Need to brush up on your Food Photography skills and equipment? This Food Photography Gift Guide will cover everything you need to get started if you have been bitten by the food photography bug.
I am always amazed at the natural talent some bloggers have when it comes to food photography. I have to work at it. But I have come a long way since my early blogging days and am really improving in the last couple of years. One reason is having better equipment. Little by little I am building my food photography studio. I want to share with you some items got that really helped and some items I am still lusting after. Check out this Food Photography Gift Guide for your needs or your favorite influencer!
Updated: July 2018
Breaking bad habits
It’s early December and I am going to tell you my blog resolutions. This way you can hold me accountable for my slacking tendencies. Last year I rebranded my blog name completely. So my resolutions to keep improving are 1) I really need to change my theme to a better and quicker one (DONE) 2) I want to pick one social media platform and abuse it to the fullest positive capacity (DONE) 3) And I have been putting off my food photo skills for too long (improved). That is where I got the idea to prepare this Food Photography Gift Guide for you just in time for the holidays!
Now I will assume you have food in front of you and a camera to shoot it with. You can technically take pictures of food with any camera. How well you use your camera will have a massive impact, regardless of the type of camera you have. If you choose to get a more performing camera, check out this post on the best camera for food travel.
I am so guilty of using my smartphone because it is there and easy. My smartphone camera has almost as many megapixels as my DSLR, which is insane. But to truly improve I will need to go back to taming my Canon Rebel DSLR camera. Update: I have upgraded to Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera and it is now my main camera.
Ideal Essential Equipment
And the first item on my wish list is a new Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Normal Lens for Canon EF Cameras. It is considered THE intro lens to food photography!
Update: the Canon M6 has a 3/4 build so the lenses are smaller. But there is an adapter ring, the Andoer EOS EF Lens Mount Adapter, you can use if you have the nifty fifty listed above.
Why would you want a specific lens just for food? Your camera came probably with an 18-55 mm zoom lens so why should you get a prime (fixed) lens within the range that you already have? Because you will take much sharper pictures! There are fewer parts moving. Prime lenses also have much wider apertures (the f/1.8), allowing for that out-of-focus background.
Get Stable and Steady
Lighting is a huge factor. Proper lighting and playing with shadows is key in creating atmosphere, removing shadows or too much direct light. I shoot often in the evening and if I am home during the day I have zero direct sunlight. Help! I was recommended this kit by a fellow blogger: CanadianStudio 1600 W Video Photo Studio lighting Softbox light kit with 2 light stands, 8 5500K light bulbs, 2 softboxes and carrying case. It’s a good price for a starter kit as well and I really hope to get this soon.
A must in your food photography kit is a tripod. You think you have a steady hand while taking that pic and once you upload it to your laptop it is completely out of focus. A tripod would keep the camera steady. This Professional PRO 72″ Super Strong Tripod With Deluxe Soft Tripod Carrying Case is perfect as it goes up to 72 inches (over top shots on a high table), it is very sturdy and the price is right at around 30$ CAD.
Not as ideal for food but if you want to take handheld movement shots, I just got the Cam Caddie Scorpion Jr. Video Camera Stabilizing Handle and I found it made a really big difference to stabilize video. It is a very cheap and effective alternative to a gimbal with would be triple digest in price. it can also be used with a smartphone, an action camera, and has a horseshoe on the top of the handle to attach lights or microphones.
Props and Chops
The final and thankfully cheap item you need is reflectors so you can bend the light to your will! You can buy professional reflectors but frugal photographers will simply get a bunch of White and Blackboards at their local craft shop or dollar store. It can be a foam backboard or a plain construction paper sheet.
OK so we are equipped and we have a cooked dish. What is next for the Food Photography Gift Guide? Props, props, and props. You have to dress up that ‘shot’ you have in mind to make it more appealing. That is a whole other topic I need to explore personally in my journey but I’ll get you started on what you may need.
Cheap or Free Prop ideas
A must include in a Food Photography Gift Guide: plates, utensils, tablecloth, napkins, cute seasonal decorations, ribbons, twine, backdrops, etc…you get the idea! Here are great places to find such things:
- SwankyPrints on Etsy is awesome for 2×2 ft photography backdrops (see A).
- Ikea As-Is section – check out cupboard doors, they can make great backdrops for like 5$.
- Cheap decor stores, Chinatown or discounted sections. Remember YOU ONLY NEED ONE PLATE for a shot.
- Home renovation stores – I found a welcome map with a realistic wood background for 10$, seen here for this cinnamon bun shot (see B).
- Flea markets and garage sales are also great for plates and props.
- Garbage on the street! No, I am serious I once found a piece of slate countertop (see C)!
- Cristina over at I Say Nomato did a fabulous DIY post on making your own backdrops for under 30$ CAD!
- More DIY Food Styling tricks by Canva.
Improving your technique
- If you are looking for a great post for starting out in Food Photography click the link! Sally’s Baking Addiction has written a great article to get an idea of what you are getting yourself into 😉
- I also have a Pinterest board on Food Photography with great free resources you can check out!
- A book I like to “get” lighting is Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs
- And a great book focused on taking clicks of food is Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling
Touching it up
OK, we finally took our pictures, woohoo! Now you want to make them just a bit better? That is where a photo editing software comes in and shoud be included in this Food Photography Gift Guide. There are simple free ones online that do not require a whole lot of knowledge but if you are serious about your food photography I recommend you look into a good one and take the time to learn in. They do come with a learning curve. Here are a few ones…
- GIMP, it is a free open source software, not bad
- Photoshop, my personal fave that I use (monthly subscription)
- Lightroom, the other one most photographer’s use (monthly subscription)
Cameras I use
If you are curious, I use the following camera now for food photography and for my youtube videos. It is the Canon EOS M6 (Black) EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Kit. I freaking love it. It compact, light and easy to carry in a big purse. The quality of the photos and videos is amazing compared to a phone or older camera. And LOVE the flip up screen for selfies.
Keeping your old camera as a secondary one is a good idea, for example, I use for my YouTube videos if I want to shoot two angles. It is the Canon EOS Rebel T5 18MP DSLR camera. It is an entry level DSLR but it does the job until I have a 4-digit budget!
Food Photography Gift Guide Wrap-up
So tell me about your food photography set up:
- What kind of camera do you have?
- Do you use lighting and boards?
- What items in this Food Photography Gift Guide would top your list of must-have?
- What photography level are you at: beginner, intermediate, advanced?
Quick List for the Food Photography Gift Guide
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Normal Lens for Canon EF Cameras
- Andoer EOS EF Lens Mount Adapter
- CanadianStudio 1600 W Video Photo Studio lighting Softbox light kit with 2 light stands, 8 5500K light bulbs, 2 softboxes and carrying case
- Professional PRO 72″ Super Strong Tripod With Deluxe Soft Tripod Carrying Case For The Canon EOS REBEL T3 (EOS 1100D) Digital Camera
- Cam Caddie Scorpion Jr. Video Camera Stabilizing Handle
- Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling
- Canon EOS M6 (Black) EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens Kit
- Canon EOS Rebel T5 18MP DSLR Camera With 18-55mm Lens Kit
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