The 7 must haves for your food photography kit
You want to start out with food photography. And you start at the bottom. So what are the first things you need to take better pictures?
Let me start by saying that you do not need an entire closet full of the most beautiful props to get you going. A few basics and you’re on your way. I give the 7 most essential items on your list and where to find them.
Camera and lens
This might be a given, but keep in mind that you do not need a 3000 dollar lens to get going. Start with your phone or a cheap startmodel for food photography. The standard lens that is usually delivered with your camera is definitely not a high flyer but it’ll do to get you started and used to your new toy. You can always save for an upgrade while you learn the ropes with the cheaper model. O good starting model is for instance the Canon 2000D or the Nikon D3500. If you want to upgrade your lens straight away think about getting a plastic fantastic which is a 50mm lens with a max aperture of f1.8. Pretty good lens for the price. But like I said, starting with your phone is also an option.
Your average kitchen counter or dining table might be beautiful but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is very suitable for your food photos. A small investment in a portable background is usually a good idea when starting out. I can be something as simple as a couple of wooden planks. If you place them next to one another it can serve as a table surface. You can find them in a DIY store and you can have them made into the right size. Get a few small tubes of (wall) paint and you can apply different colors. Another great asset is cotton or linnen table cloths. They have a nice wrinkle and are a great choice as a background.
Obviously you need something to present your food on or in, so a small collection of various plates is a good investment. Start simple with white plates as they are universal and can be used for everything from starters to desserts. Don’t get huge plates. We tend to shoot most of our things on breakfast size plates. Saves in the amount of food and looks better too. Usually one plate is enough but it can be nice to have two matching plates if you want more of a table setting. Neutral colors are best to begin with and most practival. You can always add specific plates later. Also handy are a few plates for dishes like pasta or soup.
Sometimes your photo needs a bit extra and using napkins can be a handy way to add some structure and texture to the image. I prefer to use pliable fabrics and don’t like the ones that are harder to fold. You know those stiff tea towels? Not my favorite. Don’t use the iron, wrinkles are the thing to look for. It is also a way to add texture to your photos. Don’t feel that you need to add a napkin to every single photos, that is really not necessary but it can be good sometimes. Start with neutrals and expand on that when and if necessary.
Cutlery comes in many shapes and sizes. I am not a big fan of shiny surfaces. It makes it hard to disguise yourself in that shiny mirror and while it can be fun for a blog photo, if you have a commercial client they will not be amused to see your face in every single spoon. Which is why I like old cutlery or the mat ones you can more easily find these days. Check online stores or markets, vintage stores and the like. Go through your mums or grandma’s drawer… You’ll likely find some beauties there!
You can never have enough pretty bowls in all shapes and sizes. They are perfect for adding some life into your photo when needed.
We like to use them to hold toppings that are on a dish, sauzes and anything else that takes our fancy. Nice to have a collection of small bowls at hand.
Certainly not the most sexy tool to have but essential nontheless. Reflective materials. Think of using things like white foam or white board and use black board when you want darker shadows. A diffuser is also a handy tool to have. You can use a piece of baking paper or tracing paper for that purpose too.
o there you have it: My 7 must haves for food photography. It’s not that complicated when you’re just starting out and you can make it as expensive as you want. Remember that the styling of your dish and how you handle the light are way more important that having fancy equipment. I’ve had many people follow a workshop with beautiful camera’s but no clue how to use it… 🙂
I hope you found it useful and if not I’d love to hear your questions!