Getting Started In Food Photography

Getting started in food photography is exciting! But, what do you need to get started? In reality, you don’t need to get too much too soon. You’ll need a camera, a good lens and some editing software… and some food. 😉 The rest will all fall into place as you grow and figure out what you really need. This post gives you things to consider as you get started in food photography. 

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Advice For Getting Started In Food Photography

Getting Started In Food Photography: Equipment Recommendations

When I was first getting started in food photography, I started off using my iPhone and natural light from my apartment window. The cameras on iPhones are really great, so don’t be afraid to start practicing with it.

However, to truly learn the art of photography, I do recommend learning how to manually shoot with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. 

DSLR CAMERAS

There are so many camera options out there and it can be really hard to know which one to get. My advice is to start with a beginner-level DSLR. I recommend starting with a beginner-level camera for two reasons: 

  1. Beginner-level DSLR’s are more affordable cameras. You can also buy a used camera to save even more money. It doesn’t make sense to break the bank on a camera before you know how serious you’re really going to be about food photography.
  2. Beginner-level DSLR’s will teach you exactly what to look for in your next camera to make a bigger investment worth it. One of the greatest moments for me was when I started noticing the limitations of my beginner level DSLR. It was a sign that I had outgrown it and needed a more advanced camera. It was a really good feeling for me.

Try not to overthink what brand to choose. They’re all pretty incredible. Below are some great beginner-level DSLR cameras by Nikon and Canon to review. 

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS

As I mentioned above, I also shoot with FujiFilm cameras. They are basically more compact DSLR’s which make them lightweight and easy to carry with you. This could be a good option for you to get started as well. The thing to note is that they won’t have as many accessories as DSLR’s and the battery life isn’t as great. But, they are very powerful little cameras if you want to look into something smaller than a DSLR. I’m listing the two Fuji’s I shoot with below:

If you want to dive in deeper on what to look for in a camera, I’m sharing a post below that shares more information before making your choice. 

Read More About: Choosing A Camera for Food Photography

Interested in getting started in food photography? Read my tips for what you'll need to get started.

GOOD LENSES (DSLR)

It’s important to note that when it comes to lenses, you need to make sure the lens is compatible with your camera. If you decide to go with Nikon, for example, you’ll want to get Nikon lenses or third party lenses that are compatible with Nikon. Sigma Art is a good third party brand that has lenses compatible with several different camera brands.

Most DSLR’s will come bundled with a kit lens. These lenses are great to start out with. However, if you’re interested in using another great lens, check out the 50mm 1.8 (also known as the “nifty fifty”). It’s a lightweight, prime lens that is incredibly versatile for different types of food angles including overhead, 45 degree and straight on. It’s a steal for the price (under $200) and I still use it in my line up of lenses today.

Below are the Nikon and Canon versions of the nifty fifty.

GOOD LENSES (MIRRORLESS)

If you decide to go with a mirrorless camera, you will need to get lenses that are compatible with the brand you choose. Much like DSLR’s, sometimes they’ll bundle the camera and lens together into a package, which could ultimately save you some money.

Since I shoot with FujiFilm, I am sharing the lenses I currently have below:

ZEISS TOUIT 32MM 1.8

FUJINON XF16MM F2.8

FUJINON 18-55MM LENS 

Read More About: The Best Lenses for Food Photography

Improve Your Photography Website

GET A TRIPOD

Holding the camera is totally ok when you’re starting out, but having a good tripod to work with is definitely going to come in handy down the road. Tripods help stabilize your camera to avoid camera shake and blurry images. When to use a tripod depends on the camera settings of your camera. I’m sharing two different tripods that I have used in my home studio and on location. 

MANFROTTO 055

The Manfrotto is a really solid tripod for the studio and also packs up and travels well. The legs adjust easily and lock securely. The ball head allows for smooth, easy adjustments to position your camera correctly.

The one drawback is that the center column isn’t very long and won’t reach very far over the table for overhead shots. I recommend getting an extension arm that is longer, if you plan to shoot overhead images with this tripod. It attaches to your tripod easily and allows for more flexibility with overhead shots.

OBEN CT-3561

The Oben is a light weight tripod, which makes it super easy to adjust on set and take with you. The legs also flip upside down so you can shoot overhead without needing an extension arm.

Read More About: A SIMPLE OVERHEAD SETUP FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

Getting Started In Food Photography: Books & Workshops

PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS

Ok, so after you get your camera and lens, now you need to learn how to use it. After I got my first camera, I bought two books to help me.

One book was specific to my camera model. This book helped me learn where the settings are and how to use them.

The other book was more food-photography focused so I could learn how to adjust my camera settings to take different types of food images.

The two books I started with were:

Some others I highly recommend are: 

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS

Photography workshops and tutorials are a great way to learn food photography. They’re online and you can work through them at your own pace. I’m listing some of my favorites from CreativeLive, YouTube and a Masterclass below:

YOUTUBE CHANNELS & VIDEOS 

MASTERCLASS

Read More About: How To Shoot In Manual Mode

asparagus on a gray board

Getting Started In Food Photography: Editing Software & Apps

Editing is an important part of the photography process. Whether you’re shooting with a DSLR or using your iPhone, editing brings your images to their final form. I highly recommend checking out Lightroom, Photoshop and Capture One.

When I was first starting out, I would take pictures and review them on the back of my camera on the LCD screen. This is totally fine to do in the beginning. You can transfer your images from your SD card to your computer when you’re ready to edit. But, as you grow, it’s going to be a lot easier if you start shooting tethered.

SHOOT TETHERED

Shooting tethered simply means that your camera is hooked up to your computer and software through a tether cable. This allows you to see your images on a larger screen so you can make adjustments during the shoot. Tether cables vary per camera model, so when you’re ready to start reviewing images larger as you shoot, get a cable that is compatible with the type of camera you have.

COMPUTER EDITING SOFTWARE

EDITING TUTORIALS

EDITING APPS FOR SMARTPHONES

Interested in getting started in food photography? Read my tips for what you'll need to get started.

Getting Started In Food Photography: Surfaces & Props

SURFACES & BACKDROPS

Surfaces and backdrops play a significant role in food photography, because they help set the mood of your images. They sit beneath or behind the food creating more of a scene depending on the mood you are going for. I’m listing some surface and backdrop recos and venders below:

PROPS

Prop shopping can be addictive for food photographers. Props include plates, bowls, linens, glassware, silverware and other objects that can add visual interest to your food images. I’m not a prop stylist (yes, there’s a profession for that), but I do have a little collection of favorite props in my home studio. You can use a variety of whites, blacks, grays, neutrals and colors in your props. The options are endless, but it’s important to consider your storage space before investing in too many props.

If you don’t have a lot of space to dedicate towards storing props, start slow and just get a few things. You can also rent props from prop shops and prop stylists when you need something extra special and want to save room at your home studio.

food photography styling tools

Getting Started In Food Photography: Lighting

NATURAL LIGHT

Most food photographers start shooting with natural light. It’s available and can be incredibly beautiful. One easy way to learn how light will affect your images is to buy one ingredient and place it near a window. Try moving yourself around the subject and watch how the light changes. Move your subject into different positions and watch how the light affects it from different positions.

The thing to keep in mind is that natural light is constantly changing, so you will need to make sure you adjust your camera settings accordingly to properly expose your image the way you want.

ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

The beauty of using artificial light is that you have complete control over your lighting. You control the power of the lights, the position of the lights and have the ability to make it do whatever you want. When I finally started learning artificial light, I was happy to learn how easy it was and how much fun it was to be able to make the light do what I wanted it to do.

There are three popular artificial lights in food photography:

I started off with one speed light and grew from there. I have a full post dedicated to Artificial Lighting for Food Photography that you can check out when you’re ready to start experimenting. 

LIGHT MODIFIERS

Whether you’re shooting with natural or artificial lighting, I always recommend having different light modifiers on hand. These include diffusers, reflectors and black and white foam boards. Light modifiers help soften, direct and shape your light.

Some examples of light modifiers are listed below:

Read More About: ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

Purple Wine Glass and Gels

Overall, getting started  in food photography is a lot of fun and shouldn’t fee overwhelming. If it feels overwhelming, you might be overthinking things too soon. My advice is not to overthink the equipment, because you really don’t need a lot in the beginning. The main things you need are a camera, a good lens, editing software and a desire to learn and practice. As your creative vision and skills improve, you will learn what you will really need to capture the types of images you want. Reach out with questions anytime! 

Happy Shooting!

Read More About: My Favorite Food Photography Equipment

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.

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