Food Photography Equipment
Gear
Food Photography Equipment

Beginning food photographers are often curious what other foodies are using for food photography equipment. I can admit scouring the internet in search of ‘the best tripod for shooting food’ or ‘what lens is best for food photography’. In my opinion, it isn’t the gear that creates your amazing image, it’s the foodie behind the camera, but that doesn’t mean some good gear can’t hurt, right!

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Food photography equipment via Click it Up a Notch

Food Photography Equipment

  • No.
    01
    A dSLR (any one, seriously)

    It’s common for new photographers to get caught up into which is the best camera maker. The more important question should be, which brand makes the best camera for you. Because we are all different, it’s really important to get the camera in your hands before you invest in one. I have very strong opinions on why you should buy your body separate from the camera ‘kit’ lens & you can read more about that in this post, Looking to Buy a dSLR?. I started with a Nikon & that’s where I’ve stayed. I think another important thing to consider is how you’ll be using your camera. If you are serious about learning manual mode (& you should be) make sure that all your setting buttons are easy to access outside of your camera. My very first dSLR had one setting that could only be accessed from the internal menu, which made adjusting my settings a bit of a pain & caused me to upgrade much sooner than I planned. I also wouldn’t suggest dropping thousands to have the camera ‘all the pros use’. In my opinion, it’s better to gradually grow into your camera than end up with a beast that intimidates you. I currently shoot with a Nikon d800.

    Gear for Food Photography

  • No.
    02
    A Good Lens (or Two)

    Again, it’s very hard to recommend ‘the best food photography lens’ because it all depends on what you primarily shoot, your style & your budget. For a very long time I shot with a prime lens only, my Nikon 35mm f/1.8. I thought it was the bee’s knees & nothing could be better. I’d hear of foodies shooting with zoom lenses & think, ugh, who could do that!? Until I upgraded to a new camera & didn’t want to use my crop sensor prime lens on my full frame camera. By default, I reluctantly put my zoom lens on my camera & something magical happened! I fell in love. Now I shoot almost exclusively with my Tamron 28-74 f/2.8.

    While some people really love to get that f1.4 aperture on their prime lenses, I’m not as sure if it’s worth the cash. When shooting food, you will rarely (if ever) shoot wide open. I keep my aperture somewhere around f/3.2 & rarely need to shoot any more open that that.

    Gear for Food Photography

  • No.
    03
    A Good Tripod

    You may disagree with me on this one, but a good tripod is where I’m gonna tell you to spend a little more money. If you’re prone to sticker shock, maybe wait to look up prices of tripods right now! After years of shooting with a cheap, $30 tripod (that I eventually stopped using because it was seriously, such a pain & not worth the headache). I almost passed out when I started researching a new tripod. If you’re still having trouble coming to terms with the price tag of a new tripod, just consider this: you are expecting this tripod to be in charge of holding up (& not falling over or crashing into the ground) your thousands of dollars worth of camera & lens, right? So maybe a couple hundred bucks isn’t such a big deal after all? Personally, I use a Manfrotto tripod & love it.

    The big things to consider when investing in your tripod are first, how much gear do you need it to hold up? Take into account the weight of your camera, lens & anything else you might need to attach, like a tripod arm & counter balance (more on that next!). Now add up all the weight of those items & make sure your tripod will be able to handle your weight load. Secondly, the weight of the actual tripod alone. I’m assuming you won’t be lugging this thing up Mt Kilimanjaro, right? In that case, it shouldn’t bother you if it’s a little heavier than other tripods. The minimum height is something you should also consider. Do you want to place the tripod directly on a table top & shoot? You’d want one that will have a smaller minimum height. In my case, I sacrificed minimum height for a heavier load capacity but that’s something you’ll need to consider for your shooting. And probably the most important factor is what kind of head your tripod has. A quick release ball head tripod means you’ll be able to swing & swivel your camera (within reason) to your hearts content. You’ll find yourself less frustrated than if you were using a pan head.

  • No.
    04
    Tripod Arm

    Probably my most favorite ‘toy’ for shooting is my tripod arm. If you love arial shots but don’t love bending over at the waist or precariously positioning your feet on different pieces of furniture then you’ll also love a tripod arm. Simple to attach to your tripod mount, it allows for arial shots at any height. Make sure you find an appropriate counterweight as well to keep your tripod for tipping.

    Food photography equipment via Click it Up a Notch

  • No.
    05
    Remote

    A wireless remote can be such a handy thing for shooting on a tripod. It allows you to essentially be hands free from your shot. You can stage your frame & never worry about if you may move your tripod as you’re hitting the shutter button.

  • No.
    06
    Tether Cable

    Shooting while tethered to a cable can be really beneficial. I personally don’t do it but I know a lot of people who prefer it. One reason is that it puts your images straight to your laptop or computer. You can see the images on a screen as opposed to in your viewfinder, you’re not dealing with any cards & your images are automatically backed up onto your computer. If tethered shooting is something you’re hoping to do at any point you should make sure your camera & editing software is compatible with doing so.

  • No.
    07
    Editing Software

    I do all my editing in Lightroom 5. I personally think most editing systems can be useful, some more beneficial than others. The biggest things you’ll want to be editing when shooting food will be fixing your horizons, white balance (if you haven’t nailed it in camera) & exposure. It’s also nice to able to digitally remove a crumb or two if something is out of place in your frame.

Do you have any food photography equipment you’d add to this list? What’s the one piece of gear you can’t live without?

29 Comments
  • January 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    Very interesting! Enjoyed reading this and found it helpful!

  • Tricia
    January 9, 2015 at 11:04 AM

    Thanks much!

  • January 9, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    Great article! I’m not exactly an aspiring food photographer, although I would love to make a cookbook of family favorites and include great food images from the kitchen and am totally enamored by the tripod arm! Guessing it’d be awesome to use on flowers in the garden too. I just upgraded my tripod and agree 100% that it’s worth the money to protect the investment of our camera and lens. My tripod is a Benro with a Manfrotto ball head grip. Thanks again for an informative article!

    • January 9, 2015 at 12:13 PM

      Thanks, Tina! That sounds like an awesome idea to collect your families recipes. What a treasured gift for everyone.

  • January 9, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    Very cool to get a look at what it takes…now if only I liked to cook!?! Great article Tricia!

  • January 9, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    Thank you for this post! The section about the tripod is very helpful. That’s my next investment and I wasn’t sure where to start. Appreciate the insight!

    • January 9, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      Hey Stephanie! I did a ton of reading & comparing tripods as well. The things I listed where the things that really stuck out to me as deal breakers & helped me pair down what would be the best fit for me. The only thing I wish my tripod did was have a lower minimum height because then I could shoot with it on the actual table but I made that concession for the other features I needed. :)

  • January 9, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    Over the years working with photographers shooting food. I would say the best food photographers have a very close working relationship with an excellent food stylist. They’re worth there weight in gold.
    Tom

  • Brooke
    January 9, 2015 at 6:06 PM

    Great info. I am finally going to upgrade my lens and start putting my camera to good use. Thanks for the motivation.

  • January 10, 2015 at 1:48 AM

    This is a great article and I wish I had found something like this when I started out just under a year ago. :-)

    I do completely agree with you about the need to spend good money on a tripod. I’m finding that mine (which was given to me by a relative) has it’s limitations as its actually a video tripod with no tripod arm.

    I will need to look into that area a little more when I’ve saved up!

    • January 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM

      Hey, Neil. Yeah, I totally shot with a jinky, old tripod that made me want to rip my hair out. Once I got a quality tripod my life changed! Not really, but kind of. ;)

  • January 14, 2015 at 1:25 PM

    Great article! I’m still learning every day (and really, do we ever stop?) – I love all these tips, and would also love to learn more about lights, staging, and backgrounds.

    • January 16, 2015 at 5:52 PM

      Thanks Dee! You’re right. Always learning. :) I’ll add that to my list of topics to cover! Thanks for the suggestion.

  • January 19, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    Hi Trisha! Thanks for your article, it was super helpful! I follow you on instagram and your feeds are always so inspirational! In fact, my husband came across your pictures on my feed and commented how great they look and that I need to take more pictures for our sparkling cider business! I noticed that a lot of your pictures are shot from up above and I’m struggling to be creative with taking pictures of our sparkling cider bottle from up above. Do you have any tips or tricks? Thanks again for this article and your instagram feeds, I love it!

    • January 21, 2015 at 8:59 AM

      Hey Rachel!
      Thanks so much for following me on Instagram! I LOVE my followers. Next time you’re on there, tag me so I can check out your feed. I think you definitely have a challenge when taking aerial pictures of a bottle. A couple things you might consider. Setting up a shoot where you have a tight focus on the top of the bottle. Then the rest of the frame will be in the background but still part of the story. You could also try laying the bottle on it’s side. Check out this picture where I laid the bottle on it’s side & used a glue dot to affix it to the table. http://instagram.com/p/xH5PxFh0eW/?modal=true Hope that helps!

      • Dave
        March 23, 2017 at 2:48 PM

        Rahael,
        One idea to try is shooting the bottkes/glasses with lighting coming from under the bottles to show off the bubbles. Back or side lighting will also achieve this as well.
        Good luck & have fun!

  • January 20, 2015 at 6:08 PM

    I really enjoyed the article! I never do food photography but I think now, I might try! Thanks.

    • January 21, 2015 at 8:59 AM

      Thanks Cynthia!

  • Isa
    February 2, 2015 at 10:05 PM

    good article. I have a question.. i have a manfrotto tripod MK394-H and i also purchase this arm that you show here, but i can’t figure out how to put it on the tripod… I think i have to buy another part or probably another type of tripod, this is the one I have. http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-MK394-H-Photo-Movie-Aluminum-Release/dp/B004MKNJBQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1422932346&sr=1-1&keywords=manfrotto+mk394-H

    Do you have an Idea or any suggestions for me?

    Thank you,

    Isa

  • www.theartofsophistication.com
    November 26, 2016 at 11:55 PM

    Great tips. Looks like I may have to invest in the tripod arm for some nice aerial shots. Thanks for the tip.

  • Adam Warren @ www.foodandfitnessalways.com
    April 1, 2017 at 3:22 AM

    Hey Cynthia,

    Many thanks for a great article! I found this article because I’m one of those food bloggers that’s sick of bending over trying to take the perfect overhead shot with my D800 Nikon!

    Anyway I’m trying to do the maths regarding weight and what new tripod to buy and hoping you can help? As you know the D800 is about 1kg, the lens will be around 200g.

    Do I need to take any other weights into account before purchasing a tripod if I’m going to buy a side arm and counterweight?

    Thanks!

    • Adam Warren @ www.foodandfitnessalways.com
      April 1, 2017 at 3:23 AM

      P.S. So sorry I called you Cynthia!

  • Lea
    June 9, 2017 at 5:05 AM

    Thanks for a very useful article!

  • alex c
    August 4, 2018 at 5:27 AM

    C-Stand. This is very sturdy and useful for food photography. You can also put your camera and do that overhead shot easily, especially if you need to take your camera to a higher level which a tripod cannot do.

  • Paul Heim
    August 25, 2018 at 12:09 AM

    Hi!

    Im looking for a dSLR Camera to take pictures of the meals I cook for my private chef business. I would also like to record small videos. What set up would you recommend around the 1k-1.5k range?

    I am a beginner with photography but would like a great camera that I can learn to use that will last.

    Thank you!!!

  • The Bee Master
    June 4, 2019 at 7:49 PM

    bees. all the bees. this is about food photography but i will use this to photograph bees.

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