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As a photographer, you might not have ever thought about the exciting world of food photography. But food photography is a rapidly growing market for photographers. Did you know that high-quality food photographs can help small restaurants become the next big trend? And with people increasingly turning to online ordering through companies like Uber Eats and GrubHub, photographs of food are in high demand.

If you’re looking to break into the world of food photography, you’ll want to read this guide that will provide you with all the information you need to start taking great food shots and starting your own food photography business. 

Equipment needed for food photography

setting up a photo shoot

© Victor Cavasino / OCUS

When you’re just starting in food photography, you may be unsure of what equipment is necessary for your business. As a photographer, we’re sure you likely already have some of this equipment but we want to make sure that you have all the right equipment so that you can have the best chance of success at making money with food photography. 

1. Camera

There are a large number of food blogs that will tell you that you can take high-quality food pictures with your iPhone or another smartphone, but if you want to truly succeed in the food photography business you’ll need a camera capable of taking high-quality pictures, this isn’t the time for the point-and-shoot.

woman photographer

© Victor Cavasino / OCUS

You can choose either a DSLR or a modern mirrorless camera. While DSLR cameras are still the industry standard many professional photographers are moving over to mirrorless. Working to create the best images possible will require you to have the best camera that you can afford. But don’t worry, any investments you make here will be worth it when your food photography business starts to get clients.

Some quality cameras that you can use for food photography are:

While these are not the only cameras that you can use, they are some of the best cameras for food photography.

2. Lenses

When you’re working with food, the details are where you’ll hook your viewer. Seeing every morsel of delicious chocolate cake or the beads of moisture on a basket of freshly rinsed fruit is the difference between “That looks kinda yummy” and “Oh. My. Goodness. Where do I get that?”

To help your photographs of food exude deliciousness, you’ll want to use a macro lens. A macro lens will ensure that you can always get as close up as necessary. While you won’t need a macro lens with 1.0x or 1:1 magnification factors, it is still a good idea to have a macro lens.

photographer interviewed

© Victor Cavasino / OCUS

It is also important, when selecting your lens, to check the aperture rating. Faster aperture speeds will help you to make use of the available light. Additionally, you will want a lens with a wider aperture. Choosing wider apertures will help you to isolate specific parts of the dish for close-up detailed pictures.

We recommend that you use either a 30mm to 60mm macro prime lens with an aperture rating of f/2.8 if you use a crop-sensor camera. If; however, you use a full-frame camera you’ll want to choose a 90mm to 105mm macro prime with an f/2.8 rating. You can also use a 50mm or 35mm prime lens on a full-frame body but you’ll need to make sure that they have a short minimum focus distance.

3. Lightbox, bounce boards, and diffusers

Kitchen lighting isn’t always ideal for your photoshoots. Food photographers have been shooting meals and individual food items in lightboxes as long as they’ve been publishing food photos. Lightboxes and light bounce boards are a popular tool for most product photographers. 

shooting set

© Victor Cavasino / OCUS

While you can certainly make do with natural lighting, white cardboard, and a reflective surface, if you want a career in food photography, you’ll want to invest money in the proper equipment so that you can consistently produce photos that get customers. 

4. Props

When you photograph food, the food should be the main focus. However, you can emphasize the food by using props to paint a picture or set a mood in the photo. Finding pretty plates, cute linens to put your baked goods on, or a lovely platter and centerpiece to accent your photos can bring them to the next level. 

gastronomy

© Nicholas Bouriette / OCUS

Searching for just the right pieces to show off your delectable goodies is so much fun. Hitting up your local thrift stores and yard sales is a great adventure and a fun way to make conversation about your work. Think outside the box on your props to find new and exciting ways to display your subject.  Often, you won’t see the props’ details, but they’ll pull a lot of detail in the food you’re photographing.  

5. Tripod

You can get great shots without a tripod; however, humans tend to have shaky hands. If you want to get clear, crisp photos every time, a tripod and the timed capture option on your camera will help. Once you remove your finger from the button, the timed capture setting will delay the actual photo snap allowing any wobble or shake of the camera to be mitigated. 

looking from the back of a camera

© Victor Cavasino / OCUS

A tripod also lets you position your camera in ways that may be uncomfortable for multiple shots. The camera’s stability will allow slower shutter speeds, longer exposures, and a better position for more advanced techniques and composite images.  

Finding a tripod that allows you to shoot horizontally will help you capture overhead images for flat lay style shoots. These are popular for graphic design and Instagram photos. 

Food photography techniques