Dark mood photography

written by:
Dániel Horváth


Dark mood photography

It’s Christmas time and a season of cakes and sweets. I am a really big fan of sweets and desserts. Baking and shooting as well.

But how can we achive the best look?

I have started to shoot less then 2 years ago. Without any technical knowledge I just use my eyes and feelings. Then I discoverd Pinterest and became obsessed with the “mood food photography“. Quick tip: have the look at the nordic food bloggers! So many talents are there and the mood I love. Clear, warm, moody… while the American region has a completely different taste.

1# Tools/Props

The most important thing for dark mood photography is adding to your shot dark objects and vintage stuff. You will never have enough old aged baking equipment like iron casts, baking pan, cutlery, etc.

Props is a must for good food photos. The more vintage and rustic stuff are, the more moody photo you can achive. So not only the food but the plating is crucial! I shoot for different restaurants and it’s always challenging to go to new places and figure out the food and the plating. Lot of times  I have to say for the owner and/or the chef that the food might be nice and appetizing but the plate looks very old fashioned (you know the white rectangle or oval plates. Bad, baad, baaad). But after I took the photos as they want and then show my plating and styling they are always fascinated by the difference.

So as a food photographer you have to know the best look of your food. You have to be a food stylist!

2# Where/when?

I started to work for restaurants and that means I often need artifical lights, but sometimes I prefer natural lights. Winter season here in Hungary is very challenging, after 3PM the sun goes down. Also every day is dull and darkish.

The best spot for the shooting is as close as possible to the window. In Summer when the lights are hursh you need to soften them. Use curtain (DIY) or professional diffuser.

In Autumn and Winter the lights are soften and you can avoid using diffusers. I prefer to shoot before the blue hour, but I think its depends on where you live and where your windows are located and how big they are.

Unfortunately, my kitchen has not much light for shooting so each time I need to go in the living room. Maybe I am not good in organizing or the other food bloggers has the same puzzle game but I am always struggle with the spaces! Well… We are creating miracles and magic. When you watch the photos you imagine a whole set up or a big table. But the truth is as you see in the BTS pics I shoot in a tiny baking pan thatis hold by my conga. (yes I am a drummer) around my desk and my sound system.

Ok, back to the moody photos. I usually use my old black baking pan as a backdrop. But an aged wooden table is also perfect.

I like overhead shoots. The natural light around blue hour is not enough for handheld shooting. You need a C standed tripod. Happily the Manfrotto 190go! ’s center column can be positioned at 90’ angle. So you can quick and easy transform your tripod for overhead shoots. With the three-way head is a perfect combo to find the best angle for your photo.

The tripod is very sturdy and that’s fundamental for long expo shoots.

So lets start the set up. As you see I started with a wooden backdrop. I like wooden stuffs. And wanted a warmer photo but don’t felt it wold have worked nicely. Also I started to loose my lights in the living room so had to move towards to the window. Then placed my beigli (Hungarian Christmas Cake) ont o the black pan. Yes as you see pan in the pan.

So I have the main subject. What next? Because its Christmas, I definitely needed some pine branch. Also tried to add some traditional candy what we hang in the christmas tree but it was too much. Then added my all time favourite wooden knife.

Switched to my favorite lens – the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm –  that is a portrait lens but I use it for my food photos and works super fine.

As a food photographer you have to find the best look and angle for your food. I always shoot couple of more pics just for fun. And this is the moment when I start feeling “Yes, I got it”. I hope you feel the same watching my pics.

The secret point for a complete setup is the iced sugar sifter. You always have some props that makes the photo perfect. In this case, the sifter was the key.

If you are  interested about my works you can check out here:

Food: https://www.instagram.com/gasztronota/

Travel: https://www.instagram.com/dho_travel/

Official: https://www.instagram.com/danielhorvathofficial/

And if you are interested about recipes you can check my blog here. http://gasztronota.blog.hu

I know its hungarian but google translate is magic 🙂

Dániel Horváth


Daniel Horvath is a self-taught food photographer who also love travel and festival photos. Based in Budapest, Hungary but travels all around the world as a musician and a bearded model influencer.

Daniel not only takes pictures but also cooks and shares his recipes on his blog.

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