How to set Exposure Time in Food Photography

Silvain • updated June 21, 2022 • 2 min read

How to set Exposure Time in Food Photography

Exposure time, as the name implies, describes how long an image is exposed. To put it another way, how long does the camera allow light to fall on the sensor before closing the opening?

That’s why exposure time is also called shutter speed.

Camera Exposure Basics

With the exposure time, you can influence the brightness of your photo. If you use a long exposure time, your picture will be brighter. If you use a shorter exposure time, your picture will be darker.

But it always depends on your aperture and your ISO setting.

  • So there is no general setting that always works. It also depends on the prevailing light situation and your subject.
  • In good weather, for example, you can choose a short exposure time.
  • However, if it gets darker in the evening, it may make sense to use a longer exposure time to capture more light. If you shoot handheld, i.e. without a tripod, you should not go below approx. 1/80 second (depends on the lens).
  • If you use a longer exposure time, you may blur your image. The longer you expose it, the more your camera will be affected by small movements.
  • It gets interesting when movement in the object comes into play.
  • For example, if you want to photograph a waterfall. With a long exposure time, the waterfall is soft and in motion in the photo, but with a short exposure time, the movement of the water is “frozen”.

Graphic Illustration Exposure Triangle in Photography

Exposure time in Food Photography

In food photography, we rarely have to deal with waterfalls. But even if it doesn’t look like it at first, movement can also play a role in food photography.

For example, if you want to capture hand movement as you are spreading frosting on a cake, a slow shutter speed can be a good design tool. The slow shutter speed makes the hand look blurry, which the viewer interprets as motion. also called motion blur.

  • You can use shutter speed to bring a little more dynamics into your static image and make it a little more interesting.
  • But you can also use the opposite, a fast shutter speed, to create interesting food images. We have learned that a fast shutter speed freezes motion. This often makes sense with liquids.
  • You can freeze flowing liquid with a very fast shutter speed (about 1/500). Like here with coffee. 
 Exposure Time in Food Photography, coffee splash
Coffee splash, @ikredenets

The result: the splashed coffee is captured at exactly the right millisecond and the result is an exciting image.

The exposure time is not only used to make your photo brighter or darker but can also be used as a creative tool to generate exciting images.


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By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.


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