One of the very first things I learned about food photography was the “bounce & fill.” It was the first step I ever took to improve my photography (back in my point-and-shoot days). And it is the easiest and probably the most inexpensive way to do so.
The concept is simple: You place a white object opposite of your light source to bounce the light back onto your subject, filling in and softening the shadows.
You can use just about anything that’s white – a napkin, paper, or a box. My first “reflector” was actually a piece of styrofoam, the kind that comes as packing material with a pricey electronic. The styrofoam was totally free, if you don’t count what we paid for the Xbox 360 inside that same box.
The two pictures of the Green Monster Smoothie above were taken with the exact same camera settings, just seconds apart. In the first image, I didn’t use a reflector. In the second image, I placed the reflector just out of the frame, and tilting it towards the shot… ~45 degrees, or whatever the angle is between 90 and my right hip. (And the straw is repositioned, but that’s totally the Toddler’s fault )
The first image of the Homemade Almond Butter was taken without my white board. The lighting is very harsh and, to me, the overall mood is very somber.
The second image was taken with my white board about 6 inches outside of the camera frame, standing straight up on the clamps. Better.
The third image was taken with my white board just outside the camera frame, tilted at a 45-degree angle towards the food. Being a big fan of “light and bright,” I think this image is best at conveying what I wanted to see – a nice, fresh start to the morning with breakfast.
I upgraded to a white foam core board for about $3 – you can find these just about anywhere they sell any type of craft supplies (mine came from Michael’s and I’ve also seen them at Hobby Lobby and Target). Mine is nearly 5 years old and is insanely beat up. But it still works wonderfully.
I also snagged a couple of my husband’s wood clamps from his tool chest in the garage. You can get these at your favorite home improvement store. They probably weren’t $3 each. Pinch the clamps onto the foam core board and you’ve got a reflector that stands on its own, freeing up a hand!