I get a lot of questions about the food photography equipment I use. I often include my food photography gear recommendations in different articles and of course there is a huge section about gear in my Food Photography Masterclass, but I thought having one place to direct readers would be more helpful.
Some of the food photography equipment on this list is expensive! I know. So peppered throughout I have added some cheaper alternatives to the gear I personally use, however some gear can only be so cheap.
By the way, if you're looking for some beautiful surfaces, check out my new collection of food photography backdrops!
Now, good lenses and artificial lights for food photography will always be expensive. Even the cheapest of the brands cost a good chunk of money. I always recommend a healthy balance of cost versus effectiveness.
I think it's good to keep in mind that DIY solutions can be great, but sometimes they add more problems then they save money.
What I absolutely will NOT do is recommend gear that is of poor quality and gives you poor results just to pander to your pocketbook.
My Personal Food Photography Equipment
What is great about food photography is that it is one of those art forms that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. I've included here all the food photography equipment I use on a daily basis to make my art. Depending on your budget and needs, having everything on this list, as I do, might not be right for you. Below, I have included a Quick Navigation so you can skip to the gear that your most interested in.
Cameras & Lenses
Luckily food photographers don't have to worry about needing 90% of what modern cameras can do. What I look for in a camera is the detail the camera will deliver versus the cost. I stick to full frame cameras because I prefer not to have a crop. A camera is just a box that captures light. I shoot with Canon, but I have tried almost everything and they are mostly all the same. If you would like to see what I think a food photographer should look for in a camera click here!
Check out my list of the BEST Cameras For Food Photography, lots of brands to choose from and all awesome!
The Canon 5Ds is still a little bit on the pricy side, but if detail, sharpness and ultimate resolution are what you want in a camera for food photography than this 50.6MP monster will do the trick. The incredible amount of detail this camera gives you, also makes it incredibly unforgiving. You will see every bit of shake, dust, and microscopic hair floating in the atmosphere, but when you nail the shot, the results are gorgeous. If you were thinking of getting that Maymia or Hasselblad then you have to give the 5Ds a go and with the $37,000 you'll save, you could put a downpayment on that house you always wanted.
Below are some cheaper options for food cameras, some with really cool options like wifi and 4K video in the newest Canon EOS M50. My favorite was the Canon 80D, but if you're just starting out, anyone of the three cameras below are fantastic buys.
When it comes to cameras for food photography, lenses are where you should spend the majority of your budget. Their high price tag should be looked at as a long term investment an a key part of your food photography equipment budget. In ten years, I've changed my main food camera three times and my lenses only once. One of the lenses on this list I've had the whole ten years, and I still use it!
The Best Lens For Food Photography
Features Food Photographers Should Look For In A Lens...
- Sharpness and quality of glass
- Minimum Focal Distance (the closer the better)
- Focal Length
Features Food Photographers Should NOT Look For In A Lens...
- Autofocus speed
- Image stablization
- Brand Name
The Canon 100mm lens is hands down the best lens for food photography. You can read my full review of it here. The 100mm is a favorite food lens among all food photographers, not only is this canon lens razor sharp but it's great both backed off and super close up. The focal length will add to the blur of your backgrounds giving it that extra creamy bokeh effect.
Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro Lens at f4.0 1/160 ISO100
Canon EF 50mm f1.2L Lens at f8.0 1/160 ISO100
The Canon 50mm has been a standard food photography lens for ever. This lens comes in three versions for Canon an f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/1.8. This is my main lens that I use when shooting from above the table. The Canon 50mm f/1.2 is on the pricy side, however for under $400 the Canon 50mm f1.4 has been touted as the best nifty fifty by photographers for years.
The Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L Zoom Lens is the lens we recommend for people entering into the market. You can read my full review of this lens here. It is an all around great lens, from chef portraits to food. Although it has a hefty price tag, it was sure worth the investment. Considering all the things I have shot with this lens and the fact that it has been with me for so many years, it has definitely paid for itself.
Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L Zoom Lens at f5.6 1/125 ISO100
Studio Lighting & Modifiers
I get a lot a questions about artificial lights for food photography, so it only makes sense to include them in this food photography equipment guide. Alas, this subject is a tough one. There are really good (and expensive!!) lighting solutions and really REALLY bad lighting solutions. Finding the right artificial lighting for food photography can be daunting. You're not just buying a single light, you are buying a whole system.
Artificial lights for food photography need modifiers and often those modifiers are exclusive to the brand of light. One big thing to consider is not only the price of the lights and associated modifiers, but the build quality. Being that even the middle of the road brand of lights are so expensive you want to make sure your investment lasts.
Features Food Photographers Should Look For In Artificial Lighting...
- Ability to modify the light with grids and softboxes
- 400-500 watt power
- High Speed Flash (if you plan to photograph liquid or flying food)
- Adjustable 300w modeling lamp preferred (can be multipurpose as a light for video
- Wireless trigger
- Build quality (should last 10 years)
- Multi-voltage (in case you want to travel to different countries with your lights)
Artificial Lights Food Photographers Should Stay Away From...
- Most expensive price tag
- Cheapest price tag
- Low wattage lights under 300w
- No modifying capabilities
- Overpriced poor quality lights like the Lowel Ego (this is just a light bulb and cheap frosted plastic for $100+ price tag!!!) Spend $10 on a lightbulb, baking paper and glue then buy ice cream. Eat ice cream and start your DIY project. Write (your name + Ego) on new artificial light and sell them to lesser experienced food bloggers. Save money from light sales to buy more expensive studio strobes that you can then photograph with properly. 😉
In this food photography equipment guide I wont suggest you go buy the most expensive brand, that would be silly. However, I will recommend the medium price range of lights that I love and use on a daily basis, as well as, slightly cheaper alternatives that I have also used and loved.
The Elinchrom Pro 500w above is fantastic. You would be hard pressed finding better quality artificial lights for food photography. These lights have a crisp consistent color with every fire. They also fire fast enough to freeze liquid splashes and come with a built in wireless system.
The modifiers are amazing as well. They are not built like tanks but they are not flimsy either. With a 300 watt adjustable modeling/prop light I use them to light my videos as well. I love them so much I bought two sets!
Cheaper Artificial Lighting Systems.
At about $200 less than the Elinchroms above per strobe, the Godox AD600BM are a great system to own. With a fast flash duration at about 1/8000s you can freeze liquids and motion. You also get a LED modeling light and 9 steps of power variation.
The best advantage to Godox is that the S-mount type is one of the most common modifier mounts around.
Meaning that you'll have no problem finding a plethora of super cheap modifiers for your strobes.
The Godox SL Series SLB60Y 60W Constant Light is my go to recommendation when someone asks for a cheaper alternative to studio strobes. At around $349 you can get an amazing constant LED light that you could use for your photography or your video.
With the Godox SLB60Y you get a bright light, a remote, a battery that lasts for ever, and it comes in both yellow(tungsten) or daylight balanced
Also the Godox SLB60 comes in the S-mount so cheap soft-boxes and grids are plentiful. Best of both worlds for a great price!
With each light you buy, be sure to budget in a light stand and a modifier. Each brand has their own line of modifiers, but other that a few minor details they are all pretty much exactly the same. So whether you are using Elinchrom, Bowens or Broncolor these are the artificial light modifiers I use for almost every image I make, including every image in this guide.
Probably my favorite piece of equipment, the large diffusor that comes as a part of the Diffusor/Reflector Kit is a photographer's best friend. Great in so many situations where soft diffused light is needed, the diffusor is paramount to modifying natural and studio light.
I throw the rest of this kit in the bag, the diffusor with it's solid yet flexible ring is worth the cheap price tag by itself. Knocking down the light by about 3 stops it's perfect for using large apertures with both 500w strobes and hard direct sun rays.
These Andoer grids work to focus the light into a circular beam with fuzzy edges. Most brands sell grids and reflectors in a kit, but you can also find them sold separately. To shape light for my food photography I use the reflector and a grid between 20˚-40˚
The reason why I say to buy 3 of them is because you'll need one for each light and one to hold the diffusor. I wouldn't worry about the cost so much as they last a lifetime and you'll most likely never have to buy them again.
Overhead Camera Setup
(FOR ATTACHING THE CAMERA AT THE 90˚ CAMERA ANGLE OR A FLAT-LAY PERSPECTIVE)
Having a nice overhead camera tripod setup is essential for food photography equipment list, unless you actually like to stand on tables, balancing on one leg over your food while holding your camera.
I use a very particular setup that gets a lot of questions. Below I've listed the equipment and quantities out. This overhead camera tripod setup is really a onetime purchase and will last a lifetime. It's lightweight and fits into a bag that I carry to sets and restaurants around the world.
Another huge benefit to this setup is that because it uses light stands it is adjustable to whatever height you want and you don't have to worry about balance issues or your tripod falling over because your camera is too heavy. You could even buy longer poles and use it for really large table scenes. All you need is to make sure your camera is level and your good to go.
Attach the ball head to the spigot and then your camera to the ball head and your ready to start making beautiful overhead shots.
Other Food Photography Gear
Here are all the little things that I use on every food photography shoot and couldn't live without.
Seeing your images on the computer as you take them is a huge advantage when shooting food photography. The TetherTools 15ft USB cable is a fantastic buy. I love the bright color which helps prevent trips and broken cameras.
The length of the cable allows me to have my camera on set and my computer or client out of the way. They make both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 depending on what connection your camera has.
I use this Pelican case to transport two camera bodies and 4 lenses. It's works as a carry-on when flying and is bulletproof, crush proof, water proof, hell it would most likely withstand a nuclear explosion. I have a much larger one with wheels that I use to carry my studio lights. These are the cool military cases you see in all the action movies 😉
This has got to be one of my favorite food photography gear accessories. The Godux S-Type adapter allows me to attach my Bowens Modifers like grids and softboxes to my speedlites. If I want to travel light, but still need the effects of my studio strobes then I pack the Godux adapter and a few speedlites.
If you're looking for some amazing surfaces to shoot your next recipe on, check out my new collection of food photography backdrops!
You can order them directly right HERE, where the more backdrops you buy the more you save or if you just want to pick up one use the promo code SKYBEST10 and get 10% off.
There are 8 backgrounds to choose from ranging from bright and airy to the dark and moody style we all love. If you want to see them in action check out this article and video!
What would a cool food photographer gear guide be without a little educational gear! My Food Photography Masterclass has 38 awesome food photography tutorials that will not only show you how to use all this gear and more, but how to make beautiful art worthy of the amazing food on your table.
Well that is it for this food photography gear guide. I will update this page as I get more cool gear that I can personally recommend and share with you. If you have any gear you love and think we should check it out too, drop them in the comments!
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.