My Top 10 Food Photography Must Haves

my food photography must haves

Want to know the secret behind the Salty Tooth look? I’m taking you behind the scenes and sharing my top 10 food photography must haves. Some may surprise you!

I started taking photos of family recipes back in early 2018. My camera, a graduation gift from my mother. My photos, a simple pet project. Some of the earliest photos were quite laughable as I worked to understand my camera’s settings.

Thankfully, over time the photos improved, enough to where I felt that some new photography gear was warranted. I’ve been lucky to have some world-class food photography mentors who guided me towards the right tools and helped me get the most out of them. And now, I can definitively say that I have favorites among all the equipment I use!

So, I’m dishing up my top 10 favorite pieces of photography gear in case you’re wondering how I get such craveable food photos.

By the way, none of the following equipment is sponsored content or affiliate links. I’m just a fan!

My Top 10 Food Photography Must Haves

All of the camera related gear listed below is Canon compatible (specifically, the 5D Mark III). If you’re looking to buy photography gear, always double check for compatibility with whichever brand and model of camera you use. B&H Photo‘s Customer Service has always been incredibly helpful in this regard. So don’t hesitate to reach out if any questions come up!

Now let’s get to the gear!

  1. Replica Surfaces– I’ve tried quite a few surfaces for my food photography shoots, from super cheaply homemade, to very expensive custom made, and everything in between. While I still keep all the surfaces in rotation (I mean, who doesn’t love variety, right?), I find myself continually going back to the Replicas. They are small and lightweight, which is perfect for up-close shots and for when I’m wearing a heavy newborn in the baby sling. Speaking of close-ups, the print quality is phenomenal. There is no pixelation even in the tightest macro shot. I can assemble them using the Replica stands and know for certain the boards won’t come tumbling over onto my scene. And probably my favorite thing about them is that they are scratch, stain, and discoloration resistant. When you take messy food photos as often as I do, this is incredibly necessary! And while photography equipment is often no chump change, I felt these boards were reasonably priced. Currently, the only downside is that there are only nine selections in the shop. Here’s hoping there are more on the way!
  2. Yongnuo SpeedlightWhat do you mean you use artificial light for food photography? You might never know it by looking, but yes! Most of my images use flash! Artificial lighting really saved my butt too. With a full-time job, grad school, and a growing family, my opportunities for natural light were pretty nonexistent even living in the Valley of the Sun. Plus, my studio is my home, and there is unwanted ambient light just about everywhere you look! To get the light I craved, I needed a dependable solution. Enter the Yungnuo YN560 IV Wireless Flash speedlight. Recommended by none other than flash food photographer extraordinaire herself, Joanie Simon of The Bite Shot, its flash is strong enough to knock out the orangey overhead kitchen lighting and versatile enough for a wide range of exposures and shooting modes. It’s also one of the least expensive speedlights on the market, which came in very handy.
  3. Softboxes- I’ve got two softboxes on regular rotation in the studio: a large octagon, and a narrow strip softbox. These act as light modifiers and diffusers. The larger of the two works wonders for light and airy images, while the narrow modifier provides more dark and moody lighting. While I can use the speedlight without any modifier or diffusion whatsoever, I love the look of modified light. This is especially true on reflective surfaces, like my Classic Bloody Mary, where the modifiers cast deliciously even light on the glassware. The modifiers themselves can be further manipulated with grids to help make my food texture pop, or with #4 on the must have list to help mold the light exactly where I want it to go!
  4. Black Foam Core- One of the cheapest and most versatile pieces of gear, I use a simple piece of black foam core wherever I want to create shadows in a scene. Shadows help add dimension and depth to the subjects in the photos. And when you’re dealing with a 2-D image, adding a little shadow can make all the difference. I particularly love a good shadow on round objects (like in this biscuit shoot!) and also to dim the background a bit to let the hero shine.
  5. USB Cord for Tethering- Tethering my camera to my computer allows me to see my photo shoot in real time. This saves a lot of time as I can make any critical adjustments on the spot. In order to do this, I needed a USB cord that connected my devices. Again, a big pay off from an inexpensive purchase! For my Canon Mark III, I use this cable plus this extension which gives me a little more mobility. Want to learn more about tethering for photo shoots? Head on over to The Bite Shot’s YouTube channel for a great overview.
  6. Manfrotto Tripod– Composing a scene can take a lot of time! While I sometimes want the freedom to move around a scene quickly, I usually want to shoot on a tripod. This way, I can make incremental adjustments to the angle and/or the scene, without losing my place in the meantime. In this regard, my Manfrotto tripod has been a great investment. It has impressive reach and stability, and there are multiple heads depending on what your photography or filming needs are (I use this head for very precise still photography).
  7. External Hard Drive- Photo files are large, and I cook and shoot often. Sometimes, I take a hundred frames or more per food! So, an external hard drive was an absolute must so my computer would still function. But I don’t just have one. A back up external hard drive is also in my toolbox just in case the original gets lost or malfunctions. And because I need a set of two hard drives each year for cataloging purposes, I look for the highest quality I can find at a reasonable price. I’ve had great luck with this particular version, but any 1+ terabyte drive should do for most DSLR shooting.
  8. Wall Outlet Battery- This was a Christmas present from my hubby, and it’s been a game changer! It’s helped me to pull off amazing stop motion animations without any camera shake whatsoever. Plus, I don’t have to stop my longer photography sessions to make a switch or get charged up. For my Canon Mark III I use this AC adapter and DC coupler kit. Three cheers for continuous shooting!
  9. Canon 100mm Macro Lens– I couldn’t very well do a food photography must haves list without including a camera lens, could I? This 100mm prime lens is by far the most expensive piece of gear I have aside from the camera body itself, but it feels like it’s paid for itself several times over. Why? Well for one, I don’t take a lot of large scenes. I’m all about small details and tight frames with my food photography style, and this lens allows me to capture these with ease. Plus, the bokeh (or background blur) is incredibly dreamy! While I don’t shoot Macro on every food photo, I love at least taking it for a test drive each time. Food looks larger than life with a Macro lens. And after all, there’s nothing I love more than feeling like you’re right there, ready to take a bite!
  10. Adobe Lightroom Classic CC– I’ve found even the most expertly styled photos need a little extra TLC. My go-to post-processing software, Lightroom has taken my food photos from flat to fully dimensional. Specifically, I lean on the Tone Curve & Clarity Slider features to bring out the different tones in the image, add dimension and contrast, and define the texture. Not sure what I mean by all this? Check out Rachel Korinek’s Lightroom Magic course like I did, and see your food photos forever changed.

There you have it! These are my top 10 food photography must haves for drool-worthy pics. Now, go and feast your eyes on some more scrumptious snaps!

Looking for more photography resources? Check out my resources page!

Have other questions about photography gear? Feel free to contact me!

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