It snowed last night and at around noon today the sun was coming through a thin layer of clouds—perfect for shooting food with available light.

AV #1@440That’s the view out the window and that’s my setup for this photo. I did this just to talk about using available light, white fill cards and also I just wanted to take a photo of the cool pewter antique dish I found a couple of days ago.

AV #3

These two photos were both shot at ISO 100, F5.6, a 6th of a sec. shutter speed on a tripod. The first is just window light and the second has a white fill card placed to the right bouncing the light back filling in the shadows in front. You can see a big difference in the single clove’s exposure. I only used one board here but you could use 2 in front to fill in even more shadows.

AV #2Then I turned the garlic toward the light, moved the camera so that the light was now coming from behind it. First shot is just with window light, second one, I used the fill card to bounce the light back (you can see where the card is).  Less of a difference here. Front lighting is flatter and not as dramatic.

So when there’s a blanket of snow outside—open a window and think of it as your big soft box studio light. Grab some white boards and go play.


8 Wonderful responses to “Available Light/Snow And Using Fill Cards”

  • Fran

    Ah ha! I’ve been shooting in the wrong direction. We’ve got about 30″ of snow, and although it’s 14 stories below me, the white out portion of the Snowpacolypse has stopped so I think I’ll give this a try.

  • Hilary

    I love learning about how you set up shots… such a generous tutorial, this all is… and such beautiful photographs to look at. Thank you!

    And once again you made me want to cook; I roasted some of the garlic from last year’s garden, and mmm. We really enjoyed it. So thanks twice 🙂

  • Carri

    Oh, Donna…I can’t thank you enough, really. I’ve been employing this technique ever since you clarified it for me a while back, so much so, my coworkers, when seeing me set up a random shot, always ask if I need some one to hold the white card. In my case, it is a clipboard with white paper on it that usually holds the grocery list. (multipurposing is good) You are so generous to share this information… It’s like your giving us a set of keys to unlock great photos, while Michael is decoding the world of cooking (and writing) such great stuff!

  • mel h.

    1/2 ” thick Polypropylene cutting boards make very nice small fill cards and if the sun is out you can use them as diffusers too.

  • Sarka

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips about photography. I constantly try to improve my food photography and tutorials such as this one are so helpful! I’ve been following your blog for about a month now and I keep coming back. Your photos are gorgeous. Oh and it just started to snow! 🙂

  • Dana Styber

    Hello Michael!
    Thank you so much for writing this. I was researching white fill cards and found your blog very helpful. Last year we had snow in Anacortes WA and this year none but thank you for the tips.