Do you have these two essential lenses for food photography? If you want to improve your food photography, you need the proper tools! See which lenses are the most popular among professional food photographers.
Over the past 3 1/2 years, I have learned a lot about food photography. I am a professional photographer with 13 years of experience shooting children, families, and weddings. (You can see my portrait work at my site Blue Prints Photography). I thought taking pictures of food would be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong! In the beginning, I really struggled to get good pictures of food. At first, I didn’t even realize how bad my pictures were. But with time and experience came greater understanding. I learned that making appetizing, enticing pictures of food involved a LOT more than I had previously thought!
I decided to start this monthly series of photography posts to teach you some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me take my photography from this:
Today I’m going to teach you about the two essential lenses for food photography. I have asked A LOT of food photographers which lenses they use, and these are the two that come up over and over again.
The first, (and the one I recommend to you if you are just starting out) is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens. (If you use a Nikon or other brand of camera, you can find your comparable lens. The important thing is that it is 50mm).
This is a great multi-purpose lens that will allow you to get overhead shots as well as close-ups. I actually have the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras. I have used this for years with my portrait photography and find that it does a wonderful job for food photography as well. The only difference between my 50mm lens and the one listed above is that number behind the letter “f.” That number basically indicates how wide you can open the aperture of the lens, and how much background blur you can get. 1.4 and 1.8 are very close, so your results should be practically the same. The 1.4 lens costs twice as much as the 1.8 lens and is of a little higher quality, but you would be hard-pressed to notice any difference in the pictures taken with each.
Here are some pictures I have taken with this lens.
Pros of the 50mm lens:
- Relatively inexpensive. At the date of this writing, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens is $125 on Amazon, and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras is $349.
- Small and light-weight. This means you can easily hand-hold your camera without the use of a tripod.
- Good for both close-ups and for taking in a larger scene. (For overhead shots, you still may have to stand on a ladder or on the table).
Cons of the 50mm lens:
- You may not be able to get as close to your food as you want. It has a minimal focal range, which means it won’t focus if you are too close.
- Sometimes I find that it takes in too much of the scene when I have a small shooting surface.
The second lens that most food photographers swear by is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens for Canon SLR Cameras. (Again, if you don’t use a Canon camera, you can find your comparable lens for your brand of camera).
This lens is fantastic for getting detail shots of your food. You can get in REALLY close. This lens allows you the ability to blur out everything except for the single item you want to focus on. Here are some shots I have taken with my 100 mm macro lens:
Pros of the 100mm macro lens:
- You can get those gorgeous, super-close-up shots of your food.
- It only takes in a small part of the scene, so you can use it on small shooting surfaces
Cons of the 100mm macro lens:
- It is quite pricey. As of this writing, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Fixed Lens for Canon SLR Cameras is $599 on Amazon.
- It is big and heavy. You really need a tripod if you are going to use this lens, especially in low-light situations.
- It is really hard to get overhead shots unless you are really tall or have a ladder!
I love both of these lenses and switch back and forth depending on my subject and the feeling I am trying to evoke. If you want to get serious about food photography, then I highly recommend either or both! If you’re not sure, find a local camera shop. They will often let you check out lenses so you can try them out before you buy. You can also go to https://www.borrowlenses.com and they will send lenses to you to try.
Be sure to hop over to the second article in this series: Food Photography Essentials: Mastering Shutter Speed.
Mary Lynne Ashley says
Great post, Melissa! I especially love your before and after of the cookies. I’ve started delving into food photography myself, so I love to see what others are doing.
Melissa Howell says
Thanks Mary Lynne! So great to hear from you! I’d love to catch up soon!