Food Photography


Sep 2, 2002
Anyone have experience with food photography?
I wanted general tips and lenses used.

Feel free to chime in about lighting, aperture, setup, anything really.

My current lens lineup: 35 1.8, 18-200, 70-200 2.8, unused 18-135 and an incoming 50 1.8


Senior member
Jun 12, 2010
1. Get your lighting skills down
2. Tripod and live view
3. Act fast, food gets worse over time
4. Tilt shifts are probably your best option. Canon has a pretty solid 90 that gets used for a lot of product photography.


Senior member
Mar 11, 2008
Also food is rarely front lit. Front light is usually fill wheras key light will often be behind and to one side. Take a look at food pictures or commecials on TV that show food and you will quickly see what I mean.

You also want good depth of field (hence the tilt shift suggestion above). Stop down, try F8-F11. If you need even more dof frame the shot wider than you need (back up and shoot from further away) and crop it down later (within reason).

I'd start with any one of your lenses except the 70-200.


Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
Use a gray card to make sure you get the correct white balance in your shots. It will make it a lot easier for you to get the correct colors in your shots. For some things, exact color match isn't critical, but a large part of food presentation is good color (the right color looks more appetizing).


Diamond Member
Sep 9, 2003
I find nice bright filtered natural light looks great on a lot of food.

If you are really serious you might want to look into what those food stylist do. It involves a lot of chemicals and techniques that make the food inedible afterwards.


Junior Member
Jun 18, 2011
Your viewer should drool over your photograph. That's your goal.

Setup - Talk to your food stylist or marketing manager first about what they want to show. They're most likely looking for what the client wants. That's usually appetite appeal, which translates to texture, glistening sauces, distinctive colors. Then feature the client's product with all of those things.

Recipe - Choose camera angle, then make lighting choices to enhance the food product. I use the main light for texture, lighting from a low angle - graze the food with the light. You want shallow shadows, usually backlit or crosslit from the sides. That minimizes undesirable shadows on the food and separates it from the background. It can also give you rim-lit highlights or translucence in the food or drink.

Use other lights to fill shadows or a mirror for very focused fill. I usually use the narrowest-possible strobe angles to focus light, with snoots or grid-spots for even more focus.

I'll re-heat or place fresh, heated food in just before shooting for the best look.

Ingredients - I most use a Canon EOS 5D mark II and EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, depending on the subject, always tripod-mounted. I also carry an old EOS 1D mark II as a backup camera. An EF24-70 f/2.8L may work better in some situations. I'll use a short extension ring with any lens if I need to get closer.

I use an ST-E2 to control three or four Canon strobes on light stands (two 550EX, two 430EX, all in manual power mode), with anything from plain white/gray to faux-wood or place mat backgrounds. 6-foot wide gray or black roll-paper works well as a substrate for the food set, wound up and behind the set. I also use ceramic plates shaped and colored to complement the food. I prefer minimalist composition, without too much in the picture.

Added spice - Backgrounds are important - get rid of anything that distracts from the food. Talk to the stylist or marketing manager about what should be sharp, then isolate with depth of field to suit. A 45mm or 90mm TS lens might come in handy, but I've never used one to do this. My 24mm TS-E puts me too close.

You’ll want longer focal lengths for longer working distance, even in a very small food studio.

Auto white balance in Canon's most recent dSLRs works pretty well (DIGIC 4). Avoid mixed light sources - it should be all strobes or all incandescents or all natural light, not some combination. Use a color-calibrated monitor to judge color afterwards. You can color-correct in Lightroom or Photoshop, but always try to get it right in the camera.
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