Food photography tricks: Preston Ray is Controlling the Light | Profoto (NL)

Rising light: Preston Ray Goes From Chasing the Light to Controlling the Light in food photography

26 January, 2017

Written by: Harley Anderson

Rising Light is an article series highlighting promising photography students from all over the world. This month we introduce Preston Ray at School of Visual Communication at Ohio University and talk food photography tricks.

The problem with growing up in Havre Montana is that despite an abundance of endless big skies and scenic landscapes, there’s a serious shortage of photography schools. Graphic design programs you can find. Photography departments? Zilch. Odd as it may sound if it wasn’t for the fact Preston Ray fell in love with a girl from Romania he might not have ever discovered the wonders of studio lighting.

Preston has been taking pictures for the better part of 15 years. It wasn’t until he began pursuing an MA degree in Commercial Photography at the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University at Athens, where his now wife is pursuing her PHD, that he discovered the wonders of studio lighting. Being a self-admitted control freak, studio lighting was in his eyes the tools he needed to break through a few creative walls he had been facing. Rather than chasing the light Preston Ray slowly began learning how to control the light.


Preston was smitten with the school’s extensive library of Profoto lighting equipment.  And very soon he opted to purchase his own Profoto D1 3-head Studio kit, which he keeps on-the-ready in his home studio for times the creative bug kicks in during the wee hours of the evening.


While travel and portrait photography has always been his primary interests, Preston took an acute interest in food and still life photography after experiencing a weekend portrait photography workshop at the BurkleHagen Photography studio in Cleveland.

It was during this weekend where he was able to finally apply his undergraduate graphic design training with his growing understanding of studio lighting. It was also during this weekend that Ray came to the realization it was possible for him to actually earn a living doing what he loves doing the most.


Preston Ray’s food studies are visually tight, well composed, and lit accordingly. Ray is particularly fond of the Profoto Softbox RFi 1×4’, which he often uses with grids. He finds strip lights particularly adept for selectively lighting his subjects and controlling fall-off and stray light.


In addition to strip lights, Preston also makes good use of his Profoto Softboxes RFi 1,3×2’ and RFi 2×3’, as well as his Profoto Zoom Reflectors, all of which he regularly uses with grids.

Ray’s current camera system is composed of a Nikon D750 with 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 105mm f/2.8 Micro, and 70-200mm f/2.8 Nikkor AF lenses.


Along with studying the work of other photographers, particularly photographer Joey L, Ray offers many kudos to Larry Hamel-Lambert, who’s brain he constantly picks for information and inspiration, creative, technical, and otherwise.

Though he has a knack for portraiture, Ray has been leaning more towards food and automotive still life mostly because he can fuss over the detail with inanimate subjects easier than living and breathing subjects. As for the future, Preston says he’d like nothing better than to be able to travel the world and photograph all of the more visually stimulating dishes he encounters along the way.






Preston Ray’s Toy Box


Photographer: Preston Ray

School: School of Visual Communication at Ohio University at Athens

Visit his website:

Written by: Harley Anderson