keep my day job and be the mom I wanted to be.
Systems reduce decision fatigue; and a equip you with the power of habit.
What goal do you currently have that you could replace with a daily system?
What system can you develop, so you can move towards your goal, step-by-step without feeling overwhelmed?
What are the daily action steps you need to develop to support each step towards your BIG goal?
What system can you start this week? Think SMALL steps – small steps that are easy to follow through with.
That´s it. I hope you had a few good insights and some aha-moments and that you will be much better prepared to tackle your future goals. No matter what your dream goal is you truly deserve to give yourself full support and encouragement.
So let go of the past, forgive yourself, and stop relying on pure motivation and self-discipline. Set smaller goals that you can accomplish without overwhelm and create a non-negotiable system easy to follow.
OPTIMIZE YOUR CREATIVE LIFE is a 6-months journey for creative women ready to design a heart-driven business and fabulous lifestyle. I´m going to guide you step-by-step and teach you everything it takes to leverage your creative skills into a THRIVING business.
Can you believe it! It´s already December! And no matter if you´re a busy photographer, a stressed creative entrepreneur or an overwhelmed Mom I got some life-saving tips to help you get through this Christmas with your sanity intact.
Let’s make sure the stress monsters stay away so you can enjoy December and turn it into the cozy-filled month it’s supposed to be. You deserve to enjoy this beautiful time too and not just feeling like your surviving this season.
I’ll admit that I´ve been a victim of stressful December months in the past. Or said more accurately…..I chose to be a victim of other people agendas and wants. I tried to live up to being the perfect mom, daughter, wife, and business owner…and in doing so, I drowned my own needs and desires throughout all of Christmas.
Not anymore! I changed my way of dealing with Christmas dramatically about 5 years ago and today I´m letting you in on some of my strategies. I´m going to be honest with you; what I do is not always easy! It might include leaving your comfort zone – it sure was not easy for me when I started making changes.
I clearly remember the first time I said to my extended family that I was no longer coming to our yearly Christmas dinner. I was NOT popular! This was a tradition I was born into and had attended from birth. And I used to love it growing up, but with my own kids getting bigger, that tradition no longer felt right in my heart. I wanted to start my own family traditions with my own little family of five.
So we started to spend Christmas by ourselves. The following days we stay in our PJ´s at home – slowing down completely. No pressure to dress up. No pressure to make it to family dinner after family dinner with nagging + overtired kids.
I did feel a lot of pressure from my surroundings. But the new changes made MY little family of five happy – and that will always be what matters most to me. I´ve stopped feeling guilty. And what is guilt anyway? Something negative that you hold over yourself to play small and be unhappy! Guilt is no longer part of my Christmas season. I`m determined to live MY life on my own terms – not following other peoples agendas.
So my first tip may not come as a surprise…
#1: Re-Design Your Christmas Traditions
Just like me, you might be born into some family traditions that no longer fit into your life. Maybe you feel that going to events and parties takes time away from what really matters to you; like slow down time with your kids, partner or pets. Maybe you just want to pull the plug and carve out some time to reconnect with yourself instead of trying to please everyone in your extended family?
It´s time to RE-THINK your Christmas traditions and re-design them to fit YOU. Consider what matters most to you? Consider what makes you truly enjoy the Holiday? What are your needs? Your desires?
Remember, this is YOUR life and you are allowed to change traditions if they no longer serve you. You don´t need permission from others – but you do need permission from yourself!
Can you give yourself permission to create a Christmas you love? A Christmas that is full of joy and completely stress-free? Follow the whispers of your heart and say “NO” to everything that no longer serves you.
“No” can be life-changing! How many times do you say yes to something just out of guilt? Or out of the need to please others? Listen, you just end up kicking yourself and in not saying “NO” you set yourself up to feeling stressed, discouraged and disappointed.
And luckily there are many ways to say no in a way that’s both kind and respectful.
This year is not a good time for me (and my family) to….. (attend your beautiful event/dinner/party. We need to slow down/find peace and take a break from the daily rush).
I’d love to do this but….(this year I´ve decided to take some time to rest and be with my kids/partner/pet/close friend).
I cannot say yes to this just now, I need to talk with my kids and my partner to see if it will fit in with our family time….
Let me think about this and get back to you.
It’s just a “no” for this Christmas. Let´s see if we can do it next year.
I wish I could commit, but I can’t. (I´ve decided to create a peaceful and quiet December/Christmas/Holiday for me and my family).
#2: Forget being PERFECT!
Seriously, get over striving for being the perfect Christmas Woman. Stop putting this pressure on yourself! Aiming for perfection – or striving to impress other people with your Christmas perfections are the direct way for feeling burned out.
This year allow yourself to downsize your expectations – especially the expectations you put on yourself!
Downsize and simplify the decorations in your home to the presents you buy. Let “less is more” be your motto this season. You don´t have to impress anyone! Focus on being present and mindful with the people who matter to you instead of spending time getting everything perfect.
Let´s face it; no one will remember that perfect Christmas wreath or that perfect Christmas tree in five years. But what people remember is the honest attention and love that you gave them, by being fully present and stress-free.
And YES, your kids/partner will survive not having the perfect Christmas. Actually, they will love you for slowing down and showing them what matters most. Make your holiday season the best for you and yours. And don’t invite perfection into your cozy time!
#3: Carve Out ME-TIME
Alright, now I want you to grab your calendar and look at it. If your December is already super busy and your calendar is packed with events and to-do´s, I challenge you to DELETE at least 3-5 events/things/plans. Instead of following through with these things this time is now going to be replaced with “Me-Time”.
This is time for self-compassion! Book a luxury massage or facial. Go to the hairdresser or get your nails done. Take a long bath with a glass of wine. Pack a picnic basket with hot chocolate, marshmallows and a warm blanket and find a nice spot in nature. Read a book or listen to Christmas songs, or a podcast while you do something creative – or simply try to do nothing at all 🙂 (it´s hard I know, but good practice).
One of my self-made December traditions is to take out 3-4 days and go to a Spa Hotel with a friend – no kids and no husband. It´s my way of celebrating myself and all I did during the year. It´s also my way of re-connecting with myself, plan my upcoming year and simply rest after a busy year. Needless to say, I love that tradition. All it takes is some good planning ahead.
Enjoy My Christmas Playlist
And last but not least, if you need a wonderful Christmas PLAYLIST to calm you during December I made one for you. Listen via Spotify here; COZY CHRISTMAS SONGS