Basic good food photography is not as difficult as some food photographers would like you to think. If you have a reasonable eye for composition and styling, a good ‘fast’ lens and a big window offering lots of natural light, you can create beautiful images and improve with practice!
You need a ‘fast lens’. This is a lens with preferably a fixed focal length (not zoom) and with a starting f stop (aperture) of about f/1.4 up to no more than f/2.8. Ideally the fixed ‘focal length’ should be between 50mm and 90mm. An f2.8 is what we use for all our food images on Hotly Spiced. My lens of choice is a Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt shift lens, which is not cheap perhaps unnecessary and overindulgent but I love it! A more affordable choice would be a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. If you have already bought your Digital SLR camera and it is not a Canon, then there are a wide range of lens manufacturers that will supply the lens with lens mount for your particular camera. One such lens would be a Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro lens (Macro means you can get the lens very close to the subject and obtain an ultra close up shot – great for many food images).
To achieve a lovely background blur and make a particular point of your subject really stand out from the background you will need to shoot with an f/2.8 lens. The f/2.8 lens allows for a very shallow depth of field (or depth of focus). An f/2.8 lens will usually have an aperture range of between f/2.8 and f/16 or 22.
For example, if you wanted to shoot a picket fence with the first picket close to the camera and the last picket far away from the camera, and have all or most of the pickets in focus, (very deep ‘depth of field’), you would need to dial up an aperture reading of f/22. This is where the aperture ring is at its smallest, allowing the least amount of light to the camera’s sensor. This also means a slower shutter speed to compensate. When you dial up f/2.8, the aperture ring is at its largest which is why these lenses have a big bit of glass at the camera end of the lens, allowing for lots of light to come to the sensor and a much faster shutter speed, hence the term ‘fast lens’.
And remember, what you choose to blur out in the background or foreground can be as important and interesting as the subject in creating a great image.
Camera choice, believe it or not, is not so important (sorry Mr Canon!) More megapixels means bigger files on your computer and more storage problems. I use my trusty old Canon 1D MkII which is about 8 megapixels (and about 8 years old), and lets face it, unless you are going to be printing your images, 2 or 3 megapixels is sufficient! It’s all about the lens!
Well yes, it is all about the lens…but it’s all about lighting as well! It doesn’t need to be complicated; just a big window with good natural light. Avoid direct sun though. Along with natural light, a white reflector card or board from an art supply store to bounce some light back in to the shadow area is the only additional tool you will need.
We will be uploading a series of ‘how to’ images in the next few days. so come back soon.
If you have any photography questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help you.