Dark and Moody Lighting for Food Photography

Pinterest is one of my favourite things because it provides so many new ideas and inspirations for things to try.Β  This dark moody lighting style is something I saw there and decided it must be done πŸ™‚

This style is more challenging than the light airy version, because you have to control the light a lot more, and in fact, have to introduce darkness and shadows.still-life-dark Here is the behind the scenes shot to explain – there are two large foam core boards at the back and right. Two black cards positioned to throw shadows and you can see my lovely new base that I painted yesterday – thought it would look naff but it looks OK πŸ™‚Β  The top of my camera is just visible (sorry about the awful iPad image).

As you can see from the setup image above, we have completely taken away the light and added darkness and then controlled the light and shaped it much more.


  • if you have a bright white element like the rind in the lemon – face it slightly away from the sunlight so it exposes correctly
  • if you have two similar elements then point them in the SAME direction so they expose evenly
  • my window is quite big and I might have been too close to it
  • need a bigger mobile shadow board to darken the background – had a lot of light bleed over the top of it
  • my dark curtains were also used to my left and behind me to limit the light on the foreground
  • it is cheaper in the long run to buy black foam core instead of other options and painting it – plus foamcore is a lot lighter
  • stick the foam core to the wall so you don’t have an angle gap of light coming in on the background corners
  • painting a black background with two shades of grey makes it look slate grey/blue in the image
  • having the right props makes this so much easier – this is my brand new rough cut chopping board (its first photography outing) and in the background is a dark grey linen tea towelΒ  – also making its debut – carefully folded to hide the white lines for this shot

Here is the final shot again – click on it for a larger version – its been edited in LR with a dark moody Kim Klassen preset and had a couple of textures added in PS for a touch of added interest.

This is a very different style for me – how do you feel about the darker style photography?Β  Works for you?Β  Not your thing?

Got some tips or advice – love to hear it πŸ™‚


About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
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22 Responses to Dark and Moody Lighting for Food Photography

  1. loisajay says:

    I love the darker style of food photography. It makes it…I don’t know….cozier? It looks warmer to me and really makes me want to eat whatever is in the photo. Plus the textures of the linen (and the gorgeous color!) and the wood are a very rich background. Can you tell I think this photo is beautiful? πŸ˜€

    • Thankyou, there is something about this style that appeals to me much more than the light and airy, but its a lot harder to pull off technically. I like your ….cozy food… concept – to me it seems more real and present, less…. pretty and photogenic than the other lighter style. Rustic I think is the word I am after πŸ™‚

  2. Sue says:

    Nicely rustic, and thanks for the walkthrough!

  3. ruthyardy says:

    Love dark and moody images. What textures do you use or have you made your own for PS?

  4. I like the photo a lot. I appreciate the effort you put into creating the effect and then explaining it to all of us. It’s pretty awesome!

  5. Deepa says:

    I actually tend towards darker styling and find it easier than the bright stuff. I’m more drawn to it also I guess. Some helpful tips here, thank you.

  6. leecleland says:

    This works so well and thanks for the walkthrough and the what you learnt. Some seem small things but until you try to replicate a scene such as this you don’t know what is meaningful or not. I think the subject matter of the food helps with this shot, if it had been a cake, maybe not as enticing?

    • A dark rich chocolate cake could well work nicely here, but a fluffy light creamy one not so much – there is less of this style around but its a style in itself. It feels more ‘me’ if that makes sense.

      One thing I didnt notice was that it looks like a face!

      • leecleland says:

        Yep, dark cakes of course! And it does look more like ‘you’ πŸ™‚ and your sort of style. Yeees, maybe a face but I wouldn’t get hung up about it, it works compositionally.

      • LOL I have had a few people comment on it, so it *is* what people are seeing. Thats OK, something more to learn!

        I bought some more props today…. I got several gift vouchers through work and have spent them all on art and photography supplies LOL

      • leecleland says:

        Gift vouchers? birthday or what? Lucky you.

      • Yes some birthday ones, but the others are from work as a part of a promotion we ran a while ago.

  7. TheHairy1 says:

    Some useful tips here. Thanks.

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