When it comes to food photography I always say, “we eat with our eyes first.” You could have the most fantastic recipe, but the average consumer will scroll past it if you don’t know how to take drool-worthy photos.
Since I started sharing food photos on personal social media accounts, people have asked me where to start and if it costs a lot. The answer is yes, and no; anyone can start with minimal and cheap equipment, and I’m going to show you exactly how with five simple steps!
Five steps to enhance your food photography:
- Purchase a DSLR camera, tripod and smartphone
- Utilize natural light
- Purchase backdrops or surfaces
- Use props you already have
- Edit photos in Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed
1. Purchase a DSLR camera, tripod and smartphone
Smartphone: A smartphone is excellent to use when just starting. They are super user-friendly and can save lots of money. The difference between a smartphone and a DSLR camera is the photo quality and control of your scene.
A DSLR camera and tripod: If you’re ready to take your photos to the next level, a DSLR camera and tripod are the way to go. Owning a DSLR camera allows for more quality and control in your photos. A tripod makes photos look sharper and prevents the inevitable handshaking. Also, it allows for lower shutter speeds that bring in more light during photoshoots and require almost no movement to capture a clear and crisp shot.
Most people have this impression that you need the most expensive camera on the market with a million lenses for quality pictures. The truth is, how the camera is utilized is more important than anything else.
- Canon EOS Rebel T5: Affordable camera model comes with a kit lens for $289.59.
- Canon EOS Rebel T7: Newer model has a few more upgrades such as higher specs, Wi-Fi and a faster processor. It also comes with a kit lens for $429.00.
Before jumping into the perfect lens for YOU, most cameras come with a kit lens. But if you’re looking for a specific look these are my recommendations.
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8: I recommend a more affordable starter lens. It’s $125 and dips into lower f-stop numbers for a beautiful background blur. I used this lens for a couple of years before upgrading to a more versatile lens.
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8: A great macro lens for up-close shots and gives every detail of the food. It’s expensive but worth the investment.
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8: An all-in-one lens that is versatile and allows for flay-lay, straight-on and 45-degree shots.
- Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column (MT055XPRO3): Great starter tripod that’s sturdy but not too heavy; it travels well for onsite shoots and is excellent for everyday food photography. This tripod allows for overhead shots as well. The downside is the price, and it requires multiple separate purchases. The joystick head and phone mount holder are required to attach a camera or iPhone.
- Heavy-duty c-stand: This is great for overhead shots and attaching backdrops. This does require additional purchases such as an adapter and monopod head.
Regardless of the product chosen, it’s all about how YOU work with the camera. The picture on the left was taken with a $125 lens and the picture on the right was taken with a $2,000 lens.
2. Utilize natural light for food photography
The biggest mistake people make in shooting their photos is using a kitchen light, not natural light. The “golden hours” for food photography are between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., next to a window with lots of sunlight.
So how do you combat too little or too much light? During the summer, harsh light can make food photos look stale and unappetizing. But if you place a diffuser it will eliminate the problem.
Winter lighting can be tricky because the sun sets earlier. But using a bounce board (which can also be found at the dollar store) and artificial light can solve many of those problems.
3. Purchase backdrops or surfaces
You can purchase backdrops from many places, but my favorites are the Beyiang photography backdrop boards and Replica Surfaces. Both offer beautiful designs that last for years and allow for mishaps such as spills and crumbs, especially when conducting food photography. But if you are starting small and don’t want to spend a lot of money, go to the dollar store and purchase poster boards/foam boards. Better yet, you can use bed sheets as a backdrop or a surface at home that’s completely free!
4. Use props you already have
There are SO MANY props to choose from, so where do you start? You can start with FREE products you already have at home or go to the thrift store and purchase products for cheap!
- Ingredients used in your recipe
- Parchment paper, newspapers and magazines
- Forks, spoons, knives, baking sheets and cutting boards
- Small salad plates and bowls
- Linen napkins
5. Edit photos in Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed
After taking photos, editing software is important to enhance the colors, texture, sizes and more.
- Requires a subscription but I use the photography plan, so it’s a little more affordable
- The plan includes Photoshop, Lightroom, Lightroom Classic and 1TB of storage
- Can edit photos on desktop, iPad and mobile
- Can tether from camera to computer in Lightroom Classic
- Able to clone presets to spend less time on editing
- Can edit raw files
- Free and offers great editing tools
- Can edit raw files
- Can’t store photos
- Can only use on a smartphone
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