We all love them. Gorgeous flat lay food photography graces our Instagram and Facebook feeds on the daily. These images show off beautifully styled recipes with a unique graphic camera angle, turning what might be an ordinary dish into a work of art.
There is no doubt that the flat lay food photography angle makes for an interesting photograph. Yet, how do we capture these images without doing a one-legged balancing act on top of the table, praying not to fall with our expensive camera, looking like a crazed buffoon? The best flat lay camera setup, thats how.
It has been about 4 years since I posted this quick video that I share below, showing my overhead camera setup for flat lay food photography.
Since then I have gotten a slew of questions about it. You can see it throughout my Food Photography Masterclass and in most of the tutorials I post. This setup is the simplest, yet one of the most important techniques I have for getting beautiful flat lay food photography, but first let me tell you why it’s so cool.
Typical Flat Lay Food Photography Techniques.
- Take Camera In Hand while preforming a one-legged pirouette over your food photography scene... try to focus and fall on your face
- Buy expensive camera stand like professional studios have, then convince kids that college is just too expensive
- Buy cheaper tripod like this one, realize the legs get in the way and return to practicing your pirouettes on top of the table
This was the trouble I ran into when first attempting to take some good flat lay food photographs. At first I stood on the table with my neck and back on fire. Leaning over the food with one leg up in the air, squinting in pain while missing focus with every snap.
Then I looked to what the professional studios used. I quickly decided that I needed both of my kidneys and couldn’t sell one of them to afford a pneumatic camera stand.
So I bought a cheaper (still pretty expensive) tripod that had the ability to hold the camera out over the table. This is what most food bloggers and photographers use. So what is the problem? Well, I quickly found out that if I put the legs flush with the table, the weight of my camera would cause it to tip over. I could balance it, but then the legs of the tripod would get in my shot.
Arggg! Frustration Level 10.
So, instead of using the tripod and sawing off the legs of all my tables or shooting everything on the floor, I decided to do a little DIY project. I wanted to create a camera setup myself for flat lay food photography, that would be simple and take care of my photography needs.
Things I knew I wanted In My Flat Lay Food Photography Camera Setup
- I wanted my camera to be 100% level, that way I can rotate the image for vertical or horizontal display without the food looking like it was falling off the table.
- I wanted to be able to easily raise and lower my camera depending on the size of my scene.
- I wanted it to be portable and lightweight so I can take it on location shoots.
- I wanted it to be expandable for any size table.
Enter the simplest way to get stunning flat lay photography
Luckily, I had all the equipment lying around the studio. Here is what you need and a step by step process for putting it together. If you have seen my video tutorials then you’ve seen this set-up before.
Currently, with the brands I’ve listed here, the flat lay camera setup will cost you less than $500. Each of these items will last you a lifetime as well. However, there are cheaper brands for most of this equipment, so you could get all of this for less than a good tripod.
Step by step flat lay food photography Camera Setup
(FOR ATTACHING THE CAMERA AT THE 90˚ CAMERA ANGLE OR A FLAT-LAY PERSPECTIVE)
Spigots are probably one of the most useful little tools in studio photography. They have the same 3/4 thread size as your tripod and 1/4 thread size on the bottom of your camera. You'll use just one of these spigots to place into the grip at the middle of your extension arm.
Attach the ball head to the spigot and then your camera to the ball head and your ready to start making beautiful overhead shots.
Although this is an older video, you can see me put the flat lay overhead camera setup for food photography together. It’s simple and takes less then 5 minutes.
If you need to do a flat lay photograph of a large table setting you simple change out the extension arm and grips for a larger poll with super clamps. I use a 6 foot metal poll and 3 of these cheap super clamps with the rest of the flat lay camera setup remaining the same.
This flat lay food photography setup is super lightweight and fits in a nice light stand bag, so I can carry it with me on flights or to the local restaurant shoot (you can see it above me in the image on location below).
However, I have it setup in my home studio at all times. I set it up once, got it level with my table and when I’m doing a food shoot at home all I have to do attach my camera and I’m ready to start taking shots. Easy peezy!
I do use a ladder to grab focus when changing my subjects, but because the camera is attached and tethered to my laptop, all I have to do is turn on live view and dial in the settings.
With the camera stable and hands free, another huge benefit to using a flat lay food photography setup such as this, is that I can create really cool videos and stop-motion animations like these.
Stop Motion Created With The Flat Lay Food Photography Camera Setup
If your interested in some other really cool food photography gear that I use and recommend, then you’ll love this food photography gear guide. It has all the camera gear, lights and thingamajigs I use and love to create my art.
This is not a sponsored post, however this post does contain affiliate links to some great photography gear, products or services I currently use or have used in the past. If you plan on shopping for some new great stuff, please click through the link and I'll receive a small commission. Every purchase helps me continue on my never ending quest to provide amazing content.