So, you finally started a food blog. Can I get a woot, woot!
Sorry about the woot, woot-ing. I won’t let it happen again.
It’s just that I’m super excited for you. I remember when I first started Shared Appetite. It was a fun, exhilarating time.
So most likely you are here because you want to improve your food photography skills. Yea, me too. I am constantly striving to take better images. My goal is to make people instantly salivate uncontrollably.
Although the absolute most important element in photography is YOU, having the right tools certainly helps a ton.
Here’s the gear that I love and would highly recommend for anyone ready to take their food photography to the next level. Ready or not, here’s a list of my favorite food photography gear…
I very happily use a Canon EOS 6D and absolutely love it. It’s Canon’s answer for price-conscious consumers wanting a full frame dSLR. Besides capturing beautiful images for all the recipes I create, it also sports unprecedented low-light focusing sensitivity.
Huh, what? Low light focusing sensitivity? So what? Basically, that means that it’s pretty kick-butt in restaurants, where good lighting is a rarity (like here, here, or here).
Tyler uses a bit of a higher end camera (isn’t he fancy). If you have some extra cash burning in your pocket and want the top of the line, this Canon EOS 5D Mark III is your camera.
If you’re brand new to photography and want a more introductory, beginner dSLR camera, try this Canon EOS Rebel T3i on for size.
And of course no matter what camera you choose, grab yourself a decent-sized memory card for all those RAW files you’ll be shooting. I use these Transcend 32 GB Flash Memory Cards for my camera (although just check on yours to see if it takes the same format memory card).
The first lens I ever bought for my Canon EOS 6D was the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8ii. It is without a doubt my top recommendation for beginnning, budding food photographers. Although it’s not an L series lens (Canon’s top tier lenses), it still takes beautiful, high quality images with great color.
It’s hands down the best bang for your buck when you’re just starting out. At only $110, it’s light weight and very portable, making it ideal for shooting food in restaurants and at home. Since it’s a prime lens (fixed focal length, not zoom), the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8ii forces you to move around your food more, helping you to gett creative with composition and angles.
Once I felt comfortable with my camera (and had some spare cash), I quickly got my hands on a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro Lens. This baby is probably the most popular lens food photographers use. With a macro lens like this one, you can get capture up close, crystal clear details in your food.
My guess is that you just don’t want to take photos of food with your camera. You’ll be going on vacation, taking photos of family, and just need a fantastic all-purpose lens that’s perfect for portrait and landscape photography. The answer is the very versatile Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Zoom Lens. I use this lens for food photography too. It’s like the swiss army knife of the lens world.
So there you have it. Those are the 3 lenses I currently own.
But everyone has a wish list. Here is what’s on mine…
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens – the higher end version of the 50mm lens I currently own.
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM Wide Angle Lens – an amazing lens for portrait photography.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens – this has some serious zoom, great for sporting events and wedding photography.
Now that you have all those lenses, protect them with UV Filters! A tiny glass cap that attaches to your lens, a UV Filter will block harmful ultra violet rays and will protecs your lens glass from scratches, dust, and other bad things. That’s the key right there. It will protect your precious lens glass from all sorts of yucky stuff.
And if you’re like me, it can totally save your $2,000 lens if it rolls down 3 concrete steps onto the patio. Seriously.
Tripod and Remote.
Can I be honest with you? I’m not in love with my current tripod. It’s a good tripod and is doing it’s job for the most part, but there are some intricacies that drive me nuts. So that’s why I’m going to hold off on suggesting a specific one to you.
But that being said, you need a tripod.
When I first started shooting food, I thought tripods were extremely limiting in the creative process. You can’t move around the food and try different angles. Wrong. Completely and utterly wrong.
As soon as I started shooting on my tripod consistently, I found it incredibly freeing. I was able to produce more consistent images that were cleaner, crisper, and get this… more creative. It frees up your hands to adjust your frame, fix props and food styling, and allows you to use a slower shutter speed without having any accidental blur from your hand movement.
And while you’re at it, get yourself a remote.
I love love love love love love my Cowboy Studio Wireless Remote (that’s a lot of loves). It allows me to be completely free from the camera so I can work on manipulating the light a little more (block out/reflect) and can use my hands to fix the food, hold something in place, or do some sort of action shot like pouring.
This Fotodiox Pro 48’x72′ 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc is a beast. It does an amazing job of diffusing harsh light (i.e. direct sunlight). I prop it right up against my window and it transforms the sunshine into beautifully diffused light perfect for food photography.
They sell all different sizes, but I really like this super gigantic one the best since it can fill up the entire window. Aaaand, you can bring it outside with you for great looking photos of backyard BBQs, action shots at the grill, and whatever else you can think up.
Get it. You’ll thank me later. I promise.
Lowel Ego Tabletop Lights.
Natural light is king. It’s what I utilize 99% of the time.
But sometimes life gets in the way, doesn’t it? Life tends to do that…
Especially during the winter, when it’s dark out when I wake up and dark out when I get out of work, it’s impossible to photograph in natural light unless you do it all on the weekends. #foodbloggerproblems
The best solution I have found are these Lowel EGO Lights. The are SUPER simple to use. It’s literally an on/off switch and boom, beautiful filtered light. That’s it.
I have 2 of them that came in a handy dandy bundle set. They are lightweight, very portable, and give off great light. And you’ll find that most food photographers recommend these bad boys. They are the answer for when you want diffused light for food photography at night. Period.
External Hard Drive.
I always back up all of my photos onto an external hard drive. I’ve heard way to many horror stories of people losing all of their images due to a computer crashing or damage to its built-in hard drive. Scary scary sacry.
So all of my images are backed up onto this Western Digital 1TB Portable External Hard Drive.
Be safe, people.
There are several options for photo editing out there. Some free, some mighty expensive.
My absolute favorite? Hands down it’s Adobe Lightroom. I only use Lightroom for my photo editing. It’s reasonably priced for the incredibly beast that it is.
And Adobe Lightroom makes it incredibly easy to process your images. It’s very user friendly (unlike Photoshop) and allows you to copy and paste your settings to an entire batch of photos, saving you loads of time.
Did I mention I love Lightroom?
Tasty Food Photography eBook.
Now that you have all your gear, it’s time to get shooting!
But before you do, let’s talk resources. There are a lot of food photography books out there. One of the best that I’ve found is this Tasty Food Photography eBook. Written by Lindsay from over at Pinch of Yum, the book is super easy to ready, very practical, and it will help you to create mouth-watering images in no time.
Not only is the information really spot-on, the book is filled with extremely helpful instructional images and videos. I’m telling you, it’s a must if you want to quickly improve your food photography skills. It’ll be the best $20 you spend on improving your food photography. Promise.
Disclaimer: Please note that many of the links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you purchase through those links. It does not increase the price of the product for you in any way, but does help me out 🙂 I have used most of these products and recommend them because they are incredibly helpful and are companies that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products.
I just recently bought Lindsay’s book and it really is a great resource.
Thanks for all these tips Chris! I so want to move towards some of the better lenses out there but they get pricey fast! I definitely need a lens protector ASAP.
Yes, it definitely does get MIGHTY pricey Sam! The UV Filters are a MUST. That $30 I spent on one literally saved my $2,000 lens from cracking.
Thanks for all the tips – a very helpful post! I do have a question, though, about the order in which you would recommend investing in these things. Obviously all the equipment (and props, etc.) can add up, so what are the first things I should look into – the lighting aids like diffusers and photo-editing software, or should I focus on the camera upgrade first? (I’m a grad student, so the budget is pretty tight!)
Great question… it definitely does add up quickly!!! I don’t have a definite answer for you, but I can tell you what I did. I started off with a very basic introductory dSLR. Once I started wanting to learn food photogrpahy, I bought that cheap 50mm lens and learned how to shoot manual on the basic dSLR. I shot RAW files and then got Lightroom and a diffuser (both are going to help out your photography a ton). If you’re shooting raw, Lightroom allows you to fix SO much stuff in post-processing, such as color, clarity, shadows, shading, etc. After that, I saved up for a nice camera body and constantly am saving for new lenses. The first one I bought after the 50mm was the 100mm Macro, and then the 24-70mm. Hope that helps!!
So I totallt thought after all the hours (seriously I’ve spent more hours than I could ever care to imagine on photography) researching I thought I’d heard it all. But you’ve just shown me an amazing lighting source that I’ve never seen before. Winter scares me.. seriously, it makes me want to give up completely with no natural light. Going to check them out now!
The lowel ego lamps are really great. They are a bit different than natural light, but once you play around with positioning of them a bit, they are a really, really great resource!
Great post Chris! I dont use my tripod consistently because I, like you, feel like it is limiting but I guess I need to give it a second try! Thanks for all the helpful info… always love your beautiful shots!
Now… off to practice practice practice. 🙂
Once I starting using a tripod consistently, I fell in love with it. My shots have been getting much more consistent, sharper, and I can focus more on composition. Definitely worth a second try!
Great photography tips, Chris! Getting Lightroom is definitely on my To Do List. I’ve used a tripod a couple times lately …. Hate It!
Lightroom is FANTASTIC! I think you’d love it! I hated the tripod at first also… but it grows on you, I promise! It makes life MUCH easier in the long run once you get used to it 🙂
Kelly - LEFT SIDE OF THE TABLE
I found this very helpful!! It’s quite overwhelming the cost of all these things, however it’s a great investment. I’m a little sad, I went to sign up for creative cloud to use lightroom, and realized my MAC is too old for it. So now I need a new Mac, Lightroom and a DSLR. Only ya know, $5,000 or so. haha all in good time 😉 I need to get Lindsays Ebook!!
Oh jeez… that’s a triple threat of purchases! Eh, just $5K… you have that lying around in a shoe box somewhere in your house, right?! Hahaha don’t we all wish. All in good time is correct 🙂 Little by little!
What a great post Chris! I don’t always use my tripod since I get lazy to lug it out all the time so definitely gotta get my butt into gear 🙂 Love these tips!
Hahaha I used to never use a tripod either, but since I’ve made the commitment to use it every time, it’s really worth it. I just leave it set up… but that’s one of the benefits of no kids running around our house yet… we have a little bit of spare room for all my photo gear. I’m sure it’ll be a lot tougher to leave up once we have kiddies and all their toys taking up room!
I love food photography but don’t really enjoy the techy stuff, so it’s great to get these tips, Chris. On my current wishlist are the macro lens and the Lowel Ego lights. In fact I think they’ll be pretty much essential when I move back to the UK and there is pretty much zero light in the winter. Thanks!
Love my macro lens and my Lowel Ego lights!!! Yes, super essential for dark winters!
Awesome Chris! Way to put together. I’ve had my eye on that 24-70 lens for awhile. Can’t wait til the cash is in hand so I can buy it….some day soon hopefully.
Have I mentioned I love blogging and photography? So much fun!
Yes, that 24-70 lens is really awesome. I love it for food and portraits. Start saving those pennies… you’ll have it in no time 🙂
Yankee Kitchen Ninja (Julianne)
Super handy post, Chris — you’ve convinced me to buy the book, too. 🙂
I found the book super useful. It’s very user friendly and full of images to help demo different concepts. Hope you enjoy it!
Chris, pretty new follower here and I love your posts. This post on photography is very timely for me. I’ve put the 6D on my wish list. Have the T3i and the 2.8 macro. I also have the 50mm but so close to getting the 50 mm 1.2. Using the book and just installed Lightroom and hope that’s a bit easier than PSE11. Keep writing such great articles! Love your tips and photos!!
Thanks so much Deb! Glad to hear that you found it useful. You totally made my day 🙂 And yes, Lightroom is MUCH easier to use than Photoshop. MUCH!
Super insightful! Thank you so much for breaking everything down. I don’t plan on photographing food exclusively, but I think all of the items you recommended will help with everything I plan to take pictures of for my blog/website. Keep up the great posts! Thanks!
Yea, I don’t exclusively do food photography either. My buddy and I just started a wedding/engagement photo business and the 24-70 mm lens and 35mm lens are invaluable for those. Also, I love using my 100mm macro for up close shot of the engagement/wedding rings. We also use the diffuser for when it’s crazy sunny and want nice, soft light on the couple. Works like a charm. Oh, and lightroom… yea lightroom is da bomb!
I’ve been meaning to get a diffuser for the longest time – I need to just buy one. I have a sheer curtain on my one window I use most often but when I need to move or take pictures in a different area it’s a pain in the butt! Can’t exactly move that curtain around too much : )
Hahaha yea I used to do the same… this diffuser is really amazing. It’s super portable and fills up even the biggest windows. I love it.
Great post Chris! It’s always fun to see what equipment bloggers are using! I LOVE my tripod, but I rarely use it any more. And Lightroom? It’s my BFF. 🙂
Lightroom should be everyone’s BFF!
I love your photos. They are always beautiful. love those reflectors and the ego light. Those are two of my favorites. I always use a tripod and remote. I seem to always shake a tad when I take a shot holding the camera. Great information Chris!I
Thanks so much Cindy! You’re too kind!
Bri | Bites of Bri
Chris, love this post! Thanks for sharing your faves!
Glad you found it useful! Thanks Bri!
this is golden Chris!! I hope you’re getting some direct linkage $$ from Amazon, bc I am legit buying stuff right now!!
A few questions though: 1 – With the Fotodiox package, do you find you just utilize the diffuser, or have the reflectors come in handy as well? I’d be interested to know if you are using these, and how. (I’m assuming the white bounce board comes in handy!)
2 – I’ve been thinking about purchasing Lightroom for awhile now, but I’m curious as to how it deals with “white balance” issues – Is there an easy correcting tool that Lightroom has for this?
3 – More WB questions, since it is my biggest photography struggle. In your personal food photography do you shoot under a customized white balance, or simply on the “daylight” setting and then you correct in post-editing? Would really appreciate some feedback on this 🙂
Thanks so much Christine! I’m glad you are finding this useful 🙂 That’s why I did it!
1) I mostly use the diffuser for food photography, although the white and black are great for reflecting light/blocking out light when needed. The only time I really use the silver and gold are when I’m taking photos of people and we want to warm up or cool down their skin tones a bit (but that’s rare).
2) The white balance in Lightroom is FANTASTIC! This article explains the 3 ways you can change white balance in lightroom: http://digital-photography-school.com/3-ways-to-change-white-balance-in-lightroom/ I find it incredibly easy to fix my images in lightroom in regards to white balance. I used to solely use iPhoto before I got Lightroom, and that did a terrible job of white balance. In Lightroom, you can either use the temperature sliders (yellow/blue and then green/magenta), or you can use the little dropper tool… drop it on a neutral grey or white, and it will white balance the image for you. Typically what I do is use the little dropper tool, which gets the image close to where I want it, then tweek the temperature sliders until I get it right where i want it. I found that my photos improved a TON once I started using Lightroom for post processing.
3) For food photography, I always leave my camera’s white balance on daylight. I know some people like to custom white balance in camera, but I just don’t. I like doing all that in Lightroom (again, because lightroom makes it so easy). For portrait photography (engagement/weddings etc), I leave my camera on cloudy white balance. For restaurant food photography, I either do daylight if it’s mostly natural light (sitting by window), or either tungsten or flourescent depending upon what the majority light source is.
Let me know if you have any questions! I’m happy to help!
amazing responses Chris, and thank you so much for that Lightroom link – already bookmarked it to my favorites 🙂 Really appreciate you taking the time to write such a thorough response, I’m going to follow all of your suggestions!
have a great weekend!
Of course! My pleasure! Let me know if you ever have any other questions. I’m happy to share!
What a fantastic post and great, great information! I am jealous of all your awesome gear 🙂
Hahaha thanks 🙂 I’m buying it a little at a time 🙂