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.
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.