Jon Haase: Solving food photography challenges with the Photoflex LiteIgloo

Photoflex Lite Igloo Setup5 590 443

The Photoflex FirstStudio LiteIgloo is the photographer’s answer to almost all of food photography’s lighting challenges. How can you shoot on location and get even lighting when there are many overhead lights? How can you avoid having to carry multiple soft boxes to an on-location shoot? How can you avoid harsh shadows and blown highlights? How can you keep from showing ugly backgrounds as you shoot from a lower angle to your subject?

I’ll show you how to use the Photoflex FirstStudio LiteIgloo to solve all of these issues by demonstrating three real world problems and three real world solutions. Before we get to that, the LiteIgloo solves one of the most frustrating problems before the shoot even starts and that’s portability. I’ve had to walk a long ways from parking lots to locations carrying some bulky light modifiers but the LiteIgloo folds up to the size of a collapsible reflector. No more big soft boxes and no need for more than one light modifier if you use the LiteIgloo.

Shadows are always a challenge when you’re working with curved surfaces. In the set-up you see below I’ve used a three point continuous lighting setup with some pretty simple 6500k, 2800 lumens Feit continuous lights you can pickup from Home Depot for under $10.

Now let’s talk about shadows. The light setup above is really great for preventing harsh shadows so let’s take a look at how it does with a simple food item like an apple. First I will take a shot with the lights alone.

It’s not bad but you can see three faint shadows from each of the lights on the surface of the table. It’s not ideal nor is the highlight on the bottom right of the image. Now let’s replicate the same shot using the LiteIgloo.

With the LiteIgloo the shadows are cleaned up and the highlight on the bottom right is gone. Both of these images are without any adjustments, straight from the camera.

The next issue we’ll discuss is backgrounds. One client I worked with wanted their salad to have a pleasing mound shape, which meant we needed to drop the camera down and shoot from the level of the salad. The issue here was that the background had an ugly transition at the edge of the table. Here’s an example using a similar salad.

The visible light stand in the background and the edge of the table are issues. Could you clean them up in post processing? Yes, but not without a few challenges and as photographers we should strive to get it right “in-camera” as much as possible. Here’s the same shot replicated using the LiteIgloo.

The seamless background in the LiteIgloo provides an even and pleasing continuous white sweep all the way up the image. You can drop down as low as you want and you’ll have a fine background. These images are also unedited.

The final problem we will look at today is highlights. With multiple light sources and variable angles, stray highlights can wander into your images. I’ve shot images of coffee before and the cup (and the coffee inside) presented some real challenges in terms of controlling highlights. In the example below you can see multiple highlights and a lack of highlight on the surface of the coffee.

Now, if we simply use the LiteIgloo look what happens. The highlights on the cup are removed and the highlight on the surface of the coffee is just right (showing some highlight and some dark coffee).

Hopefully these techniques help you understand how you can make a simple and effective product photography setup to get good shadows, background, and highlights without having to carry an arsenal of light modifiers.

Jon Haase is a photographer on Oahu and the founder of BHC Portrait Photography. Tamron, Popular Photography, Digital Photography School, and Visual Itineraries have featured Jon’s work. He is also a photography instructor at Udemy. You can see more of his work at www.bhcportraitphotography.com

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