Photo Fridays: Light vs Dark

by Shawnda on June 1, 2012

in Photography & Props

Fresh Cherries

Which one do you prefer?

The very first choice I have to make when I set up a shot – well, right after “do I eat first or shoot first” – is: light or dark?

I usually have an idea in my head of how I want the final shot to look. But before I pick a dish out of the prop closet, before I dig into the container of discount fabric scraps, I have to decide: bright & happy or dark & dramatic.

After that decision is made, the rest falls into place.

The same shot can look completely different, evoke completely different reactions. I adore the bright whites and blown-out highlights in a slightly over-exposed photo. There’s very little to distract from the subject, your eye is drawn to color, and there isn’t a shadow in sight. The reds of the cherries and contrasting aqua colander really pop against the white. It’s reminiscent of spring, summer. It’s bright & shiny. Total happiness.

Fresh Cherries

And at one time, I would have never considered trying anything else. I had my all-white dishes, my almost white placemat and napkin, and an enviable amount of light coming through gigantic windows (I miss those windows!). But my photography heroes don’t always shoot bright & happy so I’ve been working on pushing myself out of my bright & overexposed box.

There’s such beauty in darker shots, one I’m learning to really appreciate. Colors don’t pop in the same way they do against a white background but the richness and saturation are so much more dramatic.

Burgers and Ice Cream

My “dark” backgrounds are either one of my darker wooden table tops or a black or dark brown poster board clamped to one of those propped-up tabletops. I guess I’ll show you how I do that – set up a shot – in the next installment of Photo Fridays.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathryn June 1, 2012 at 1:54 am

I find ‘light’ photos much easier to take than the dark moody photos but I am trying to experiment and bit more and push myself (plus it means I can justify buying a whole new load of props!)

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2 Katrina June 1, 2012 at 5:36 am

I like the light photo for the cherries, but they are both nice! Decisions, decisions….

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3 Krissy@DaintyChef June 1, 2012 at 5:49 am

I am glad you posted this, I am feeling in a bit of a rut lately with my photos. Maybe I need to try the dark shots, now I need to spray paint some backgrounds…

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4 Lindsay {life and kitchen} June 1, 2012 at 8:50 am

I love the darker cheery picture! I usually go light because I don’t really know how to do dark. Try, try again, right?

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5 Rachel @ Baked by Rachel June 1, 2012 at 9:25 am

I love both – they’re very dramatic. Would love to see your setups. I’m always curious to see behind the scene pics.

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6 Lauren @ From Everyday To Gourmet June 1, 2012 at 9:52 am

I can’t wait to see your set ups!! I’m finally using a “good” camera (Nikon D3000) but struggle with the lack of natural light in my home – ugh. Although my blog photos are getting better (I hope!), they are still no where near as fantastic as yours! It’s really great to get a little behind-the-scenes peek at how you do it!!

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7 christina @ ovenadventures June 1, 2012 at 10:46 am

I love the dark shots but haven’t been able to really branch out into them yet. Your photos are always beautiful. :)

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8 Julie (O-kami) June 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hmmm – I really like the darks much better

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9 Jennifer June 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I love the brightness of the light photo. It reminds me of cherries in the summer. However, the dark one pulls me in and feels warmer and cozier, as if you’re going to bake a comfort pie with the cherries. Not that my answer helps because I like both of the shots. They evoke different emotions for me.

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10 Tameka June 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I love both pics and think they evoke different feelings and I can’t wait to see the setup photos.

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11 Jessica Mitchell-Stoddard June 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Usually, I go for light shots, but when I saw your pics for the roasted cherry chocolate cake, I was blown away by how the dark backdrop looked SO GOOD with the cake! :) Heck, it’s a win/win situation for you, cuz your blog is so awesome anyway! :)

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12 Ann P. June 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Voting for dark! It’s true what you said about the richness and saturation :)

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13 marla June 3, 2012 at 7:48 am

Love them all!! Girl you have such talent :)

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14 Christina June 3, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I found your blog while looking for a homemade margarita mix (which sounds so great!), and just for fun came to your home page. So, since you asked, I’ll offer my opinion, too. :) I love the first picture from a photography standpoint (and please understand, taking pictures is all fun for me…I know nothing, and I claim to know nothing), but the second one is gorgeous, and as you say, rich. It looks like a painting, and one that I would love to have in my house. I think it depends on what you want to use the picture for. :) Helpful, no? haha Your pictures are really beautiful. Now I want a bowl full of cherries!

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15 Courtney @Bake.Eat.Repeat. June 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

These are both gorgeous, but I have to say I love the drama of the dark picture. It certainly wouldn’t fit for every picture, but it’s a welcome change of pace. Can’t wait to see some behind the scenes photos and tips for setting up the shot. I struggle with that because my light source has a window seat in front of it so I’m usually smashed up against a cupboard trying to get the shot I want. At least it’s entertaining for my husband! :)

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16 Danielle June 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I vote for the dark. I have found that too many people are using the white board trick making everyone’s photos look the same.

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17 Jackie P June 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I prefer the white here but I like the dark in your other shot. For me, it depends what the subject is but you never know if you don’t try something new.

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18 Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings June 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Thanks for sharing some of your tips here. I find them very useful and informative. Every little secret revealed really helps :) LOL! I, too, am starting to move away from the bright and white mood. I really like the dark, rustic, dramatic mood :) Hope to learn more from you!

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19 Kelly Kardos October 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Love the dark

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