Lowel Ego Lights for Food Photography
I credit two purchases with helping me level up my photography game: 1) a Canon 5D Mark III and 2) the Lowel Ego Digital Imaging Fluorescent Light. I adore them both, but since the former will run you a couple grand and the latter about a hundred bucks, I find myself recommending the light kit to more people and at all stages of business.
It’s all About the Light
Even a cell phone can take a pretty crisp image, but only with good light. And while I know some people are natural light 4 lyfe, it’s not the best option for everyone. I love natural light. She’s beautiful, but, let’s be real, not the most reliable. I dated natural light for a long time before moving on to a light kit, and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made, both for my career and sanity.
Maybe where you’re working doesn’t afford much sunlight, or perhaps you’re taking photos at night. Or, maybe you’re a control freak like me and need the reliability only artificial light can provide for consistent images/your mental health. Whatever your reason, don’t feel guilty about betraying the sunlight for it’s just-as-good-looking but more dependable best friend.
I adore the Lowel Ego lights, and even though I now often use strobes, I still bust out this handy kit regularly. Here some things to think about when deciding if the kit is a good fit for you:
- Inexpensive: the only way to a less expensive lighting setup is to DIY it, and I’m not handy or patient enough for that.
- Small and Lightweight: for easy storage and transport.
- Consistent: as explained above, you know exactly what you’re working with, leaving you time and energy to focus on content and styling.
- Daylight Balanced: less white balance issues/color correction for you.
- Total Package: includes a light bounce and built-in diffuser.
- Long-Lasting and Durable: The lights last 8-10,000 hours, and I’ve used them heavily for 3+ years without yet having to replace them; plus, the replacement bulbs are inexpensive. Additionally, I’ve schlepped this thing around in nothing more than a large tote bag and never worried about it breaking.
- Power: 60 total watts is enough power to light only a small scene. With a lot of light reflection and generous editing, I’ve produced okay tablescapes, but you’re best off shooting only a product, meal for 1-2 people, etc. The power also limits whether/how much your background will be lit.
- May Need More Diffusion: the balance between the power and diffusion took me a little practice. If the light is too close to the scene or doesn’t have a second layer of diffusion (such as draping a thin sheet or tea towel over the lamp), the light can be a little hot to one side. I sometimes also correct this by reducing the highlights in Lightroom.
- Availability: I originally ordered mine on Amazon, but I don’t think they’ve carried it in a long while. A Google search will tell you where it is currently available. At the time this post was published, the Lowel Ego Digital Imaging Fluorescent Light Kit is back-ordered on B&H, but I know from experience that if you use the “Notify When In Stock” option, you will receive an e-mail when it’s available again.
Okay, if you’ve read through all that and decided this handy light kit is for you, I’ll share a little on how I use it. First thing: turn off all the other lights in the room. The photos above show my typical set for shooting direct or 3/4. The left side shows the setup and resulting image from positioning the light to the side; the right side shows the light to the side but pulled slightly forward, toward the camera. In both cases, the light bounce is opposite the light source. You can of course place the light on either the left or right of whatever you’re shooting.
From there, you can play with subtly moving the lights or the bounce, or even removing the bounce altogether for a more dramatic look. Sometimes I pull the bounce forward a bit to get more light on the front of the scene and background. Start with what you see above, and then toy with it until you get the look you like.
For this example, I went with the setup on the right side, and in post processing decided to up the exposure a touch and remove just a little shadow. My preference is to get it right the first time, but since this setup has its limitations I usually just move on and tweak it in post. If you’re taking photos with your cell phone, these are all edits you can easily accomplish in a photo editing app like VSCO.
I’ll be back soon with additional tips for shooting overhead with the Lowel Ego lights, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with a couple more images shot with this setup, and feel free to share this post with anyone you know who is struggling with photos due to lack of natural light. Remember, no guilt.* Also, you can reach me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with any questions.
*Shhh…sometimes I cheat on my light kit with sunlight. Don’t tell her!
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