[Day 1] Finding The Right Light

Welcome to Day 1 of the 5-Day Challenge. I’m so excited to get you started and to help you boost your photography skills.

Are you ready? Okay, let´s get started!

Today I want to talk about light. Finding the right light will take your photographs from good to outstanding. With the use of light, you can manipulate your photos and turn them into masterpieces.

Not everyone finds it easy to spot the right light at first. I know because I used to be one of those people. Learning to shoot using just natural light has been difficult for me to learn.

I didn’t understand what “finding the light” really meant when I started out myself. Honestly, I was clueless. For some people learning to find soft diffused light is a process. If you are a newbie in the photography world, you might know what I mean—and I hope my tips in this lesson, will help you in the right direction.

Look For Soft Even Light

The best way to learn how to find good light is to look around before taking the picture. Take a moment to investigate the room or the area. Look for a window with soft, even light.

Avoid harsh sunlight and dark shadowsLook for something in between, but closer to the bright side. If there is too much bright sunshine coming in, dark shadows will appear in your photos, which in most cases are not very flattering.

If you are shooting outside, look for open shadow. “Open Shadow” basically means that you place your subject in the brightest area of a shadow or in a place that’s not directly facing the sun.

Think about how the light is outside on an overcast day when the sun is lightly covered by fluffy clouds. That´s the best light, and that´s the type of light you´re looking for.

Never place your food/props in a sunbeam, unless this is a specific look you´re going for. Direct sunlight tends to cast a yellow tone which is not very flattering for food and still life photos.

Always turn off all artificial light to avoid a yellow tone to your photos and set your camera white balance to AUTO .

Create a Workspace with Good Natural Light

If you think you need a professional studio to create magazine worthy photos? Then let me crush that illusion right now. I personally believe that the best images often are set up in the most simple way, without expensive equipment. Let me show you how.

There´s no doubt that light has the biggest impact on your photo. You can have the best camera, the best gear/props/styling, but if the light is harsh and unflattering, you´ll not be able to get the best result.

You don´t need to invest in loads of studio equipment to get great images. The very best light comes through your windows every day.

Let me show you three examples of how you can easily create a good workspace in your home:

Set-Up No 1: Direct Light From a Window

Fist things first; you need a surface to work on for your styling. Find a table – any size and hight will do and place it close to a window. Chose a window in your home that has soft light.

Avoid a room with too much sunlight (it´s too much when the shadows are present). If too much light is “hitting” the table you can move it further away from the window into the room until the light are softer.

If you look at the photo above, you´ll notice that on the corner of the table the sunlight is too strong. Therefore I moved the table away from the window until my food setup is located in soft flattering light.

I´ve also placed a white cardboard on the opposite site of the window which will catch the light coming from the window and bounce it back onto the food setup. This helps brighten up the shadows.

If you´re just starting out and don´t have a white cardboard you can simply use a mirror or hold up a piece of white paper to help lighten up you photo even more.

If possible choose a window next to a bare wall. The key if to go for a clutter-free background. You can also use a door or a closet as a background – just make sure it´s something simple and clean. This way you make sure nothing will take the focus away from the subject you are photographing.

Set-Up No 2: Direct Light From A Door Opening

In this next example I´m using a door opening instead of a window. It works great as a light source. For the best result you must experiment with the placement of your table.

The closer the table is to the door opening the brighter your image, the further away, the more moody your light will be. Take a few test shoots to see what works best.

TIP: If you don´t have a table with a nice looking surface you can simply use fabric, a table cloth or a tea towel like I did in the photo above.

Set-Up No 3: In-Direct Light From Above

This set-up is a little different from the first two examples. Here I´m not using a table but simply the floor. The window is suddenly much higher up than my subject and that helps me get some really pretty and soft light – because it´s no longer direct light – it´s in-direct.

If you have a window in your celling this can also be a great choice for placing your set-up under it. This shows that you really can get away with capturing beautiful photos at home, without a professional studio.


Alright, now it´s your turn. Set up a small workspace next to a window with good available daylight.

Now study HOW the light falls on the table. Is it soft? It it too strong? Too dark? Do you need to move the table closer to the window or further away. Really practice to look at HOW the light falls on the table.

When you´ve found the best light go grab some food in your kitchen. Something simple like eggs, apples or bread. Then place the food on the table where the best light is and take a few pictures.

Study the light. Adjust. Test again. If you need more light use a mirror or some white paper and place it next to the food. Do you see the difference? Now, test another window or two to investigate how the light is different in different places. Take notes of what you learn. Find your favorite workspace.

Let´s sum up:

  • Shoot in the middle of the day or early afternoon when the light is at its best.
  • Position your subject close to a window, or door opening.
  • Avoid strong sunlight as it gives very harsh shadows.
  • Use a white board or a mirror to reflect light back at your subject.
  • Identify areas in your home with great light and set up your favorite workspace.
  • NEVER use an on camera flash.
  • Turn off all artificial light to avoid a yellow tone to your photos.

That´s it for today.

If you haven´t already, download the ebook here: Still Life & Food Photography-4.pdf

Much Love,

PS. Do you know anyone who would love to join this challenge? Then simply email them this link; http://christinagreve.com/free-5-day-email-course/ or share the link on social media. 

PPS. Share Your Photos On Instagram. Use the hashtag #slowdownwithstills to share it on Instagram and connect with like-minded. I can´t wait to see your photos!