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Strobist Technique in Food Photography


There has been a growing interest in strobist technique amongst photographers. This is a technique that uses external flash with off-shoe flash that is not attached to the body of the camera. It is controlled by radio signal or infrared as a trigger to operate the flash.

In various genres of photography, many photographers have been utilising the external flash to produce better images. Instagram and other social media platforms can display beautiful images of food photography. However, many rely on natural or available light and that is one of the drawbacks of strobist. Therefore, the photographer must be able to manage the time and location effectively in shooting food photography.

There are many benefits of using the strobist technique for food photography. This includes better mobility, efficiency and even image quality. The strobist-style type of flash uses battery as the main power, enabling photographers to shoot anywhere without the need of an electric outlet. 

food photography

EOS M; EF17-40mm f/4L USM; 40mm; f/8; 1/80 sec; ISO-400; Speedlite 600EX-RT

Strobist technique is ideal for food photography. The light temperature that is produced by the external flash is not as high as others. Hence, the texture of the dish will not be affected. Most of the time, the higher lighting temperature can alter the physical attributes of the food such as the texture. Another benefit is that it is applicable to any type of food. Photographers adopting this technique need experience and full understanding in basic photography in order to adjust the light to tailor every dish.

Using strobist technique to shoot beverages is not as similar as in food photography. It requires extra attention to the amount of light since it can change the colour of the drinks or the details of the glass. These will also occur when we do not pair the right accessories with the flash. Now I will give you more tips and tricks to use external flash in food photography.

food photography

EOS 6D; EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM; 100mm; f/8; 1/100 sec; ISO-800; Speedlite 600EX-RT

The advantages in using external flash:

1. Comes with portable and simple design that can be carried in bulk.

2. Uses battery as the main power. No need to worry if the location does not have any power outlets.

3. Has lower flash temperature compared to the studio lighting that may not suitable for cold dishes

4. Short flash duration is able to freeze moving object.

5. Able to produce real colour of the object when other lights interfere. For example: the room lighting, etc.

6. The accessories in studio lighting equipment can be adopted to our flash if we have approriate flash adapter.

Tips in food photography:

1. White balance and correct colour accuracy speaks a lot about the dish we captured. Incorrect white balance may affect how appetising the picture looks.

2. Lighting in food photography differs from other types of photography. It implements backlighting as the main light. We place the light behind the object or a little above it. When we do this, it will produce better texture details.

3. Use the good quality of flash such as Canon Speedlite, because it has better temperature and other great features.

4. Set the good composition so that the POI (Point of Interest) is focused on the dish.

food photography

EOS 6D; EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM; 100mm; f/5.6; 1/80 sec; ISO-250; Speedlite 600EX-RT

In conclusion, strobist is a technique that uses handy and simple equipment to achieve better photos. You only need to be creative and practise more to master this technique. Initially, use one flash to start. When you are getting familiar with it, you can add more elements. Learn its characteristic and the accessories that can be paired with to produce desired effects. External flash in food photography affects the details, colour, and dimension of the image produced. My last tip: your photo is not good if it does not elevate one's appetite.

food photography

EOS 6D; EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM; 100mm; f/8; 1/100 sec; ISO-500; Speedlite 600EX-RT

Learn more about food photography in the articles below:

Food Photography and Styling Hacks

Capturing More Attractive Shots of Dishes on the Table

Taking Food Photos Like a Pro

A Recipe for Inspiration

Achieving the Perfect Style

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WS Pramono

WS Pramono

Founder of IDSTROBIST (Indonesian Storbist Community), the biggest strobist community in Indonesia that was established in 2008. (Facebook group: idstrobist. Website: www.idstrobist.org). A commercial photographer since 2007 and has worked in some magazines as a photographer. Regular speaker at PT Datascrip Indonesia's events and was one of the judges in several photography contests.