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QUICK GUIDE: Window Light Directions for Food Photography

November 04, 20233 min read

The quality of natural light can vary depending on the direction a window faces because the sun's position in the sky changes throughout the day, and the angle at which sunlight enters a room can affect its intensity, color, and temperature.

But where should you place your food photography setup to get the best natural light? I’m going to break down all the options so you can make the best decision for your photos!

North-facing windows

North-facing windows receive the least amount of direct sunlight which makes it soft and even. It's a great choice for food photography because it can create soft shadows and highlight the natural colors of your food. North light is also a good choice for beginners because it's easier to control than other types of light. North light is also known for its flattering effect on skin tones, making it an excellent choice if you need to take a photo of yourself, an employee, or a customer. It has a lot of versatility which makes it an easy go-to setup any time of day!

South-facing windows

South light is the brightest and most intense type of natural light. It's a good choice for food photography if you’re going for that high impact look because it can create dramatic shadows and highlight the textures of your food. However, south-facing window light can be harsh, so if you’re not after a bold, hard light effect then it’s a good idea to diffuse it. This can easily be done with a sheer white curtain or by taping white parchment paper to your window.

East-facing windows

East-facing windows receive sunlight in the morning, resulting in a soft, golden light that is ideal for creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. That golden look will fade as the sun rises and sets throughout the day so keep that in mind. If you can shoot in the morning this would be a great option especially for traditional morning items like pastries, muffins, doughnuts, and coffee drinks!

West-facing windows

West light is warm and dramatic in the evening as the sun begins to set. It's a great choice for food photography because it can give a cozy and romantic feel to your photos. If sunset and golden hour photos are your favorite, this lighting direction is for you! This would be an excellent choice for main dishes and even cocktail photos. Keep in mind that you may have a short time frame to work with so make sure you set up and plan ahead of time! 

Choosing the right window direction for your needs

When it comes to choosing a lighting direction, knowing what you’re getting into beforehand is critical! I highly recommend giving each direction a try to see what fits your schedule and photography style the best. Once you’ve dialed in what works best for you, you’ll be able to get setup and take those delicious shots in less time and with less stress!

Was this guide helpful? Are there any other specific topics you’d like to learn about? Let us know!

Food PhotographyLightingWindow LightingGuideBest Window Light for Food Photos
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Lindsey Moss

Lindsey is Commercial Food Photographer with over 15 years of experience in the creative industry including roles in Graphic Design and Project Management. If she's not behind the camera at a shoot she's working on her online course, Fast Food Photography.

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