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Tips and Tricks for At-Home Table Top Photography: Dark and Moody Edition

As an professional of any kind, I truly believe we need to space and time to play and experiment in order to learn and grow as artists or experts in our field. I find that SO exciting because in photography I feel that the things to learn and try out are limitless. The field is so vast and deep and ever-changing and there is so much to play around with. There are so many styles and subjects, different cameras and equipment, video and drone-- it's all so exhilarating!

Lately I have been taking a lot of courses on YouTube and CreativeLive and have been having a BLAST putting those lessons into practice. I do a decent amount of product and food photography (okay, mainly chocolate and cannabis), but lately I've been wanting to get really creative and try out some new techniques and aesthetics with the creative freedom I've been given by my clients. This led me to trying out some dark and moody set ups which I absolutely love.

Given that it's close to the holiday season and I have a lot of maker friends out there, I like to give some tips and tricks on how to create these stunning and moody images right at home on your table top. Even if this isn't the look you're going for, the same basic rules of lighting applies.

1. Since we want things, a little bit moody, we’re going to be using black foam board instead of white. These are super cheap and you can get them at any craft store or a place like Staples for a few bucks. They will be yoru best friend and SO versatile in how we can create and shape light.

2. Tape three of the boards together in a trifold arrangement. This is just the way I do it to give myself a little flexibility and really make the dark dark. You will at least want one corner from the boards to create that dark area for light to get sucked into (and not reflected back like with a white board)

3. Next take another piece of foam board and cut it in half. These pieces of foam board are called flags and will be used for blocking out or "flagging" out portions of the light we don’t want. To get that really dark and moody look we’re going to want to create a tiny slit for the light to go through. You can play around with how much light comes in and out of the slot. I had an opening of maybe 2-3 inches for these shots.

4. Decide where you want the light source to hit your subject. In this case, I opted for natural window light from the left-hand side. If you have the space and equipment, I would absolutely recommend getting a light with a model light in soft box. This allows you to see where the light is hitting and will allow you to (most likely) handhold your camera. This will help diffuse the light and also give you so much more control while you’re shooting. For this look, I wanted to avoid harsh light and have a soft diffused look. Luckily for me it was an overcast day and the light was soft and diffused to begin with. These images were shot using my tripod, a pretty wide open aperture and a slow shutter speed.

5. Take the images into Lightroom for some final tweaking and voila! You’ve got yourself a dark and moody photo (and now you can eat your cupcake)!

Please let me let know if you liked this tutorial and I’d be happy to make more. I can also make an editing tutorial if that would be helpful!

Delicious baked treats compliments the delicious Boxcar Bakery in Essex Jct., Vermont.


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