The Best Lenses for Food Photography

I’m a photographer who knows that you don’t need the most expensive equipment to capture beautiful images. But, with good lenses, it can be really hard to avoid the expense. The better the glass, the more expensive it will be. This posts shares my favorite lenses for food photography (and comparable alternatives) to help you decide what’s best for you and your budget.

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the best lenses for food photography

The Best Lenses for Food Photography

PHOTOGRAPHY LENS QUESTIONS

Before we talk about lenses, there are two very popular questions that come up when it comes to understanding the type of lenses to buy:

  1. What do the lens numbers mean?
  2. What is the difference between a zoom and a prime lens?

1. WHAT DO THE LENS NUMBERS MEAN?

The lens numbers tell you the focal length and the maximum (widest) aperture you can get at that focal length. Your aperture is the hole in your lens and it gets wider or smaller depending on your lighting and the type of image you are trying to capture. 

Here are a couple of examples:

50mm 1.8

  • This is a prime lens.
  • 50mm is your fixed focal length.
  • 1.8 is your maximum (widest) aperture.

18-55mm 3.5 – 5.6

  • This is a zoom lens.
  • The 18-55mm is the range of focal lengths it offers.
  • 3.5 is the maximum (widest) aperture you’ll get at 18mm.
  • 5.6 is the maximum (widest) aperture you’ll get when you zoom in to 55mm.

2. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ZOOM AND A PRIME LENS? 

A zoom lens is a focal length that you can adjust on the lens itself. You can rotate the lens to get closer or further away from your subject.

A prime lens is a fixed focal length, meaning you can’t zoom in and out like you can on a zoom lens. You have to physically move closer or further away from your subject.

Now, let’s dive into some of my favorite lenses for food photography!

Fresh Strawberry Salsa

Food Photography Lenses

NIKON, CANON & SIGMA ART LENSES

I’m a Nikon shooter, so the lenses I have in my line up are all by the Nikon brand. However, I’m also listing alternative lenses by Canon and Sigma Art. Sigma Art lenses are less complex lenses that are more affordable alternatives to Canon and Nikon branded lenses. 

The Nifty Fifty Lens

Nikon 50mm 1.8

This lens is also known as the “nifty fifty” and is a total steal for the price. It’s a lightweight, prime lens which makes it incredibly versatile for different types of angles including overhead shots, angled and straight on. In addition, the low aperture of 1.8 works really well for low light situations. I still have this lens in my lineup and it’s the first one I recommend to newer photographers who are looking for a good, affordable lens.

The image of the arborio rice below was shot with the 50mm 1.8.

CANON VERSION

Canon 50mm 1.8

My favorite DSLR lenses for food photography including Nikon, Canon and Sigma Art. Click through to read the tips.

Wide Angle Lenses

Nikon 35mm 1.4

This is a beautiful prime lens and it works really well for food shoots, because the quality is so great and it creates beautifully sharp images. The low aperture (1.4) is also nice for low light situations such as shooting in darker restaurants.

The only thing to note about this lens is that it’s almost considered a wide angle lens and there could be slight wide angle distortion around the edges of your image. It hasn’t been much of a problem for me, but pay attention to this if you’re shooting an overhead table scape or flat lay with this lens.

The image of rosé in crystal glasses below was shot with the 35mm 1.4.

CANON VERSION

Canon 35mm 1.4

SIGMA ART VERSIONS

Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 (Nikon)

Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 (Canon)

My favorite DSLR lenses for food photography including Nikon, Canon and Sigma Art. Click through to read the tips.

Nikon 14-24mm 2.8

This wide angle lens may come as a surprise in my lineup, but I don’t shoot on location without it. It’s an ultra wide angle, zoom lens that has a nice range of wide-angle focal lengths. If I’m shooting at a restaurant or with a hospitality client, they always want interior, exterior or landscape images. I use this lens to capture those beautiful ‘scenic’ shots for my clients.

The images of the restaurant interiors below were shot with the 14-24mm 2.8.

CANON VERSION

Canon 17-40 2.8

SIGMA ART VERSIONS

Sigma Art 14-24mm 2.8 (Nikon)

Sigma Art 14-24mm 2.8 (Canon)

My favorite DSLR lenses for food photography including Nikon, Canon and Sigma Art. Click through to read the tips.
My favorite DSLR lenses for food photography including Nikon, Canon and Sigma Art. Click through to read the tips.

Macro Lens

Nikon 105mm 2.8

I use this wonderful lens a lot. It’s a prime, macro lens that lets me get super close to those delicious gooey details with incredible sharpness. I definitely recommend this lens to food photographers who want to capture the type of images that make people feel like they can almost taste the food.

The image of the tomato tart below was shot with the 105mm 2.8.

CANON VERSION

Canon 100mm 2.8

SIGMA ART VERSIONS

Sigma Art 105mm 2.8 (Nikon)

Sigma Art 105mm 2.8 (Canon)

My favorite DSLR lenses for food photography including Nikon, Canon and Sigma Art. Click through to read the tips.

Zoom Lens

Nikon 24-70mm 2.8

I love this lens. I call it my convenient lens, because the zoom allows me to adjust the focal length without having to move my camera or tripod. It’s a gorgeous zoom lens that ranges from wide angle to closer telephoto shots. It is on the heavier side, but it’s extremely versatile whether you’re shooting food, people, interiors, exteriors or landscapes.

The images of the kitchen and mixologist below were shot with the 24-70mm 2.8.

CANON VERSION

Canon 24-70mm 2.8

SIGMA ART

Sigma Art 24-70mm 2.8 (Nikon)

Sigma Art 24-70mm 2.8 (Canon)

Related Post: The Best Camera for Food Photography

My favorite DSLR lenses for food photography including Nikon, Canon and Sigma Art. Click through to read the tips.DSLR lens Nikon Canon and Sigma Art

In conclusion, lenses for photography are going to be expensive. It’s important to stay true to your budget and choose lenses that will be the most useful for the type of images you want to shoot. If you run into any questions, let me know!

Happy Shooting!

* 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 charge to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.

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