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What equipment do I need for food photography?

There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.

There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.

What Are The Food Photography Equipment Essentials

1. A Camera

Now, that’s an obvious one. It doesn’t need to be fancy schmancy to get you started, though.

Go to your local camera store and ask to try the cameras to see what feels the most natural. I tried an old Nikon (maybe it would be different with a newer one), but I felt like Canon was more intuitive for me personally. You might be different, so I won’t suggest which brand you should buy. They are all good, you just need to figure out what’s best for you. If you have the option to rent a camera, I’d suggest doing that.

Can you use a phone? Sure, you can! I’ve seen beautiful photos shot with a phone. Now personally, I’m not a fan of phone food photography. I like to hold a big old camera in my hands. It just feels different. But if you’re on a budget and already have a good camera on your phone, you might start from there. But, if you’re going to shoot commercially, then you’ll want to do with a DSLR.

Crop Sensor vs. Full Frame?

A crop-sensor camera has a smaller sensor and therefore crops out a part of the image. Crop sensor cameras are cheaper but also produce smaller images. A full frame sensor has some other advantages like a broader dynamic range and better low light/high ISO performance. But all in all, crop sensors can produce stunning images too. Scroll through my old posts. All posts before May 2019 were shot with the old crop sensor camera.

2. Lenses

When you’re buying lenses, you should think about how you can use those lenses once you upgrade your camera. If you’re starting out with a crop sensor camera, you can still use lenses designed for a full frame camera. But you can’t use lenses designed specifically for crop sensor on a full frame camera. Lenses for crop sensor cameras are cheaper, but if you plan to upgrade eventually, you might be better off buying the full frame lenses.

One more thing, when you’re considering buying equipment, I recommend spending more on lenses than you do on a camera. They really do make a difference.

Want a great cheap lens?

You probably heard of the nifty fifty. I find this lens worth so much more than the 100€ (a little over a 100$). Before I had my full frame the 50 mm was on practically 99% of the time. I used a 30mm for wider shots and flatlays. Now I use the nifty fifty for wider shots and flatlays and I still find it amazing for the money I paid.

There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.
A nifty fifty on the left and a 100mm macro lens on the right. My top two choices, but the macro is quite expensive.

3. A Diffuser

Diffusers are used to diffuse the light. The surface of a diffuser is matte and therefore disperses the light in different directions making it less direct and creates softer shadows.

You can use a collapsible translucent diffuser that usually comes in a 5-in-1 pack with a black, white, gold and silver sides. All very useful. I love it because it folds to a very small size and is super transportable and light.

If you’re only shooting at home, you can just as easily use a thin white curtain or a big sheet of tracing paper. I used this one for a very long time and I still use the curtain a lot.

There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.
A diffuzer is used to create a more dispersed light. This one is foldable and extends to a 120×90 cm.

4. Black And White Foam Board

These too are super important and very cheap. Write those two down, cuz’ you’re gonna need them!

A black foam board is used to block the light from reaching the subject. Placed on the opposite side of the object it sucks the light and creates deep shadows.

On the other hand, white foam board is used to bounce the light back on the subject and make the shadows softer and brightens up the part of the subject that would otherwise be in the shadows.

There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.
A white foam board folded in half so it stands on its own.
There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.
A big black foam board used as a negative fill or to block light.
There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.
A simple setting with a black cardboard attached to a white foam board used as a negative fill.

5. A tripod

A lot of photographers like to work without a tripod because using a tripod makes you more stationary and it’s hard to move around.

I personally have used tripod since I first started, and I love it. It is especially helpful if you’re shooting in low light situations where you need to use a slower shutter speed. By holding a camera in hand you’re risking a blurry image.

One other thing, by using a tripod you can clearly set your focus is. May I suggest using manual focus at this point 😊

There is so much photography equipment out there but is all that necessary to create beautiful food photos. No, definitely not! Today, I’m sharing a few food photography equipment essentials, that I feel are necessary to produce great shots.
A tripod with a horizontal head is very useful for overhead shots.

But I don’t have the cash?

Don’t worry. I’m all about cost-effective solutions. For the longest time, I used an old crop-sensor camera (my Canon EOS 600D). I just recently upgraded to a full frame, so that’s not essential. At first, I shot with a kit lens and I think it’s completely okay when you’re just starting out. When you feel like upgrading without spending too much, the cheaper you can go is by buying a nifty fifty. That’s a 50mm f1.8 lens. Until recently I used a very very cheap (also not very sturdy) tripod, which was completely okay. The reason I upgraded is to buy one with a horizontal arm.

Really, you can start food photography on a budget and still produce beautiful imagery. So don’t get overwhelmed by what other people are using. Use what you have or can afford and build from there. The most important thing is to work on your photography skills, not the equipment.

I hope this little guide was helpful. If you have any further questions ask in the comment section and I’ll try my best to give you the answers.

8 Cheap Food Photography Backdrops

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.

When it comes to money I make sure to spare as much as possible for stuff that matters. Don’t get me wrong backdrops matter a lot. But in my humble opinion, there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there’s no need to go for expensive stuff. I’d much rather spend money on quality ingredients or a good photography lens than a backdrop because as you’ll see in this article, cheap backdrops are all around us. You’ll probably find at least five immediately after you finish reading this.

Let’s dive right into it! Where can you find all the cheap stuff I’m talking about? Here are some of the cheap backdrops I use…

1. Reclaimed Wood

We all love the texture of wood. It adds such a nice rustic character and warmth to a photo. I really only have two reclaimed wooden pieces that were used by my dad at his construction job, but I can tell you those are my two favorite pieces. Whenever I have a very homey dish I resort to a reclaimed wood because it adds a lovely story to my images.

The beauty of reclaimed wood is that it naturally has desaturated hues which are perfect for food photography. New wood often has a very orangey saturated colors not very fit for food photography.

Many times people want to get rid of the old wood and they’ll give it for free or a few bucks

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
My dad’s old construction work wooden board.
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
A piece of wood we used as a cake stand at our wedding. It’s broken but that adds a nice touch to the shot.

2. Tiles

These days you can get tiles that are HUGE! I’ve seen tiles measure 1x1m!!!

What is more, you can get tiles for really cheap. I paid 10€ (about 11$) for the tile below. It measures 60x60cm and I love working with it because it is very easy to clean, looks beautiful and it really isn’t that heavy.

One thing to look for when tile shopping is matte finnish. Luckily it’s the era of matte tiles so that’s not really a huge issue 🙂

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
My 10€ 60x60cm tile.

3. Fabric Backdrops

I love how versatile fabric backdrops are. So many options here:

  • table cloths
  • tea towels
  • napkins
  • bed linen
  • old clothes
  • curtains
  • fabric scraps

One thing to look for in a fabric that you use for food photography is texture. Some of the best options are linen, lace, wool or anything with thick weave or interesting texture or pattern.

Although fabric such as linen is not cheap per se, you can get smaller pieces such as teatowels or napkins for a very good price.

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
Lace table cloths are perfect for creating a feminine look.
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
Some very cheap IKEA tea towels.

4. Old Metal Trays

If you were thinking of throwing out your old baking trays think again! They are one of the most beautiful and most inexpensive backdrops. The more scratched and stained the better 😀 I bet your grandma has a bunch of them just waiting to be photographed. Second-hand shops are perfect for buying metal trays. Look for vintage trays with scratches, patina, and textures that are not too shiny. One extra plus is that metal trays can be used from both sides and chances are the two sides look completely different. So you got two backdrops in one. WIN!

But here’s the trick. You can make any new baking tray look used. With a bit of experimenting, some baking and scratching you can make your own old metal tray. Stay tuned for a tutorial!

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
My old white baking tray. It changes whenevre I’m using it 🙂

5. Paper

It doesn’t get cheaper than paper. Look around your house and try to find paper like:

  • baking paper
  • paper bags
  • scrap paper
  • newspaper
  • wrapping paper
  • old photographs

I love to crumple up baking paper or paper bags to add some texture oherwise they make look a little flat.

When using newspaper, old photographs or wrapping paper with a very distinctive pattern, make sure they are in line with the story you want to portray and don’t overshine our main subject.

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
Using newspaper instead of a plate to make it more interesting and feel more like street food.
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
Baking paper just as it came out of the oven.

6. Vinyl Backdrops

Even though I don’t use vinyl backdrops, I have a few good ones. My absolute favorite is my vinyl marble backdrop. Marble is SUPER expensive and not to mention it’s also very heavy.

When you’re buying vinyl make sure they are matte because they can cast strange reflections when shot from the side. I mostly use them for flatlays, because I like my backdrops to have some sort of texture and shooting from the side makes it quite obvious that the vinyl is flat. For marble that’s not really important as it is flat anyway. But I’m careful about using vinyl backdrops with motives that scream texture but are otherwise flat.

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
My favorite marble backdrop. Did I fool you? It’s not real marble, it’s vinyl. Can you tell?
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
Another one of my vinyl backdrops. I love using it for flatlays!

7. DIY Backdrop

Making your own food photography backdrop does take a little time, but you can have whatever you need in the size that you need. And it’s really cheap!

All you need is some plywood or some sort of similar wooden board, some paint, a brush or a sponge and maybe some tile grout for extra texture. If you’re interested in making your own backdrop but not sure how to start, keep an eye on an article in the near future. I’ve got you covered! But just to show you a few of mine that I made using different techniques.

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
My favorite black DIY backdrop!
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
This one is slightly blue-ish 🙂
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
And a light grey one…

8. Food and Unusual Objects

I’m pretty sure that you can find some unusual objects around the house that would make perfect backdrops. Look for interesting colors, shapes, textures, patterns, anything that would make your food pop.

And food! Food is a great backdrop for food. When it makes sense. Think about the dish you’re shooting and if there are any ingredients that would look great placed under your subject. Some ideas are greens, sugar, flour, spices…

there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
I used sugar to mimic snow.
there are so many choices for free or really cheap backdrops that there's no need to go for expensive stuff.
Another thing I found around the house that my dad used at his construction job. I have no idea what it is, but has a nice texture.

Now go off and find some cheap food photography backdrops

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to look for new interesting backdrops that don’t cost a fortune. In the flood of perfect shots, we (including me!) tend to think ‘Oh, I don’t have enough backdrops or enough fancy props’ but the reality is that you can use what you’ve got already. When you’re feeling constrained and challenged the most beautiful things will come out.

When I’m writing this in May 2019 I own a total of two reclaimed wooden backdrops, two two-sided backdrops that I made myself, a tile, a small wooden backdrop that I made from new wood and colored it and three vinyl backdrops. This is not a lot, but I can get so so many different styling with them when I’m combining them with other cheap backdrops that I mentioned in this article. I also don’t have a ton of props, but I can manage. What’s gonna make you a good photographer is understanding the light, your subject, composition, styling the dish… not the props you own!

8 Common Mistakes In Food Photography And How To Fix Them

I’ve gathered some common mistakes in food photography and added some simple fixes that will take your food photography to the next level.

I've gathered some common mistakes in food photography and added some simple fixes that will take your food photography to the next level.

If you are reading this article about common mistakes in food photography I’m guessing you need some help. And trust me, we all do! Why? Because it’s so easy to forget about detail when you have so much to do. If you cook the dish you’re shooting it takes time and effort. Then there’s light, composition, styling, camera settings, etc. So much to think of!

Just look at the photo above. I love the composition, light, and styling but there’s one thing I can’t overlook. It’s the grease marks at the edges of the soup. While I was shooting this the soup got cold and cold grease doesn’t photograph well. I didn’t include this in my list of common mistakes, Let’s say it’s an extra! 🙂 How I could have fixed it? Shoot faster or reheat with a hairdryer.

There are a ton of mistakes you might be doing but these are the ones I see most often.

1. Focusing incorrectly

In order to draw the viewers eye to the right part of the dish you need to define where you want the focus to lay. Whether you are shooting at a wide or narrow aperture, you need to know your focus point.

What to do: The way I ensure my focus lays where I want, is to zoom in on the spot I want to be sharp and then manually focus. Camera screens are way to small for us to see if we’ve nailed the focus. The zoom option is a good alternative. Ideally, you would shoot tethered, but honestly, unless it’s a commercial shoot I don’t shoot tethered. So far the zoom button has worked well.

2. Tungsten contamination

There’s nothing worst but an unintentional orange highlight from that light you forgot to turn off. If you’ve made this mistake before you know it is very difficult to fix this in post-processing.

What to do: Turn off that light! Make a mental note before shooting to turn off ALL lights, not just the ones in the room you are shooting in. Turn them off in the hallway, kitchen, … If the light (even a small amount) can reach your setting it needs to be turned off.

I've gathered some common mistakes in food photography and added some simple fixes that will take your food photography to the next level.

3. Not using fresh ingredients

Food photography is all about looks, so we need to make sure the ingredients we use are fresh and look great.

What to do: buy fresh ingredients and use tricks like lemon water for foods that oxidize and change color. Cold water is great to keep greens like salads and herbs crisp.

4. Overcooking

There are a ton of dishes that just doesn’t look great on a photo after they have already been cooked. They loose texture and color and do not look very appetizing in a photo. If it looks good in real life it doesn’t mean it will look good in a photo. Not even fresh garnish can save those dishes.

What to do: Think about whether your dish will look overcooked in a photo. If so, try undercooking the dish or even cook different ingredients separately to make sure each ingredient is cooked to perfection.

5. Not trying new things

I have a favorite setting for shooting which I know will work almost every time. But if I didn’t try anything new, like new light setups, new dishes, new angles, new props, new stylings, new compositions and so many more I would end up with photos that all look the same. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone and try new things because you can fail. BUT you can also find amazing new things about photography and it’s how you find your style.

What to do: Easy! Next time you shoot, start with what you are used to. That way you’ll be sure to have some good shots. Then change things up and see what happens. You’ll be surprised!

I've gathered some common mistakes in food photography and added some simple fixes that will take your food photography to the next level.

6. Using wrong props

In food photography food is the hero. Yes, the whole scene can be the hero too but esencially you want the viewers eyes to go to your dish. Props that don’t match the story or are too bold can move the focus from the dish to that prop. Not cool.

What to do: Chose props that will help tell the story and match the style of the whole setting. Beware of brightly colored props because they can easily distract. Also, some colors don’t work as well in food photography. Red props are very difficult to work with!

7. Overstyling

Guilty! When I look at my old photos, I’m blown away (not in a good way) by how staged they look. Of course, it’s all staged, but the viewer shouldn’t think so. The best food photos are the ones that look natural and true to life.

What to do: One thing that will help immediately is to think in odds. Odds create triangles and triangles make beautiful compositions. Also, let your scene get messy and sprinkle around some crumbs, flour, sugar or whatever is in that delicious food of yours. Place the spoons more organically and not parallel to each other, use diagonals. Study other people’s work and write down what makes the scene look natural.

I've gathered some common mistakes in food photography and added some simple fixes that will take your food photography to the next level.

8. Crooked horizon

I cringe at a crooked horizon! This is one of my pet peeves in any type of photography. Are you guilty of creating crooked photos that make the dish look like it’ gonna fall out of the frame?

What to do: Use a level guide button, turn off the grid on the camera when shooting or fix this in post processing.

5 Tricks To Master Dark And Moody Food Photography

These five easy tips and tricks will help you get better at dark and moody food photography and create jaw dropping still life moody shots.

Hello to my first photography related post! I’ve been planing on writing about photography for a while and it’s finally time. If you know my blog then you already know I’m all about moody and dark. Will make some brighter tutorials in the future as well but for now let’s stick to what I love most!

I’m really excited to share my thoughts on how to achieve dark and moody in your food photos with just these 5 little tricks. Now, they are not the holy grail of food photography so you can make exeptions and play with what you learn here. These will guide you to learn more about how a moody and dark photo comes to life and maybe try some new things.

Let me first start with what I think is the most important in any type of photography.

1. Story

You will hear me talk about having a story non-stop. I truly believe that the photo must have a well written story in order for people to really understand the photo and engage with it. This will help you choose the props, setup the light, style your dish and also help you with your editing process.

Before even starting to cook what you wanna shoot you need to build a story around the star dish. Think about what atmosphere do you want, what time of day you want to set it in? What season it is? Where is it happening? Who’ll be eating it? Are they alone or are there more people? Is this a date or is it a lunch at your grandmother’s place?

Thinking about how your dish makes you feel will give you a lot of answers. Does it make you happy, does it make you nostalgic, does it make you proud? In my opinion, feelings are a huge component of a good food photo. So really dig deep, because trust me, this will improve your photography no matter the genre.

2. Tweaking the light

There are lots of ways and setups which help you achieve a moody and dark atmposphere. You can even get a moopdy shot in a very bright even sunlit rooms, but let’s focus on the most common and easy thing you can do.

First of all you need a very thin strip of light that lights your main subject aka your dish. You can achieve this by blocking the part of the light that lights all other parts of your photo. You can use anything, I’ve used books, curtains, pillows… Use whatever’s handy and will hold still. I use black and white foam boards to either block the light or to use as a negative fill. Negative fill means you place the foam board on the side of your subject that is opposite your light source and it will prevent any ambient light to hit the subject meaning you get nice moody shadows.

You can get foam boards pretty much everywhere. Hobby stores, office supply stores… They are cheep and light and you can get them in different sizes.

If you look at the photo below, you can see I’m using a white foam board on the left to block the part of light that’s hitting the background. If I placed anything behind the pears it would be in the shadow too. On the right side I have a negative fill. In this case it was a white foam board and a black paper clipped to it. See how you can create gear out of nothing 🙂

These five easy tips and tricks will help you get better at dark and moody food photography and create jaw dropping still life moody shots.

3. Use a tripod

Tripod is key to creating crisp photos in low light conditions. If your setup is very dark and your camera doesn’t handle high ISO very good, then it’s time to get a tripod. I’m gonna assume you shoot in manual mode (if you don’t I’ll be posting how to work manual mode very soon. Make sure you subscribe so you dons miss it).

Now, when you are shooting in low light conditions you are going to have to up that ISO and shoot at a lower f-stop if you want your shutter speed fast enough to prevent blurry images. One thing I hate in food photography is super grainy photos. If you are shooting at high ISO you will get more noise both in detail and in color. What an acceptable ISO number is will vary from camera to camera, but for mine, it’s 800 and above. Tripod solves the noise problem because you can set your ISO at a lower settings (ideally 100-200) and you can get away with very slow shutter speeds especially if you pair it with a remote control.

4. Dark(er) props

Dark props with everything I’ve listed above make the food really shine in dark and moody food photography. Dark props will make your dish stand out and complement it at the same time. You don’t want the props to draw your eye away from the main subject.

Therefore, search for dark backdrops like dark stained wood, old stained baking sheets or you can make your own. There are tons of tutorials on how to make them.

Texture adds so much depth to photos, especially if you want a moody shot. By texture, I mean props that have cuts and bruises, stains, bumps, scrathes… When buying props keep an eye on anything vintage, stained, old. You can check flea markets, thrift stores or in your grandma’s attic. Props that are matte and not very reflective will work the best because reflections in an overall dark shot are hard to manage.

One of the props that I like most for adding texture is fabric. Anythin from tablecloths, to napkins or apron. Linen is my go-to fabric!

I find it hard to get dark vintage ceramics, though. I suggest finding someone who makes their own pottery and find something fitting there. It’s always nice to support local craftsmen, right?

These five easy tips and tricks will help you get better at dark and moody food photography and create jaw dropping still life moody shots.

5. Post processing

The right post-processing will make your dish pop and help tell the story.

I love using local adjustments to boost exposure on everything I want to stand out. This way you don’t need to brighten the whole image but rather have control over what parts need some exposure boost. I love using Lightroom’s color sliders to individually set the luminance, saturation, and hue of any color. I use luminance sliders to help to brighten up only parts of the photo based on what color I choose. You can play with saturation and desaturate anything that’s distracting. And use hue sliders to color correct parts of your setting that aren’t true to life. Be careful, though! These must be minor adjustments otherwise you may end up with a dish that does not look like food at all!

A vignette is always welcome in dark and moody food photography. Be careful here as well. Always keep in mind that a vignette should enhance the shadows without looking like a filter.

Conclusion

When I first started with food photography I shoot light and airy although I always wanted to create the beautiful dark and moody atmosphere in my photos and failes every single time. This tricks helped me to create the dreamy dark and moody food photography that I always wished I could do.

I’d love to hear more about your struggles in dark and moody food photography. Let me know in the comments bellow. What do you need help with?