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 the lens will be. So, what are the best lenses for food photography? This posts shares my favorite Nikon lenses (and comparable alternatives) to help you decide what’s best for you and your budget.
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Understanding Lenses for Photography
Before we dive into specific lenses, there are a couple of very common questions that come up when it comes to understanding the differences between lenses:
- What do the lens numbers mean?
- What’s the difference between a zoom lens 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. The aperture is the hole in your lens and it gets wider (letting in more light with a shallow depth of field) or smaller (letting in less light with a sharper depth of field.
Here are a couple of examples:
- 50mm is your fixed focal length, which makes it a prime lens.
- 1.8 is your maximum (widest) aperture you can get with this lens.
18-55mm 3.5 – 5.6
- The 18-55mm is the range of focal lengths it offers, which makes it a zoom lens.
- 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’s The Difference Between a Zoom Lens and a Prime Lens?
A zoom lens is a focal length that you can adjust on the lens itself. You can simply rotate the lens on your camera to get closer or further away from your subject.
A prime lens is a fixed focal length, meaning you can’t rotate the lens to zoom in or out. You have to physically move closer to or further away from your subject.
The Best Food Photography Lenses
I’m a Nikon and a Fuji shooter, so the lenses I have in my line up are all by the Nikon or Fuji. I will list similar lenses by Canon and Sigma Art as well. If you’re unfamiliar with Sigma Art, they are third party lenses that are more affordable alternatives to the Canon and Nikon brand-specific lenses. Be sure to do your research and stay true to your budget.
What Is The Nifty Fifty Lens?
The “nifty fifty” will teach you a lot about yourself as a photographer. It’s is a very popular prime lens which makes it incredibly versatile for different types of food photography angles including overhead shots, 3/4 angle and straight on. The low aperture (1.8) works really well for low light situations too like shooting in restaurants.
This is the first lens that I recommend to newer photographers who are looking to move beyond the kit lens without braking the bank. It’s a great lens to start with because it’s so versatile, which allows you to really experiment with your images. After shooting with it for a while, you’ll discover what you will want from your next lens. Do you want more macro capabilities so you can capture more up-close details? Or, do you want a lens that can zoom in and out to a variety of focal lengths for different perspectives? This lens will be a great guide.
Wide Angle Lenses
This is an amazing prime lens. It creates super sharp images and works great for food photography, interiors and landscapes. The low aperture (1.4) is also really nice for low light and beautiful depth of field. Be mindful when shooting food overhead with this lens, however. It is almost considered a wide angle lens, which means you could see some subtle distortion on the edges of your flat lay food photography.
This ultra-wide angle lens usually comes as a surprise to other food photographers when I mention that it’s a part of my lineup. But, since I shoot with a variety of restaurants and hospitality clients, this lens helps me capture the scene, like interiors and landscapes. I don’t shoot on location without it.
This is one of my top lens recommendations for food photographers. It’s a prime, macro lens that lets me get suuuuuuuuuper close to those delicious details of food and drinks with incredible sharpness. If you want to create images that make people feel like they can literally taste the food, this macro lens is a must-have.
I call this my “convenient lens,” because the zoom allows me to adjust the focal length without having to move around too much. 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. It’s also beautifully sharp for a zoom lens.
In a nutshell, lenses for food photography are expensive, so it’s important to know what types of images you want to create. Knowing this will help guide you towards the lenses that make the most sense for your projects and your budget. Reach out with questions anytime!
READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST CAMERA FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
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All images ©Regan Baroni 2020.