Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Rest assured, I only recommended products I truly love & use.
Equipment is essential in a food photography business, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you run out to purchase new gear.
- Great photographs are created by people, not equipment. Having the best gear won’t make you a better photographer.
- It’s only beneficial if you are going to use it! If you can’t answer what it is, how it works, or why you need it – don’t add it to your collection.
- Add new equipment from the standpoint of solving a problem or simplifying your content creation process.
Camera Bodies & Lenses
I shoot exclusively with Nikon camera bodies. The first DSLR I purchased was a Nikon D5300. It is a crop sensor camera – if you aren’t sure what that means, check out my post on the best cameras for food photographers. It was a great camera and it got the job done.
As my skills grew I wanted to have more flexibility so I upgraded to a full-frame Nikon D850. I love my D850! It takes gorgeous photos and being that it’s a full-frame, it gives me more room to move around in my small studio space.
I currently shoot with 3 different lenses:
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8G – you’ll often hear this lens referred to as the “nifty 50”. It’s a prime lens that is versatile and great at capturing larger scenes. This is the lens I use the least, mostly because I like to capture tighter images with narrow frames.
- Nikon 60mm f/2.8G – this is the most recent lens in my collection and tied for my favorite with the 100mm macro. It’s a macro lens that works well for capturing straight on or 45-degree angles because its frame isn’t as narrow as the 100mm. I tend to use this more for overhead shots instead of my 50mm because it captures gorgeous details.
- Tokina 100mm f/2.8 – this is my workhorse lens! It’s more affordable than the Nikon 105mm and, in my opinion, captures details that are just as stunning. I shoot with this lens most often across all types of shots. Since it’s a macro lens, the perspective distortion is reduced which means it works really well for angles and straight on shots. The link I shared is for the newer version as my model was discontinued. If you are considering this lens, check the specifications on your camera body. This lens will only autofocus with camera bodies that have an internal focus motor. If your body relies on the lens containing the focus motor then you will only be able to focus manually.
Light & Modifiers
Speedlight & Trigger
I shoot with both natural and artificial light. I love the beauty and simplicity of natural light, but artificial gives me flexibility around when I can shoot a dish.
I shoot with a Godox TT685N Thinklite Speedlight and Wireless Flash Trigger. It’s a great mid-range flash; it isn’t the cheapest speedlight on the market, but it has a quick recycle time and a wide power range. The link I shared sells the trigger along with the speedlight so you don’t have to worry about purchasing each piece separately.
If you are shooting with this flash, you will need a large supply of batteries. I picked up a few of these Panasonic Rechargeable Batteries so that I wasn’t burning through single-use batteries.
Modifiers – Softboxes
Softboxes are used as light modifiers; you place the soft box onto the flash unit to manipulate the light. In general, a larger softbox will produce softer shadows, while a smaller one will produce deeper, more defined shadows.
I currently switch between two sizes:
- Godox 120cm / 47.2in Portable Octagon Softbox Umbrella: this is a larger modifier so I use it for lighter/brighter photos. What I love about this softbox is that it’s designed so that you fire the flash towards the back of the unit. The light then bounces off the silver inside which helps as an added layer of diffusion before traveling through the front of the softbox. To restrict some of the light, add a grid to the front. I use this mount attached to the top of a light stand that holds the speedlight and the softbox.
- Godox 12″x47″ / 30x120cm Softbox Honeycomb Grid Strip: this is a smaller softbox – a large, narrow vertical strip. I use this for moodier images because the smaller size helps to create deeper shadows. This unit requires a different mount called a Bowens mount; the bottom of the mount is then attached to a lightstand.
Modifiers – Diffusers
Regardless of your light preference, modifiers are helpful to manipulate your light. They come in all shapes and sizes so the key is to find one that creates the shadows you love. I use this Neewer 5 in 1 diffuser the most. It is huge; about 6.5 feet tall. However, it’s incredibly versatile for diffusing larger windows and creating beautiful soft shadows. I also have a smaller version of a Neewer 5 in 1 that is much easier to bring on location.
Tripod & C-Stand
Shooting with a tripod was a game-changer for me! With your hands-free you can focus on composition and make sure you get crisp, in-focus images. I started out with a Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section tripod. It’s convenient because the center column doubles as a horizontal arm, making overhead shots a breeze.
Unlike cheaper models, this tripod does not come with a head. But that means you can invest in a tripod head that fits your needs. I highly recommend this Manfrotto Junior Geared Head (410). The geared head gives you incredible precision when shooting angled or straight on, and makes it very easy to capture scenes without having to worry about fiddling with your equipment.
A c-stand is another option for overhead shots. I invested in a c-stand so that I could easily switch between overhead and angled shots without having to constantly break down my tripod. These are larger, heavier units that are great for in-home studios, but not the best for travel. I use an Impact Turtle Base C-Stand.
If you choose to use a c-stand, you will need an adapter in order to mount your camera onto the c-stand arm. I chose an adapter that allows me to seamlessly switch my camera from my tripod to my c-stand.
- Manfrotto 014- 14 Rapid Adapter: this attaches to the end of the c-stand arm to make sure you have the right size thread for the monopod adapter head below.
- Manfrotto 234RC Monopod Head Quick Release: this piece attached to the rapid adapter above and lets you swivel your camera 90 degrees. It isn’t necessary, but I love having the flexibility to change from portrait to landscape without having to physically move my c-stand.
- Manfrotto 394 Low Profile Quick Release Adapter with 410PL Plate: this is a quick-release plate that is compatible with my tripod head. I attach this to the monopod head above, then I’m able to remove my camera from the c-stand with a single click and seamlessly transfer it to my tripod.
Tethering was another game changer in my food photography. Being able to clearly see my scene and make changes in real time helped me improve my composition and styling. It might sound complicated, but it’s actually an easy process. You just need a couple of items:
- Tether Cable: you cannot tether without a cable. They vary based on your camera model and your computer preference. Tether tools is the industry standard; you can visit their website to enter your camera model and computer ports and they will tell you exactly what cable you need. I highly recommend getting the longest cable (typically 15ft); it’s always better to have extra cable than not enough.
- Tethering Software: the software you use to tether is dependent on your camera model. Personally, I love using Capture One to tether with live view. It’s easy to set up, you can control all your camera settings from the program, and you can even focus your camera.
- TetherBLOCK MC Multi Cable Mounting Plate: this plate mounts to the bottom of your camera and holds the tether cable in place. It’s not something you need right away, but it’s a good investment long term. By restricting the movement of the cable you decrease the risk of damage to your camera port.
Having a way to fire your shutter remote is helpful when you’re trying to capture motion to shots with your hands. Make sure the trigger you choose is compatible with your camera model. For my Nikon D850, I use the Vello ShutterBoss II Timer Remote Switch and I extended the cord with the Vello 10′ Remote Shutter Extension Cable.
If you have any questions about any of the gear or tools I shared, please reach out to me using my contact page.