food photography

Editing food photography in Lightroom VIDEO!

September 1, 2012

It sure is nice to get back into the swing of blogging again. As I was editing the images for my last post, I thought it might be rather fun to make a video of my editing process inside of Lightroom.

I have been a photoshop user for over 10 years, and have found myself in Photoshop less and less with each revision of Lightroom. Frankly, that I like. If I can keep my workflow to one package, I am a happy man. One thing that really helps that is the “local adjustments” inside of Lightroom (I believe other packages have such options too). Local adjustments let you do exactly what it says on the tin – that is, make adjustments (exposure, levels etc) to just certain portions of the image. Those portions you want it to adjust you just paint over. Rather handy for fixing up areas of an image that need a little work.

Now, I don’t want to start an argument about whether images should be adjusted digitally or not. Ever since the camera was developed images have been adjusted (in a darkroom), and more recently inside the computer. Every professional photographer I know, that makes a good living, does post-production work on their images – and rightly so. Digital cameras natively can create rather flat looking images. Just simple tone curve and saturation adjustments can go a very long way.

editing food photography in lightroom

In this video demo I run through my development process for two images, both of which require local adjustments to make them more compelling. The workflow is pretty simple and fast – certainly much easier than doing these adjustments inside of Photoshop, which would involve adjustment layers, and then painting masks for these layers.

Basic Food Photography Development workflow

Shoot in RAW

Try to get the best possible lighting and exposure on camera

Adjust white balance if needed

Crop if needed (try to frame properly with your camera, rather than rely on cropping later)

Make broad exposure changes

Make broad tonal curve changes

Make broad saturation changes

Make local exposure/tone/saturation changes

The idea here is that we want to get the overal image looking right and having the correct feel before we go in to isolated areas and make local adjustments. The beauty of Lightroom, and most other RAW editors, is that you can go back and forth with all your settings – nothing is etched in to stone, it is all adjustable without wrecking image quality. I like that.

Here is my setup for the white tabletop shot:

Food Photography setup

This is my dining table pushed over to the window. The background (tablecloth) is actually some canvas I bought at an art supply store. On top of that is a ceramic tile from a salvage yard. The fabric is a light white shirt I was wearing that day. All dishes were from Goodwill I seem to remember.

The light is obviously coming mainly from the right – through the large window. I have a white card on the opposite side of the food to help fill in the shadows a bit. Don’t default to using a bounce card. Take a few shots first and look at your light and shadow quality. A straight shot with no bounce card can have more drama, with deeper shadows. This can look very, very good indeed. For this shot however I wanted something very light and airy, and a bounce card helped produce the lighting I wanted. If you position the bounce card and find that it has removed all of shadows, just simply move the card further away from your food until you get the shadow depth that you want.

So, here is the video of developing food phtography shots. If I slur it has nothing to do with with two glasses of wine I drank this evening…(oh due to compression the colors in the video are much brighter than they actually are)

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  • Joan Nova September 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Very helpful. Thanks. Look forward to more lightroom tips.

  • Virginia Ortiz September 2, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks. Looking forward for more tips

  • Dan September 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks! I just bought Lightroom yesterday and these tips will be very helpful!

  • Anastasia September 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you Matt!
    I recently bought LIghtroom and I love it to bits. Just starting out to explore all the bells and whistles it came with and this video is very-very helpful! I tried to use the brush but couldn’t understand what and how it works (I hate reading lengthy tutorials) – I will try the Lightroom brush tonight on my food photos!

  • Jackie September 16, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I’ve watched a few through lightroom (which were great introductions to the program), but it was very interesting seeing a more food related one. Plus, it helped reinforce some of the things I had learned a while back. Your effort in making the tutorial is well appreciated!!

  • Brooke (Crackers on the Couch) September 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I was not surprised to see how gray the original plate picture was, but I was floored when you showed the original dressing photo! Holy crud. Now I have to figure out how to shoot in raw mode. And I have to buy Lightroom. Thanks a lot.

  • Fotografia Gamou September 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Great tutorial. Looking forward for more Lightroom tuts, since I am a new user and I need to learn a lot more.

  • Rhonda October 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I just started using LR 5 months ago, my only regret was that I didn’t have it before. I mostly use the sliders and local adjustments, and rarely the tonal curve. I’ll have to give that a whirl more often. Nice concise tutorial.