I get asked on Instagram almost every day what food photography gear I have. Whether it's my camera equipment, lighting, where backdrops are from, or where I find props - so, I thought I could give you all that info here!
Everything you see here was not purchased overnight but over several months, and I always do extensive research before I spend any money on anything. You should do the same, as photography is not a cheap career or hobby. The investments you will make are quite costly.
Remember: you don't need brand new gear to take beautiful photos. I personally used a hand-me-down 2008 Nikon camera from my parents until I learned how manual settings worked and that I proved to myself that I would stick with this. I only bought a new camera after I decided I wanted to make this into a career, and even still I am constantly learning and know my photos can/will improve!!
I'll be sure to update this post whenever I get new gear so it's always current for you! 🙂
My Camera & Lenses
In the very beginning, I used a Nikon D5200 (discontinued by Nikon, that's how old it is!) and a Nikon AF-S 50mm lens instead of the kit lenses that the camera came with. I am lucky enough that my parents are in the photography industry and had this camera that they let me have (they're die-hard Canon people). I learned as much as I possibly could on this camera until I found it was really restricting me. It was a crop sensor camera that I threw 50mm lens on, which just made everything so tight and I couldn't get everything I wanted to in my images. I now keep this camera as a back up, just in case.
I just recently upgraded my camera in June 2021! It's absolutely amazing, but it put a major dent in my wallet (totally fine...it's a write off, right?). I want to stress again that the camera you have is not what makes great photos. It's the photographer and their understanding of all of the various things that go into capturing a photo. I am definitely not the best photographer in the world, nowhere near it, and still have so much to learn and improve on. Upgrading my gear hasn't changed that.
Today, I now shoot with the Nikon Z7ii! This is a mirrorless camera, so a big difference from my DSLR. It's so sharp, lightweight, and fast, I'M OBSESSED.
I also purchased the FTZ Adapter that way I could still use my 50mm lens if I ever wanted to, as the lens is only compatible with a DSLR on its own. When I purchased the Z7ii, I went a little crazy and ordered 2 more lenses: Z series 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens and the Z series 85mm f/1.8 lens. I'll be completely honest, I love the 24-70mm and it's all I've been using. I shouldn't have purchased the 85mm. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful lens but I only purchased it because their mirrorless 105mm macro lens hadn't been released yet and I was being impatient. That's on my list to get!
The prices for these items alone is jaw-dropping, I know. But, they're the best investment I've made yet.
Other camera accessories
Besides my camera body and lenses, I use this Yongnuo remote trigger. This remote releases the shutter and can take single or continuous photos. It's great for when I need to capture motion shots, if I'm in the picture, or simply to avoiding shaking the camera when I'm at a super slow shutter speed. They have different ones for different cameras, so make sure you get the one that's compatible with your camera!
I also use this hot shoe level, which can put on my remote trigger or on the camera itself, so I can make sure my camera is level. This helps reduce the amount of editing I have to do as much as possible & avoids having to manipulate the geometry of the images.
I do plan on purchasing this tethering cable next so I can view my scene live on my laptop to ensure my composition, lighting, and camera settings, are spot on before I go through an entire shoot.
Tripods, Light Stands, & C-Stand
Whether you're shooting overhead, straight on, or at a 45 degree angle, tripods are a must. I know some people love to shoot free hand, but I just can't do it! My photos are always a bit 'off'/not level and shooting free hand doesn't allow me use the manual settings I like in order to get a tack sharp image. I currently use this YoTilon tripod for my straight on or 45 degree angle shots. Although it has an overhead arm, it is not strong enough to hold my camera level. So if you need a tripod for alllll the things, make sure it's strong enough to support the weight of your camera and any accessories you have on it.
Because I was struggling to take overhead shots with my tripod, I recently purchased this Impact c-stand! It has been such a lifesaver and I wish I got it sooner. In addition to the c-stand, you'll need to get this Manfrotto adapter and this Manfrotto monopod head so you can properly attach your camera to the c-stand. You can definitely attach other things to this bad boy (like your lights and backdrops), but so far I've only used it with my camera for overhead shots!
Artificial Lighting & Modifiers
This might sound crazy, but I have always only used artificial light. I like the freedom, consistency, and reliability of artificial light that natural light just doesn't offer. I started food photography in the fall while I worked a full time job, so natural light was never on my side. To be fair, in the beginning I had no understanding of light any way. Now that I do understand it more, I upgraded my gear!! I would NOT recommend my old lights, so I'm not even going to bother linking them.
If you'd like to learn about artificial light, I highly recommend Joanie Simon's Artificial Academy course. She goes over the principles of light in general, the various types of artificial light and modifiers you could get, how they work, how to set them up, how to achieve different styles of photography (light & bright, dark & moody), etc. It's really great!
My current favorite type of artificial light is continuous light. I personally think it's easier to learn and work with than flash. That's not to say I won't eventually buy & learn flash, as there are many pros to it! ANYWAY, I currently use the Godox SL-150W II light. It has a silent fan so it's great if you want to shoot any videos, and it plugs into your wall so you don't need to spend any money on batteries.
For my modifier, I use this Angler 48' Octagonal Softbox. The bigger the softbox, the better in my opinion. Larger softboxes create such a natural, indirect light look, which is what I'm going for. Smaller softboxes will create harder light with harsher shadows. The size and shape of the softbox you get is entirely up to you and how you want your photos to look! Whichever softbox you go with, make sure it comes with a bowens mount. This is the most common mounting system for most lights as it just clicks right on.
The last thing I use is a white 'bounce card.' In reality, it's just a white foam core board that you've likely used for school projects back in the day. I typically place these opposite my light source to reflect light back into the scene (or only onto the subject), if I feel the shadows are too harsh.
Memory Cards & Storage
For storage, I use this Seagate 2TB external hard drive. I save all of my raw files and edited files on here. I suggest having an additional form of backup, like saving everything on Google Drive, as hard drives can crash pretty easily.
To edit all my images, I use a combination of Lightroom Classic and Adobe Photoshop. Sometimes I notice the images I've edited on my computer will look different on my phone. To adjust this, I will use the Lightroom Mobile app.
I use Canva Pro to create any marketing materials, pinterest pins, pdfs, infographics, and more.
I use a combination of both vinyl & wooden backdrops, all of which vary in price. I used to use Replica Surfaces, but I don't recommend them for food photography, they're much too small. They're great for product photography though!
My favorite vinyl backdrops come from Capture by Lucy, Bessie Bakes Backdrops, & Club Backdrops. All 3 of these provide high quality backdrops at an affordable price. Here are some of my favorites from each!
Capture by Lucy:
Bessie Bakes Backdrops:
I've finally invested in Woodville Backdrops and I have to say, they're so stinkin' beautiful (but so expensive). They have so much texture that translates so well through the camera. They've taken my photos slightly to the next level.
I have one backdrop that's double sided with Essen (as seen in this Summer Pasta recipe) and Lima (as seen in this Kung Pao Cauliflower recipe) - this was 'custom' but that didn't change the cost. I got the 72*90cm/28"*35". I'd love to get another one that has Osaka and Baltimore.
I have yet to make my own backdrops, but I would love to try and see how they come out!
I get props from a variety of places! Props are so fun to buy but the prop can really add up. Check to see if you have a prop rental place around you! But my go-to places are:
- Crate & Barrel: for linen napkins, glasses, random items like a fruit strainer, plates, and more.
- Etsy Shops: I love etsy for finding antique props! A la Carte Prop Studio is my favorite shop and I've purchased vintage pie tins, utensils, ice cream scoops, sifters, and more.
- Target: I mean, what doesn't target have? I always scope out the Hearth & Hand with Magnolia when I'm there. They usually have great plates or napkins!
- RV Pottery: this is where I get all my ceramic plates, pinch bowls, and regular sized bowls! They're definitely an investment but they're gorgeous.
- Fodory: this is another great shop where you can get a large variety of props! They have free worldwide shipping which is a great plus! I was shopping at another place for props (similar but Fodory has way more to offer) but they're based in the UK and the shipping alone was $30.
That's it y'all!! As always, if you have any questions about anything in this post (or if you just want to chat) leave a message in the comments, shoot me an email at [email protected], or DM me on Instagram @pinchofparsley_!