As I continue to get deeper and deeper into food photography and gear, I wanted to share a roundup of what I've found to be my favorite food photography gear. These are the things I personally use and love (and in some cases, I share the gear I started with and where I am now). I certainly can't say that I've tried everything out there - I don't think anyone has! - and I'm sure there are other products and brands that are also excellent, but I wanted to share with you what works well for me!
I'll also be honest that there are also quite a few things I've tried that aren't great, so hoping I can help you avoid those same mistakes.
As always, I do include a few affiliate links in this post for products I truly use and love. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I'll earn a little money (at no cost to you) to keep the kitchen up and running, which I promise to use to create more fun content like this! One of those affiliates is with Amazon, which requires a very clear disclosure: as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you have any questions about affiliates, please reach out!
Camera & Lenses
You have to start a list of favorite food photography gear with the camera, right?
I started out using a Nikon D3300, which was a great beginner camera to learn how to use a DSLR. I have since switched to Canon, and here are my two cents on the Canon vs. Nikon debate: I prefer Canon over Nikon. I think it's a much easier user interface; if I could do it again, I would learn on a Canon rather than a Nikon. That said, the switch was not hard. At the end of the day, you ideally want to choose one brand and stick with it. I have not used any other brands than Canon and Nikon, but there are great cameras available from several other brands. Don't be afraid to try them!
My current camera is a Canon EOS R and I absolutely love it. I made the jump to mirrorless about a year ago and I will never go back. Camera technology is heading towards mirrorless. A few years from now, it will be harder to find DSLR parts and repairs as most will have transitioned to mirrorless. Can't recommend making the jump to mirrorless enough!
I primarily shoot with a 50mm lens (the nifty fifty!) and a 100mm macro lens. The 100mm lens is an investment, but one that I personally find worth it. That said, I highly recommend renting lenses before you purchase so you can test them out before putting the money down.
My camera and primary lenses:
I swapped out the camera strap my Canon EOS R came with and opted for a simple, leather handheld strap. This is a personal choice as I like to have the strap around my wrist rather than my neck. I can't find the exact one I have online, but the two below are similar:
I'd also highly recommend getting a tethering cable so you can shoot tethered (connecting your camera to your computer). The type of cable you need will depend on the camera that you have and the computer you have. You'll also need to check that your camera has tethering capabilities (my Nikon D3300 did not, for example). Check out Tether Tools to choose the cable that is the right fit for your needs. For my setup (Canon EOS R connecting to a Macbook Pro with USB-C ports), I use the cable below.
- Tether Pro USB-C to USB-C Right Angle Cable from Tether Tools
One more little accessory: I LOVE the little camera level cube that attaches directly to my camera's hot shoe. It slides right into where a flash would mount (this is the hot shoe) and shares a level bubble on three different planes. It's the easiest way to make sure you're lined up correctly for those overhead shots!
- Camera Level Hot Shoe from Amazon
If you're looking to get into artificial light, I highly recommend checking out the videos, guides and courses created by Joanie Simon at The Bite Shot. I took her Artificial Academy course and it was incredible. She also has a great gear guide that can be a great place to start.
There are tons of gear options, and what you choose is very dependent on how you like to shoot (and also, keep in mind that different gear pairs with different cameras and this list is very specific to my camera setup). Here are a few of the things I like to use:
- Godox SL150ii continuous light (this is also nearly silent and great for video) mounted to a Flashpoint Heavy Duty Light Stand.
- Flashpoint Zoom R2 Manual Flash for strobe or flash photography. This mounts to the Flashpoint Heavy Duty Light Stand with a Bowens Mount. You also need a trigger.
- Westcott 1x2' Softbox with Westcott Grid that mounts to a Bowens Mount with a Westcott Switch Insert.
- Glow EZ 31x47" Softbox that mounts to a Bowens Mount.
- Neweer 40x60" Diffuser is a larger diffuser that is useful in almost any situation.
- Neweer 43" Diffuser is a smaller diffuser.
- Neweer 6' Photography Light Stand with Clamp Holder is great to hold diffusers and lights.
There are a million different tripods out there, but for my Canon, the one I use and really love is the Manfrotto 190X Pro B with the Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head. This tripod is great for straight-on or ¾ shots, but it also has an extender arm for overhead shots. It also folds up and is easy to carry and store. If you're using the extender arm for overhead shots, make sure to get a sandbag for counterbalance (so your camera doesn't tip over!).
- Manfrotto 190X Pro 3 from Amazon
- Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head from Amazon
- Sandbags from Amazon (It may be obvious, but these do not come filled with sand. I naively thought they would... You can buy sand at a local hardware store, if needed).
Please know that when you buy a tripod, you also have to buy a geared head (the piece that connects the camera to the tripod). Tripods are not necessarily very expensive, but the geared heads can be, so be ready for that. The Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head is amazing for making small adjustments on any plane. It's not quick to move, but since I'm shooting food, I don't typically need speed and agility (which you might want if you're shooting portraits, for example). I'm looking more for precision, and it's perfect for that.
I also have the Akron Pro Phone Stand that I like to use with my iPhone to film video for IG Reels or TikTok. It's wonderful and by far the best iPhone tripod / stand I have used.
Tripods are also a great place to buy used equipment. They last forever and as long as they're in good condition, it doesn't matter if you have the latest model. Buying used gear is also a great way to test something out to see if you like it before shelling out big bucks for the newest model, or an expensive version. In the US, you can find great used gear from Adorama, B&H, Craigslist, or your local camera store.
There are so many wonderful food photography backdrop shops. A few of my favorites are Ink & Elm, DropaWall, and Bessie Bakes. I also like to find materials and make my own backdrop (for example, with weathered wood planks).
Ink & Elm has a wide variety of vinyl backdrops that come in multiple sizes. They're also price-friendly, so it's easy to get a few at a time. I'm loving the 3ft. x 3ft. size at the moment (most are 2ft. x 3 ft.) as it gives me a bit of extra space to create the scene. A few of my favorites from Ink & Elm are:
- Nature's Path (my current favorite backdrop! It can look neutral / beige, or more pink, depending on your props and other colors in the photo)
- Across the Globe
- Smooth Marble
To note, when these arrive, they will be rolled. You'll need to lay them flat on a table or the floor and cover with heavy books for a day or two to help them flatten. I like to store mine flat so I don't need to flatten them every time I want to use them, but you can also roll them for storage.
The other great thing about vinyl is you can spill or put liquids on the surface without worrying about it soaking in. I am careful about things that might stain (pomegranate juice, or paprika oil, for example), but have yet to actually stain a background.
Bessie Bakes is also great because the board backdrops are stiff, so you can prop them up as a "wall" without having to hang anything (unlike vinyl). They're also water and stain-resistant, but I have noticed they can be scratched. Also, they're available on Amazon, and if you need something quick, they can be there so fast! A few of my favorites are:
I personally don't have any, but Woodville Workshop backdrops are also very popular and some of the most high-end backdrops available (personal opinion!). They're pricey, but everything I have heard is that they're worth it!
You can also DIY your own backdrops. Two Loves Studio shares a really great tutorial on how to make DIY backdrops. I haven't tried this yet, but am hoping to soon!
Photography Courses & Books
Rounding out my list of favorite food photography gear are courses and books! You should always be growing and investing in yourself and there will always be more to learn.
I highly recommend the Foodtography School courses as a great to learn the basics of food photography, styling and composition. I started with Foodtography School, and it set me on the path I am on today. They offer a wide range of courses, and also sell editing presets, website templates, guides and more. You can check out my full review of Foodtography School here.
I also highly recommend Artificial Academy from The Bite Shot. This is the course I took to learn how to use artificial light. It's incredibly user-friendly and does a great job of teaching something that felt so daunting to me!
There are also some wonderful books on food photography, including:
- Creative Food Photography by Kimberly Espinel
- How to Photograph Food by Beata (Bea) Lubas
- Picture Perfect Food by Joanie Simon
Hopefully this roundup of my favorite food photography gear has been helpful! I'll update this post from time to time to make sure it's current, but I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. What are you using that you love? Any questions that I can help answer?