Food photography is an undeniably popular artistic medium, involving all kinds of people and gear to make those mouthwatering shots possible. If you’re an aspiring food photographer, we’ve put together a special, themed gift guide that’s perfect for all skill levels.
1. A Smartphone Lens
Whether you are far into your photography career or just starting out, whenever you complete a dish in your kitchen or have a plate placed in front of you at a restaurant, your nearest camera is likely a smartphone. When all you want to do is dig in, the smartphone also makes sense as the fastest camera—and you can quickly post to Instagram once you finish. Picking up an add-on lens or two for a smartphone is a quick way to get better photos and even allows you to get angles that were impossible before.
Get in tight with the Moment Tele Lens, especially since many recent phones went for an ultra-wide instead of a 2x zoom option. By getting a bit more reach you can get a more flattering perspective on the food and make it all the more appetizing. For more creative shooting, you might want to look at the Moment Macro; this will allow you to get your phone in extremely close for unique details of your food. It also looks nice to have some variety if you want to create a short series.
You’ll need a dedicated phone case that works with the lenses, but this system also means the lenses will work on future phones with a new case.
2. A Macro Lens
Advanced shooters who want to take their next food photos up a notch should look to invest in a macro lens. The reason is you’ll likely want to get your lens in a bit closer than your regular ol’ lenses can do. It’s simply by design that average lenses don’t focus all that close, which can quickly become limiting if you are trying to create compositions of relatively small things.
Another point is that regular lenses optimize performance for mid-range focusing points and sharpness, while macro lenses are designed to focus close and give their best performance at that setting.
For food, in particular, you might be shooting small objects or want to get a beautiful close-up image for variety. Just make sure you find a lens that works for your or your friend’s camera system.
3. A Reflector
Lighting is obviously an important aspect of any photography, but not everyone has a crew and tons of lights available to them. Everyone does have access to natural light, however, and it can easily look great. Shooting next to a window is a good start—the light flows in quite beautifully. For better control over the light in the shadows, you’ll want a reflector.
Whether you are using a smartphone or the latest medium format camera, you’ll benefit from a reflector. Even when you decide to use a real light, the reflector will give you a lot more control over the tonal range and allow you to bring out the detail in post.
4. Portable Light
In the fall and winter, waking up before the sun rises and getting home after it sets are common occurrences. The consequence for food photography is that you can no longer rely on natural lighting setups and will have to turn to my artificial options. A great stocking stuffer is an on-camera flash, also known as a speedlight. These small lights are effective, fit into your bag, and pop right on top of the camera when the moment comes. They can even be augmented with plenty of modifiers and be taken off camera with the right tools. If on-camera flash is new to you, feel free to go over the basics with our comprehensive guide.
The other way you can go is with ultra-portable LED lights. These are nice, small panels that run on internal batteries—you can bring them with you wherever without weighing yourself down. Also, newer ones have full color control so it can be used as a secondary light that adds a splash of color without carrying around a pack of gels. If you want a recommendation, there is the Godox M1 Mini Creative RGB LED Light.
5. Food Photography Book
Those just dipping their toes into food or photography in general will benefit from some educational resources. Personally, going into the winter months I prefer a couple of books to have on cold weekend mornings (it’s video games at night). We offer books on food photography that cover topics such as lighting, styling, and more.
6. Gaffer and Double-Sided Tape
If you or someone you know is new to photography and haven’t heard of gaffer tape, it is an absolute must-buy. Compared to general-purpose tapes, gaffer tape is designed not to leave adhesive residue when removed, making it more useful for securing various accessories or random tools. Plus, if you need to cover cabling for safety, it won’t leave residue on the floor.
Gaffer tape is universally loved by all photographers, but something that can be useful to food photographers is double-sided tape. It’s useful for holding props in place, such as a napkin where you want to get perfect folds.
7. Plates and Dishes and Cups and Glasses
A good collection of props is absolutely necessary for food photography over time. You want a variety of colors and shapes because different food looks better on different plates and it helps you create unique compositions. Heading to thrift shops or tag sales is a good way to get a collection without spending a lot of money, and it goes a long way.
When the food is on the plate and in front of the camera, you might find that one tiny piece is just a little bit out of place. For the more meticulous food photographers, a pair of tweezers is invaluable. It’ll let you reach in carefully and make that tiny adjustment.
9. Smart Display
Foodies who are smart home enthusiasts will benefit from a smart display. Not only can you use them to control any connected devices, they usually have a digital assistant built in to answer questions, such as how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon—it’s three, by the way. Displays can also play videos, so load up that recipe and follow along without needing to flip through a recipe book.
10. B&H Gift Card
You can never go wrong with a B&H Gift Card. Buying a gift for photographers is tough, especially if you aren’t one. There are compatibility concerns, wondering what they already have, and more. A gift card leaves the decision up to the receiver.
If any food photographers want to chime in with their own favorite tools? Make sure to let us know in the Comments section, below!