As food photographers we know lighting has its challenges, but sometimes you just need to think outside the box – the glass box, that is! We use natural light to photograph our food products, but the sun doesn’t always play nicely with our cameras. We use blocks of glass to diffuse and move the light in a more unique way than reflectors or softboxes can perform. When using natural light, you can’t decrease the intensity the same way you can with a strobe. Instead you need to use modifiers like mirrors to either take some light away from an area or add a little extra to a shadowy side. Glass blocks are great modifiers as they can soften the intensity of the light, which is as close as you can get to turning the dimmer switch down on the sun without simply putting up blackout curtains.
We also use glass blocks to create light streaks across a set when using strobes. This breaks up the light giving a splatter of highlight and shadows on the backdrop. As you can see in the photos below, the shadows are drastically changed with the presence of the glass in the background. Here is an example we did for a shoot:
The shadows around the plate and on the pizza in the first photo are much more defined and obvious. Using the glass blocks in the second photo, the shadows are softer and lighter, especially in all the little hills and valleys of the pizza toppings. Diffusing natural light can make a huge difference in any photo. For our work at BP Imaging, they are a must on a food shoot to control the hard directional main light from burning out the food in areas. We also use them in the background on a reflective surface to breakup the smoothness of the surface.
Grab a few blocks and see what they can do for you.