If you want to capture awesome photos of delicious food stuffs you have to invest in some specific food photography equipment. You don’t need a lot, but there are some items you can’t do without and the food photography tools of the trade you need to make sure you have are………….
Food photography equipment – Camera
Arguably, you can use any camera for food photography however I would only use an interchangeable lens camera. The top end fixed focal length cameras, such as my Canon G1X, are very good but not as good as a mirrorless camera or dslr.
Food photography doesn’t require a fast camera, so you don’t need anything with really quick processors (like the Canon 7d), nor does it require the stupidly expensive full frame pro-spec cameras (like the Canon 5d). A midrange dslr camera, or if you prefer a top end mirrorless camera is more than good enough to capture great photos of food.
The camera I use for food photography is the Canon 6d (see review here). This camera is small, it is light and it is comfortable to use. This camera is user friendly, and the image quality is simply superb – thanks to the full frame sensor. The Canon 6d is my food photography camera of choice and I highly recommend it.
"The Canon 6d is my camera of choice for food photography"
Food photography equipment – lenses
Food is one of those subjects that requires you to get up close and personal for frame filling shots. Macro lenses are ideal for close up photos, however macro lenses are far from ideal for food photography.
Macro lenses are sharp and record details you can’t see with the naked eye. Take photos of food with a macro lens and you will see every minute detail, which isn’t always such a good thing. For example, you may be assigned to take some photos of fresh fruit. To the naked eye the fruit looks in perfect condition, but it turns as soon as it hits fresh air (i.e. starts going brown) and a macro lens will show these ‘nasty’ bits. Rather than using a macro lens it is better to use a lens that will still show the fruit at its best.
The lens I use for photographing food is the Canon 70 – 200 f4L IS lens (review here). With this lens I can stand back from the food and zoom in nice and close for a frame filling shot. Having a bit of working distance makes lighting and composition easier. This lens is sharp, but doesn’t record as much as a macro lens, which I find perfect. I bought the f4L IS version instead of the 70 – 200 f2.8L IS version because it is smaller, lighter and far cheaper. There is also no benefit having the f2.8 maximum aperture as f4 is plenty wide enough, and I usually shoot food photos at narrower apertures. If you want a good lens for food photography the Canon 70 – 200 f4L IS may be right up your street.
"The Canon 70 - 200 f4L IS is one of the lenses I use for food photography"
Food photography equipment – tripod
It is important that food photos are nice and sharp, and rather than playing around keeping the shutter speed up to make sure hand held shots are sharp I use a tripod for virtually all of my food photos. Okay, there are times when I will take hand held shots but I mainly use a tripod.
As well as ensuring photos are sharp, a tripod is also perfect for composing the photos and making sure the parts of the frame you want in focus are actually in focus. When I take photos of food I put the camera on the tripod, turn on live view mode and then move the camera around the food, looking for the best composition. Once I have found the perfect composition I zoom in to the part of the frame I want to focus on and then manually focus until it is sharp before taking the shot.
Many photographers don’t seem to appreciate just how useful a tripod is for food photography, and if you don’t have one in your food photography equipment bag I have to ask the question “why not?”
The tripod I use for my food photography is the Manfrotto Befree travel tripod. This tripod is small and light (making it easy to move around the subject searching for the perfect composition) but plenty strong enough to securely keep my Canon 6d / Canon 70 – 200 f4L IS lens in place during the exposure. This tripod packs away ultra-small, making it easy to store when not in use. For indoor food photography you can’t go wrong with the Manfrotto Befree tripod, and since it is so lightweight and portable it is great for on location food photography assignments too.
Food photography equipment – lighting
I always use artificial light for food photography and block out ambient light as much as I can. When I take photos of food I want total control over the lighting and don’t want to faff around trying to balance flash light with ambient light, or worse still flash light with tungsten/fluorescent light.
I have heard the argument (more times than I care to remember) that artificial lighting doesn’t look as ‘natural’ as ambient light and that artificial light is too bright, however I have to disagree. I use lamps with daylight balanced light bulbs for all my food photography. Using continuous lights means I can move the lamps around the food in order to make sure it is lit the way I want, before pressing the shutter button. Continuous lights clearly show where the hot spots are and where the shadows are, and I can sort them quickly. Continuous lighting is by far the best and easiest for food photography.
What is the best landscape lens? Hmmm…………….. this is a question that never fails to get photographers talking, or should that be arguing, and opinions are divided. You should never confuse a lens mainly for landscape photography but one that can be used for other types of photography and a lens solely to be used for landscape photography, however this is what many people seem to do. I mean………
Many people seem to think that landscape lenses need to be super sharp, which isn’t strictly true because landscape photos aren’t that detailed. Landscape lenses do need to have a good level of sharpness but they don’t need to be Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens sharp.
Many people seem to think that good landscape lenses need a wide maximum aperture, which is definitely not needed. The objective in landscape photography is to maximise the depth of field and get front to back sharpness, and this requires narrow apertures not wide ones. Many of the camera lenses marketed as “landscape lenses” have apertures of f2.8 or f4, which is ridiculous. I mean, when was the last time you shot a landscape at f2.8 or f4? I can guarantee that I have never used such wide apertures to shoot a landscape, and I never will. I am also guessing that many readers of this post have never used such wide apertures either.
Many people seem to think that landscape lenses need to be constructed out of the best materials, which isn’t true either. Landscape lenses do need to be tough and durable but they don’t need to be bombproof, and whilst “weather sealed” sounds good it really isn’t necessary. If you go to places and have to deal with the extremes (such as extreme dust, extreme humidity, extreme heat, extreme cold and extreme wetness) weather sealing is very useful. The thing is – how many people actually have to deal with the extremes on a regular basis? I am guessing not very many. Most people don’t need weather sealing and bombproof lenses so why pay for features you don’t really need?
From what I can tell from my time reading articles and blogs, and spending times on the various photography forums it seems that most photographers who shoot a Canon camera considers the Canon 16mm – 35mm f2.8L lens the best landscape lens out there, and whilst it is an exceptionally good lens I have to disagree. This lens has a wide maximum f2.8 aperture (which we have already established isn’t needed) and this lens is made from super tough materials and is not only weather sealed but also bombproof (again, we have already established this isn’t needed). This lens is also stupidly expensive which is to be expected, I mean the f2.8 aperture and tough materials don’t come cheap. If you want a lens solely for landscape the Canon 16 – 35 f2.8L lens is not the best lens by a long way. If you want a lens for landscapes photography and interior/indoor photography, fashion photography and group portraits however, this lens should be at the top of your list.
So, bearing in mind you don’t need anything super sharp, you don’t need a wide aperture and you don’t need weather sealing – what are the best landscape lenses? Well let’s take a look….
If you shoot a full frame camera the best landscape lens has to be the Canon 17mm – 40mm f4 lens. Whilst it may not be as wide as the 16mm – 35mm lens (but this is only just wider) it does have a longer reach, and there are times when this comes in to its own.
If you shoot a crop sensor camera the best landscape lens has to be the Canon 10mm – 22mm (effective focal length of 16mm – 35mm). This is a small, light and discreet lens with superb image quality.
Having the right lens will help you capture better landscape shots however using filters will take your landscape images to the next level. Many photographers argue that filters are redundant in the world of digital photography, however I would have to disagree with this. Okay, sitting in front of the computer and editing photos using Photoshop or Elements can create some filter effects but there are some effects that cannot be replicated post capture, and a filter must be used.
I use a square filter set up and my favourite landscape filter is the Zomei 10 stop ND for long exposures, and this is one effect even the most skilled and experienced Photoshop guru cannot replicate.
What is the best food photography lens? This is a good question, and since there is a specific ‘food photography lens’ (unless I have missed the Canon 15 – 200mm f1.2L IS food lens that is!) choosing the lens that is going to help you capture the best food photos possible can be a real headache. What with fish eye lenses, wide (and ultra-wide) angle lenses, prime lenses and zoom lenses there is so much choice out there it is all too easy to get confused.
The bottom line is any decent lens, and by decent I mean professional grade photography lenses (such as the Canon L series lenses) will capture stunning food photos with image quality more than good enough to make a buck or two. You can of course use a cheaper budget lens and still capture good quality food photos, it’s just that a more costly lens will make a better food photography lens than a cheaper lens.
My go to “food photography lens” is a macro lens and rather than reach for my Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens (which I use for insect photography) my food photography lens of choice is the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens and if anyone asked for my opinion for a food photography lens this would be my first recommendation.
Many people consider the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS lens (check out this review) the flagship macro lens even though the Canon 180mm macro lens is more expensive, so you may be wondering why I would recommend the 60mm macro lens instead. The Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens is a lot cheaper than the 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens, and price does come in to it, however the lower cost of the 60mm macro lens isn’t the only reason.
The Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is tack sharp (it is easily the sharpest camera lens I own) and it records details you can’t see with the naked eye. This may sound great, but you don’t need the level of detail the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens records. Basically, the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS lens is too sharp for food photography and if there are any imperfections with the food these will clearly show on the photograph, which is not good. The Canon 60mm does not record the same level of detail however it is still very sharp and a more than capable food photography lens.
Okay, so the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens is cheaper, it doesn’t show imperfections as easily – what else? Well….. The Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens is smaller, lighter and less imposing. The Canon 60mm feels well balanced, even on smaller Canon cameras. For example, the Canon 100mm f2.8L IS macro lens is balanced on my fully gripped Canon 7d (my preferred camera and lens combination for insect photography) but it feels too heavy when I put it on my (smaller) Canon 80d. The Canon 80d/100mm f2.8L IS macro lens combination simply feels wrong to me. On the other hand, when I put my Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens on the Canon 80d it feels balanced and is comfortable to use. When I put the 60mm f2.8 on the fully gripped Canon 7d (which I seldom do) you can barely tell there’s a lens on the camera. The Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens just works as a food photography lens.
So, if you are on the search for the perfect food photography lens you don’t need to look any further than the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens.
The best food photography lenses for full frame Canon cameras
If you shoot a full frame camera you won’t be able to use the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro lens because this is a crop sensor camera lens only. If you do shoot a full frame camera there are a couple of lenses that are sharp, but not super sharp making them perfect for food photography, and these comprise:-
Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L
"The Canon 24 - 70 f2.8L lens is awesome but it isn't cheap"
The Canon 24 – 70 lens is a bit of a beast (i.e. it is big and heavy) but it is a great lens for food photography. Being an L series lens it uses superior optics, and whilst it is a sharp lens it is not as sharp as a macro lens. The 24 – 70 zoom range is ideal for a variety of different framing/composition options too.
The Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L lens is expensive, and whilst some people may not be able to justify spending out for a new lens there are plenty of used Canon 24 – 70 f2.8L lenses out there in good condition and a second hand lens may be the way forward.
When I am looking to buy used photography equipment the first place I head for is eBay, where there are always loads of bargains to be had, and the eBay search box below may be of some use.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.