Tessa Huff

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Food Photography in Low Light Situations + Raspberry Ganache Tarts

Raspberry Ganache Tart

It’s days like today, where my light has an undeniable blue cast any time beyond 3pm and the sun starts setting around 4, that I miss summer the most.  Sure, I tend to complain a bit too much about the sun blasting through my bedroom window and into my slumber near the 5 o’clock hour each summer morning, but these short days of Pacific North West winters are nearly killing my productivity these days. 

Like many freelance food photographers (especially those working from a home studio) I primarily rely on natural light.  When the days are long and bright, my North-facing windows provide the most beautiful indirect light for my photos.  In the winter, the story is entirely different.  Even on the days that it is not raining (which are few and far in between this time of year), I have maybe 4 to 5 hours in the middle of the day of mediocre light.  So instead of breaking down set everyday at 3:30pm, I’ve been forced to figure out some tips and tricks for Food Photography in Low Light Situations. 

At the beginning of the season, I wrote an article for the Food Bloggers of Canada on shooting in low light.  Here’s a snippet of what I discussed:

ISO, Shutter Speed, and Equipment
If I could only offer one piece of advice for shooting in low light situations, I would definitely say USE A TRIPOD.  Did I really just go there?  Do you know how much I HATE my tripod?  If you don’t, then know that I despise it.  But in situations with less than ideal light, using a tripod is the best way to keep your ISO down while still producing crisp images.  As you know, a higher ISO increases the camera’s sensitivity to light.  And while the setting sun tempts us to crank up that ISO, a high ISO comes at a cost.  Instead of compromising with grainy, noisy images in order to eliminate blur and camera shake, just buck up already and drag that trusty tripod out, hehe.

Don’t have a tripod?  Try resting your arms or camera on the back of a chair.

Raspberry Ganache Tart
Raspberry Ganache Tarts

Bounce Boards and Reflectors
A piece of white foam core works wonders all year round.  Placing one opposite of your light source helps bounce back any available light back onto your subject.  Even on sunny days, bounce boards are great for shortening shadows, should you desire a more even light throughout your image.

Similarly, reflectors can redirect light onto your subject.  They can also fill in shadows.  

Subject and Styling
If you can help it, use a smaller subject when only minimal light is available.  I find it much harder to light an entire tabletop and sometimes even large cakes when the light is low.  Smaller subjects tend to be more synonymous with using a small f/stop (and thus keeping your shutter speed shorter) than larger ones.  I personally don’t care for backgrounds with props that are too fuzzy and out of focus, so I always consider my aperture limits when styling a shoot.  Of course this is mostly a style preference, so feel free to experiment.  

Lastly, be sure to head over to FBC for the entire article!

When nothing else will do, you just gotta embrace the low light and go for dark-n-moody images.  For more on those types of photos, check out my tutorial here.

Raspberry Gamache Tarts

Let us not forget about the recipe for these Raspberry Ganache Tarts.  I’m not that cruel, hehe. 

The ganache filling is delicately spiked and enhanced by nutty browned butter.  I went with a chocolate tart shell, because “more chocolate” is never a bad idea.  To lighten things up, fluffy clouds of meringue were piped then torched before tossing on some tart raspberries.  The perfect balance of flavor, texture, and color – if you ask me.

Ganache Filling
adapted from Lily Vanilli’s “Sweet Tooth”

125ml heavy cream
200g dark chocolate
50g browned butter, cooled
dash or two dark rum (if desired)
pinch sea salt

1.     Place the chocolate in a heat-safe container and set aside.

2.     Gently heat the cream until it begins to simmer.

3.     Remove the cream from the heat and pour over the chocolate. 

4.     Let stand for 20 seconds then whisk until smooth.

5.     Whisk in the browned butter, rum, and salt.

6.     Pour into prepared tart shells (recipe to follow) and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes or until set.

7.     Top with meringue and fresh raspberries before serving.

For the chocolate tart shells, I used this recipe from my Winter Citrus Tart -  but pressed and baked into 6 minis pans instead.

Speaking of citrus, the meringue topping recipe is the same used on this Lemon Meringue Cake. You know I love any excuse to bust out the kitchen torch, and these tartlets were no exception.  Before serving, pipe on a generous mountain of fluffy meringue, toast it up with a kitchen torch, and garnish with fresh raspberries.

Do you have any tricks for shooting with minimal light?  Help a girl out and share your secrets!  Of course, my brother would just remind me that there are such things as lights, but perhaps we will to save that lesson for next winter.

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