Readers of Seduction in the Kitchen know that I am always trying to improve myself, not only in life but with my photography as well. Looking through my food photos, I can see how much I have improved. However I know there is always room for improvement. One of my biggest area I need improvement in the lighting for food photography.
Well, originally I started to shoot in natural light, which is nice, however for me is a huge challenge. Why? I live in Cleveland Ohio. We don’t get lots of sun here. In fact there was a study at one time that said people in Cleveland and Seattle have the lowest vitamin D levels in the nation because those two cities have the least amount of sun.
Despite this, I did try taking my photos in natural light. Now the only place in my apartment that has the best natural light is the entryway I share with the downstairs neighbor. That proved to be an even bigger challenge then finding natural light. Why? Well, my neighbor thinks she owns the entire entryway. I can’t shoot photos near the window because she thinks the entry way is actually for storage, I mean there is just junk piled up in front of the window that it makes it hard to try to adjust blinds.
Still I did try. I decided I had to move my photo taking upstairs to inside my apartment because her junk just made it way to hard to take the photos. I mean your trying to take photos at different angles, but a child’s bicycle id poking you in the rear as you bend to take a photo just doesn’t work.So here is an example of a photo I did down in that entry way. It isn’t bad, it not the greatest, but it wasnt bad:
To try to deal with my apartment’s lack of natural lighting, I had gotten a light tent as a birthday gift, and came with lights. These lights are small and they are perfect for on the go photos. I did like how the photos were coming out for the most part, but I was told constantly you need better lighting. Well one of my first mistakes with this light tent was I kept my overhead light on as I took the photo
As you can see, It really washed out the food. So I realized I need to actually turn the overhead light off, I need to just be in dark and only have these little lights on. The photos did look so much better when I did that:
Ok so now I am getting somewhere, but the lights are actually not the best, why if it is night-time or a cloudy day the photos still suffer, despite using those little artificial lights. I took this photo of this pie at 9pm and you can see, even with editing it still looked washed out.
So what is the solution for lighting food photos? Well everyone in food blogging world talks about the Lowel Ego Light. It is a food blogger’s best friend, it is the “it” light you have to get if you are a serious food blogger. Great, let’s get it, I thought, until I saw the price, $150. Then the brakes came out on buying this light. I am always on a budget, let’s just say, I was not careful with money in my younger days and then I got divorced, well my credit is tanked. I have been getting it cleaned up, I got my finances in order, but to go and just spend $150 on a light, I cant do it, paying the bills like the rent, utilities, the car, well that has to come first.
Still, I want to improve the lighting. So I started doing research, what I found in this research was tons of DIY’s to make your own version of a Lowel Ego light. Some talked a little over my head, some had items from Ikea, which there is none in Cleveland, the closest one is in Pittsburgh, and I am not planning to visit my mom and dad anytime soon, (as you know I am a native Pittsburgher) Others required power tools to make one, and I usually break the power tool if I use it.
So I printed off a bunch of these DIYs, took them to my local Home Depot and talked to the man in the electrical department, explained what I wanted to do, showed him the product lists of the various DIY’s. Even he said some the parts you have to order off the internet, the shipping would be way more than what the part is. Which is something that I would not want to do. So after a few minutes of looking through the DIY’s he had a solution with what Home Depot caries all the time in stock. He showed me what he thought, but it included me doing a little wiring, but he assured me it was very simple. So I bought what he told me to get.
I also stopped at Lowe’s. I did exactly what I did in Home Depot, I went to the guy in the electrical department, showed him the DIY”s and I also told him what the man at Home Depot thought I could do to make this lamp. He actually agreed with the Home Depot guy, he added the comment that all this expensive light is a light bulb with a box built around it, you can easily make it with a kit, and mount it in the box. He too assured me wiring a lamp is easier than you think.
So now, it is time to do this, I have gotten great info from Home Depot and Lowe’s. A quick trip to Wal-Mart to get a foam core poster boards, packing paper for the filter, and clips to hold the “filter” I then had what I needed to make this light. You know what? I did it! I made the light and the grand total for this light: $32. That is much more affordable than $150. So here is what my light looks like:
So now here is that same lemon using my version of the Lowel Ego light:
The difference is amazing! I can understand now why the various food bloggers have said you need this light. It just softens the food perfectly and makes food look, hmm how can I say this? Edible. I mean look at this photo that was taken with my DIY Lowel Ego:
So now that you know my background in creating this light, how about I show you how to make your own light as well? First you going to need a few things from Home Depot or Lowes, and Wal-Mart. These should be easy for you to get, since these stores are nationwide, excuse the photos in this tutorial, I did take them with my iPhone:
Here is the supplies you will be needing (to help you, in finding your supplies, I hyperlinked each supply so can see it better):
From Home Depot:
- (2) 23W 6500K “Daylight” Bulbs
- (1) Light Bulb Socket Splitter
- (1) 3-Way Socket Make-A-Lamp Kit
- (1) 1-1/2 in. Porcelain Threaded Socket with Metal Shade Ring
- (2) 20″ x 30″ Foam Core Poster Board (1 is for the box and the can be used as a bounce board to bounce the light off of on to your food)
- (1) Package of white packing paper
- (4) Large binder clips
- Box cutter
- Small flat screw driver
- Tape measure
Take the poster boards out the wrapping, and set one of the boards aside to use later on as a bounce board. On the long side of the board you going to use the pencil and tape measure to make 2 dots. The first dot you put at 10 1/2 inch and the other dot will be placed at 19 1/2 inch. Then go to the other long side the board and again place 2 more dots on that side at 10 1/2 inch and 19 1/2 inches.
You can either use the tape measure as the straight edge, or if your good at following the line, you’re going to now use the box cutter to cut a little into the board. Your cutting along the lines you just drew, You do not want cut all the way through, it just a light cut so that you can easily bend the board.
Now the fun begins, we are going to wire the socket, so take the base socket out the package and the only part you need out the lamp kit will be the plug cord. Take the base that screws around the base socket off, it the part that will sit flush against the board. The back the packages on both the lamp kit and base socket on how to wrap the wires around the screws from the plug cord. Use the flat screw driver, and bring the screws up, wrap the wire around the screw (do it one at a time) then use the screw driver to tighten the screw so that the wire wont come off.
Use one of the light bulbs and do a test that you wire the wires right. Plug in the light, if lights up you got the wires right, if it doesn’t, then unplug it, take the bulb out and switch the wires on the screws. One wire is a positive and one is a negative, In my kit the wire that had some writing on it went with the brass screw. The other went with the silver if that helps figure out the positive and negative.
In the center portion of the board, measure down about 9 inches, and the across that center portion 4 1/2 inches. Place a dot. Now that should put in center of the center section of the board. Next, use that circle base part you took off of the base socket, and center that around that dot you made and trace a circle in the inside part of that base.
Using the box cutter cut out the circle, you will have to play with the circle, by carving at that circle to make sure you have a nice snug fit with that ring. So take your time and keep using the circle as a guide till it fits snug in the hole.
Bend the board at the cuts so that it is sitting up, then screw in the base socket and the once that is screwed into place, screw in the twin socket.
Screw in the light bulbs
Take you time, and take a sheet of the packing paper and using the clips you want to clip the “filter” into place. Make sure taunt. Use a clip on the top and bottom on both sides so that not loose anywhere. (To me this was the hardest part was placing this in place)
Plug in your light and start having fun taking photos! If you have any problems creating this DIY Lowel Ego light, contact me, I will help you out the best I can, but actually very easy to do. If I can do this anyone can. I hope I made this tutorial easy for you to understand and follow!