A Handy Dandy Photography Tip

 


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Today, I wanted to share a quick photography tip. Please note, I’m not a professional. I’m learning as I go, just like many of you. Some things work. And some just don’t. But the little handy dandy tip I’m about to share works like a charm for me, time and time again.

Recently I shot a series of photos for a post for Tasty Kitchen on How to Open A Pomegranate. Maybe you noticed them? Fruit and veggies are always one of my favorite foods to photograph. The colors and shapes are rich and alluring on their own, which make it easier to create a great image. Even so, sometimes, even with the most perfect subject, the lighting sometimes needs a bit of help.

Plus, I have to admit, my kitchen is bathed in natural light, which for the most part, is mighty nifty. Yet, there are those times when the light is so harsh, it’s difficult to manage. Below shows my setup for the pomegranate photos.

(Please overlook the messiness. You’ll also notice the heart pine surface my husband made for me. Man, I love that man.)


It’s a pretty typical set-up I use for quick food shots. Notice the window? That’s handy dandy inexpensive white tissue paper taped to the window.

(Just how many times can one cram the words “handy” and “dandy” in one post?)

I have a wall of windows that offer light at just about any given point of the day. But as I said, it can be harsh, and also leave strips of shadows across the subject due to the grille/muntin bars from the window.

A simple fix is the tissue paper.

Handy.

Dandy.

Taped to each window, or just certain ones, I can control the light and create one huge light box in my kitchen. Here it shows tissue on only one window which in this setup is diffusing the back light, with the side light not being diffused. I could have easily diffused both directions of light for a different look as well. Other times, I’ll have all four windows taped up with tissue paper. It really does create a lovely diffused light.

And it’s cheap.

And it’s handy. And dandy.

Not-to-mention, it travels well.

Maybe you just cruised through a local drive-thru only to have the bestest cheeseburger ever? Want to catch a shot of it before it disappears? Grab your handy dandy tissue and tape to create a light box in your own car. Or maybe you’re traveling, and room service delivered one fine omelet that is looking a tad bit blown out in that early morning hotel light. You’re in luck! Grab that tissue and tape up what you need to capture the most perfect omelet shot ever.

It’s handy like that.

Try it out sometime and let me know how it works for you.

Have any simple photography tips to pass along? I’d love to hear em. I’m learning something new every day.

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I’m SO glad you shared this, Amy. I actually have some tissue paper lying around from the holidays; now I don’t have to wait for an excuse to wrap a present to use it. I was wondering how on earth you captured such beautiful shots! ;)

    I’m a very amateur photographer, so I’m definitely not one to hand out tips yet. I’m still amazed by the wonders of natural light!

  2. 2

    says

    Very helpful! It has been so cloudy here this winter, I am really struggling to get a decent picture. Summertime is just the opposite, I struggle with the harsh light so I will be using your tip. Thanks for sharing!

  3. 4

    says

    You my friend are indeed handy and dandy! Love ya! And I wish I had that light in my kitchen. Bleh! Not mine. Plenty of windows, but extra deep porches. :) Great for rocking and visiting a spell, but not great for photographing stuff.

  4. 5

    says

    your kitchen is gorgeous!

    I have a teeny tiny galley kitchen and virtually no windows.

    I love this tip!!!

  5. 10

    Jerry (CbsoP) says

    Good tip for kitchens with a lot of light!

    Also. I have serious kitchen envy.

  6. 11

    says

    Fabulous idea. I have used tissue paper in my homemade lightbox but never thought to use it on my windows!

    AND your kitchen is GORGEOUS, I LOVE all those windows!

  7. 14

    says

    Now I’m not the only one to know of your fabulous tip! And let’s talk about that wall of windows for a moment shall we? I mean WOW! Gorgeous!

    Thanks for sharing my sweet friend!

  8. 16

    says

    I now see why your pics have such AMAZING light!! WOW Amy you have a foodie dream kitchen!! thanks for the tips!!

  9. 18

    says

    so funny! I do the exact same thing, but with white napkins that are unfolded so they’re nice and thin. My husband came home from work one day and said why in the world are there napkins taped all over the window?? It works great! That’s what I used to create the pictures on my blog post I posted today! :)

    • 20

      says

      Hey Megan!

      I’ve actually been using this tip for years. Not really sure where I heard it from or if I started doing it out of necessity. But it sure works well. I’ll have to remember the napkin thing if I’m ever out and about without my tissue paper.

      ~ Amy

  10. 21

    says

    Very Handy. And Dandy! I have a lovely southern-facing window in my dining room. When it’s too bright, I tape two white napkins over the lower half. These are napkins that my parents-in-law bought us. It works like a charm!

  11. 23

    says

    Wow, that is truly a handy dandy tip! I love it and am going to try it myself (especially since I don’t know enough about how to use my camera yet to make the proper adjustments there!).

  12. 24

    the country cook @ Delightful Country Cookin says

    handy dandy is right! What a great idea! Now if only I could figure out how to make pictures taken in my no-natural-light-at-all kitchen look good…

  13. 26

    Kassi Fuller says

    Hey there Amy. Wonderful tip on the tissue diffusion technique. I never would have thought to do that. I usually just switch between different mediums of light/shadows. And I just got to ask, what camera do you use? Because you pictures come out in such clarity. Really wonderful ^_^

    • 27

      says

      Hey Kassi!

      I upgraded a year ago from the Nikon D50 to the D300s, and most of the time use a 50mm 1.4 lens.

      ~ Amy

  14. 28

    says

    Great tip. Sounds much easier than the white poster board I’ve been using because the kids are less likely to steal the tissue paper for school projects. :)
    Found you on PW.
    Happy New Year!
    -Jami

  15. 30

    ruby n. says

    awesome tip! I’ll try & think of my favorite one & pass it along! Super fab blog, too!!! Just DANDY!

  16. 31

    says

    I’m learning all the time, too. And I believe I’ve cranked myself up from poor to better-than-mediocre! Shooting a picture (or “making a photograph,” as one snobby shutterbug once told me) is definitely better in natural daylight, and using tissue paper to diffuse it is indeed one handy-dandy tip. I will try it. Maybe even later today.

    One day I will get a better camera but, you know what, taking the time to read the manual for my five year old Pentax Optio30 has helped immensely.

  17. 32

    says

    Brilliant tip! Isn’t it amazing how many solutions there really are without spending a fortune on professional equipment? I actually build a light box recently from a website description with a total cost of about $15. It really helps at this time of year and with the light sources in my house OR when not able to shoot during the day. Totally love your kitchen and view too!

  18. 36

    says

    Thanks so much for these tips, Amy. What a clever technique for daytime photography.
    Do you have any suggestions for night-time photos? I work full time and blog/photograph at night. It’s such a challenge to get good natural looking shots in an artificially lit kitchen…
    Any suggestions? I’ve resolved to get better at food photos this year and I really need some help!

  19. 37

    says

    Wow, wish I had that gorgeous light in my kitchen too!! That tip really is handy dandy and I too use it. It would really be helpful for people. thanks for sharing!

  20. 38

    says

    I want your kitchen. That’s all!
    Great tip, by the way. Amazing how such an inexpensive thing can do such handy dandy things :)

  21. 39

    says

    What a great idea! Also, I’m totally in love with your kitchen… and the view thru the windows is amazing! When can I move in?

  22. 40

    says

    First let me say that your kitchen is beautiful. How lucky you are to be able to look out those incredible windows! The tip is great- if only we had light. If you come up with any ideas for taking pictures inside of a dark Victorian in New England, during winter-let me know ;>) In the meantime, I’ll dream about your kitchen…and the pomegranate!

  23. 41

    says

    Ok, I’ve been looking. Begging. Wishing for photography tips on food. Thank you so much for sharing! Very clever!
    Jess : )
    PS- Beautiful kitchen!

  24. 43

    says

    Great tip! I’m so going to do this all over one of my windows, what an awesome idea! Currently I am having my husband hold up white sheets or place mats to diffuse light, but SO smart with the tissue paper window!

    For the moment my simple tip is to study photos religiously – good ones and bad ones, to evaluate what makes them rock or look bleggh. I just started a series about tricks I’ve come across for food photography, definitely going to your tissue paper idea out and see how it goes!

  25. 44

    says

    Wow! What a fabulous tip…thank you so much! Look forward to more of your posts. (I’m here via Jenn Cuisine’s Twitter post.)

  26. 48

    says

    Great photographs. I love your kitchen it looks very beautiful and all of the windows are great. This is a pretty simple tip I think I can actually manage to follow. Thanks.

  27. 49

    says

    oh…good idea! I will have to try this!
    My kitchen gets great morning light, but usually I am wanting to take pictures in the afternoon. Its always a bit tricky. But I take my food all around the house to get the best shot. I have even had a cake perched on a chair in my bedroom. My husband came home and he didn’t know what to think.

    Ps. I was looking for the messiness you mentioned…your kitchen looks pretty clean to me!

  28. 50

    Ann says

    Thanks for the photo tip. I am learning as I go. I’ll take any hints anyone can give me!

  29. 51

    says

    Hi! I found you via Reluctant Entertainer–you know, through one of those handy-dandy links in the Comments section. It’s so nice to meet you!

    Your lighting tip is a great one! Thank you very much for sharing that.

    I hope to meet you at BlissDom next week!

  30. 52

    UrMomCooks says

    Wow, so lucky with natural light in your kitchen!!! I am always running all over my house trying to find a little light! Luv the tip with the tissue paper…So simple and so perfect! Really enjoyed looking around your blog!

  31. 53

    Kris says

    Great idea. Thanks for sharing it. I definitely need to work on my pictures. I have a hard time with the pictures I take at night in my kitchen. They often have a yellow tone. Any secrets for night time shots in the kitchen?

    • 54

      Lynne A says

      Kris — I’m not Amy, but have wrestled with color temperature, too. : ) If your camera has the option to change your white balance, playing around with that might help.
      ~Lynne

  32. 55

    says

    We have a white kitchen now, that is bathed in sunlight in the mornings; I got some really shear white curtains that work perfectly to diffuse light. Also, a tip I learned from Danielle Tsi during a photography workshop; she uses this light gray felt when the sun is really bright. I loved that idea, not only can you block light but you can iron your props right on it as well.

  33. 59

    says

    Cute Amy, but you didn’t finish your post with : Handy
    &
    Dandy
    You are one lucky girl to have such a beauty of a kitchen! Thank you for sharing one of your secrets. That is awesome. You do shoot lovely photographs also.
    AmyRuth

  34. 62

    says

    Great idea, and so handy … and dandy. I try to take my photos about one foot below my dining room window. Afternoon sunlight just streams into that window but like yours it can be a touch harsh. To compensate I use my low lying coffee table to balance the plate/fruit/veggies/kid hand and enough light cascades down without washing it out. Also, my coffee table is solid wood and gorgeous so I don’t have to much with a cloth. Unless the kid hand had something gross on it.

  35. 63

    Lynne A says

    Hey Amy! Haven’t been by here in awhile — catching up on all your nifty posts. One thing I have found helpful is to have a way to bounce light into an area that’s in shade/shadow. I use this outdoors (since my neighbors would probably not be happy with me relocating their plantings) but it could apply indoors, too. My dad gave me a Lite Disc he got at a photo workshop. It’s a lot like those rectangular car windshield shades that you can twist & collapse into neat little circles. It has one side that’s a diffused gold color (warmer), & the other is a diffused silver (cooler). There’s probably a way to figure out a homemade solution, maybe with handy dandy tissue paper. Or sheets. Or napkins. ; )

  36. 66

    Helen says

    wow thanks for the simple tip. I have just purchased my first camera in 10 years and I’m having a great time learning to use it. I purchased it to take with me on a holiday to Italy. This little tip is fabulous because I can fold a square of tissue into the pocket of my camera bag and take my light box with me everywhere. there’s going to be so many great things to photograph in Italy, I just can’t wait to get going.
    best wishes
    Helen

  37. 67

    Helen says

    Hi
    I just read Lynne A’s (may 8) suggestion about the Lite disc. I wonder if sheets of foil gift wrap in gold and silver would work? I might have to give it a try, I’m sure to have some in my gift wrap box.

    Amy your photographic surface is a great idea, I could use this idea to create a selection of surfaces that are flat and portable for photographing around my home and neighborhood.

    thanks for the tip ladies, now I’m itching to get home so I can try these ideas out.
    best wishes

  38. 68

    lisa-maree says

    HI Amy, I love your photos and the tissue paper is a great tip. What lovely diffused light it brings. Your photos are so sharp, I was wondering what camera you use? and do you use lightroom?

  39. 70

    Meredith says

    I love this tip! And now I’ve gotten to wondering what the effect would be if you tried colored tissue…I love photography but my main thing is using different angles, lighting and editing to change things up a bit. Thanks for the idea–I’ll have to try it with different colors to see if I like what I get from it!

  40. 71

    says

    I love your photography and now also your kitchen. It’s so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this tip, I shall try it out tomorrow itself.

  41. 72

    says

    Hi Amy! Thanks so much for the tips…I’m always looking to improve my food photography and lighting is key! I just moved into a new home and I now have more lighting, so now I know what to do with it!

  42. 73

    says

    Great tip! I use that too and find it great. Although shooting food in your kitchen is handy ( dandy), a northern-faced window is ideal when using natural light.
    And I have to say that I’m absolutely IN LOVE with you kitchen!! Oh man, I wish I had a similar one!!
    Have a great day!
    P.s National Cinnamon bun day in Sweden today.. far away but gives you a reason for baking; recipe on my blog if you want to have a peek ;)

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