My love of Natural Light {Photo Fridays}

Super-Secret Hanks Family Chili – my daughters favorite!
1/40, f/2.8, ISO 250, 28mm, photographed in cool morning light

Unless you’re set up with studio lighting, I find it is so important to use natural light when photographing, especially food! The above photo was taken with indirect, cool morning light. It’s clean, bright light, but not direct, not harsh. In my eyes, it’s yummy light, perfectly complimenting a yummy recipe below! 

In my kitchen, I have a pretty large window that butts up against our sliding glass door leading to a lattice covered patio. The window faces south, the sliding glass door faces west. We get tons of light in there! I love photographing in the kitchen, whether it’s food, or my daughters playing, or working on an assignment for school. That definitely is some of my favorite light in the house.

Earlier this week I was eager to make a big pot of chili, in preparation of LOAD. I woke up early to get the ingredients in the crock-pot and cooking! I knew I wanted to get a shot of the finished chili, and I absolutely wanted to use natural light. I knew I’d be cutting it close, but alas, I missed it and had to use our overhead lights in addition to the little natural light streaming in through the slider. Ugh! Tungsten light is sooooo not my favorite light! I had to work the image below of the finished chili in Lightrooom to make it somewhat decent, but I still would’ve much preferred the image shot in natural light! I know it’s not always possible, so that’s why I love Lightroom and using the Develop module, along with presets.

If you’re a Lightroom user, you’re probably familiar with presets. But in case you’re not, OnOne Software has some great free presets. It’s a nice way to get familiar with the power of the develop module in Lightroom. If you’re looking for more stylized (read: vintage/retro) presets, Sarah Cornish of My Four Hens has some great ones for sale. Get on her email list – she usually runs sales on her products. Matt Kloskowski from Lightroom Killer Tips has a plethora of free presets too.

A couple weeks ago, I posted a few tips on photographing food at home, I have some additional tips I’d like to share:

1. Use White Dinnerware
Might sound silly, but it really makes a difference! Do yourself a favor and take a few photographs on different colored plates – huge difference! White plates really help the food be the main attraction, and not be shadowed by the cute little flowers or completely overtaken by the bright red Fiestaware! And you don’t have to buy a complete set – just a couple of plates and bowls will do!

2. Play with your Food! 
…as in move your food around. When I was setting up the chili shot below, I realized my mini cornbread muffins were not showing up the way I wanted. So even though I used a shallow depth of field making the muffins blurry, I decided to turn the bowl on it’s side and have the muffins spill out. It gives visual interest and adds to the hominess of the shot.

3. Dance with you Food!
…as in move around and take shots from different angles! Take some at eye level, some from overhead, some super close, and pull back – include more in the shot, include less, etc. This will give you more options when you’re picking the image you want to use to share your story, or recipe!

I hope these tips help you take better food shots at home! And for the first time EVER, I’m sharing my Super-Secret, Super-Yummy, Super-Family-Friendly Chili recipe... Enjoy!

Chili - it's what's for dinner1/60, f/2.8, ISO 500, 35mm, photographed at dusk with little side natural light and tungsten overhead light
Chili – it’s what’s for dinner
1/60, f/2.8, ISO 500, 35mm, photographed at dusk with little side natural light and tungsten overhead light

Super-Secret Hanks Family Chili

  • 1.5-lbs ground turkey or ground beef (your choice!)
  • 1 sweet onion, diced and divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 15-oz can kidney beans, RINSED
  • 1 15-oz can Mexican style chili beans
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with garlic
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups stock (chicken or beef, depending on your meat choice)
  • 2 – 4 dashes hot sauce (we use Tapatio)
  • 1/2 cup carrot puree (if I’m out, I’ll just shred carrots with a fine grater)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (OPTIONAL)

Sauté 1/2 of diced onion in drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Season with a dash of salt and pepper while sautéing. Once onions are transparent, add ground meat and season with basil, oregano, dash of salt and pepper. Brown meat and drain fat.

Add all ingredients to crock-pot, stir and cook on high for 6 – 8 hours, or on low for 10 – 12 hours. My 3- and 6- year old daughters absolutely l-o-v-e this family recipe. It’s not on the spicy side, but very flavorful. You can definitely add the optional jalapeño to add some heat.

Serve with cornbread or corn chips. We enjoy the Krusteaz Natural Cornbread mix, following the directions on the box, but doctoring it up a bit by adding a small can of creamed corn and a handful of shredded sharp cheddar to the batter. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by and have a joyful, creative, blessing filled day! Happy crafting!

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