My DIY $20 Lighting Kit for Food Photography

It’s winter! And it’s dark!

Thank goodness we’re finally past the shortest day of the year, and the days are finally starting to get longer. But it’s been harder and harder to get really good photos these last couple of months, because I rely pretty heavily on natural light.

Natural light is your best bet for food photography if you can get it. Here’s what my normal setup looks like.


I use the natural light from my balcony door (I’ll open the door if I need more light, or if it’s summer and the light is very direct and bright, I’ll diffuse it a little with a white lace curtain), and set the dish up to photograph on my coffee table. I use my office desk chair draped with fabric for a background if I need it.

Lately, though, I’ve needed artificial light more and more, so I did a bunch of research online and came up with this really cheap lighting setup.

DIY Food Photograpy Lighting Setup

It includes:

  • A work light from Home Depot ($15)
  • A piece of foam core from the dollar store ($1.25)
  • A piece of vellum from the art supply store ($5)

I simply cut out the centre of the piece of foam core, and then cut the vellum to fit and stapled it into the frame. I also pulled in a few pieces that I had on hand, namely a halogen light from Ikea that was in Michael’s bedroom, a couple of boxes, and then some fabric I had for backgrounds or to put the plate on.

I have also combined my regular (natural light) setup with my new setup, using natural light on one side and filling the light in on the other side with the work light.


Here are the results. All photos are taken on my Canon Rebel T3i, on the “aperture forward” setting.

Flash. Ew.
Flash. Ew.
My regular dining room light. Not good.
My regular dining room light. Not good.
With my DIY lighting setup.
With my DIY lighting setup.
Natural light only.
Natural light only.
Natural light plus fill.
Natural light plus fill.

For more ideas and info about lighting and how to take good food photos, check out my Pinterest board. You may also want to join this G+ Community. And don’t forget Liz Nyland’s Tips for Taking Fabulous Food Photos.




4 thoughts on “My DIY $20 Lighting Kit for Food Photography”

  • The DIY set-up and natural light plus fill shots are the best in my opinion…but maybe adjust the colour balance in post-production to match the natural light.

    • Yeah, they are a bit yellow… But I wanted to show untouched how the same subject looked in different lights, just so you could see the differences.

  • Nicely done Rebecca! This is a great post!

    Can you give us a link to the actual items you purchased at Home Depot and Ikea? We might want to purchase then as well!

    • I would love to, but for some reason, the light isn’t on the Home Depot website. 🙁

      I got the foam core at the DollarTree/Dollarama, and the vellum came from Opus.

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