As food photographers we’re always striving to get that mouth watering shot. Things like lighting, composition, subject and food staging are all important parts to getting that perfect image. However one thing that is invaluable to getting that tasty shot is a well stocked tool kit.
This article covers some of the most useful and must have items in a food photography tool kit.
Food Photography Tool Kit Must Have Items:
A Good Macro or low f/stop Lens – Find the best macro or low f/stop (f/2.8 to f/5.6) you can afford for your camera. The Canon 100mm macro or Nikkor 105mm micro lens, and the 50mm Canon or the Nikkor 50mm when a wider lens is needed. If you’re using a lens with a low f-stop (non-macro) then you may also consider buying an extension tube for your lens. This is an inexpensive way to convert your lens into a macro lens as it reduces the minimum focus distance.
Tripod – With food photography you are often taking multiple test and studio type shots, you need a sturdy tripod as you are not hand holding your camera as much as you would in other types of photography. One very important feature of your tripod is versatility as you many want to get different angles – low, high and close up.
Some Things to look for in a tripod
- Low minimum height or reversible center column (can hang you camera under the tripod).
- Good tripod head so you can change the angle of your camera.
Reflectors – There are many types of reflectors and having different types and sizes are a must for food photography. You can make reflectors with cardboard and aluminum foil and they work wonders as you can customize the size to meet your needs. You could also purchase a set of portable reflectors, you can get a decent set here.
The above items are you more major and must have items. The next section covers the smaller essentials that are needed for food photography.
Tweezers – A good pair of tweezers can come in handy when you need to set, move or remove items in your food scene. This will also help you keep from leaving finger prints on items.
Tapes, Tacks, and Adhesives – These are used for so many different reasons, issues and situations. Anything from holding items in places, quick fixes, propping items up, holding gear such as reflectors, shaping items and many more uses.
Must have tapes, tacks and adhesives
- Toupee tape (most useful tape) very thin and very strong double sided tape that can hold just about anything.
- Masking tape
- Medical tape (does not leave glue or marks but holds well)
- Duct tape
- Painters tape
- Double sided tape
- Glue tack
- Tacky dots
- Various glues
Gloves – Gloves can come in handy for handling items in your food photography scene.
- Cotton gloves (great for not leaving finger prints)
- Hot item gloves (thick and protective)
Medicine Syringes – These are great for placing liquids just where you want them to be in your scene. Another great use for these is to add and remove liquid from glasses without leaving a trace of them on the glass. Example: placing wine in a wineglass
Eye Droppers – These are used to create bubbles in specific places in liquids.
Mechanics Mirror – These mirrors allow you to see in places you may not be able to get to. You can find these at any auto supply store.
Clamps – Always useful for holding items, backgrounds and reflectors. Having a variety of sizes is a must for any food photographer.
Floral Wire and Armature Wire – These types of wire have many uses, they can be used to hold reflectors, positioning props such as towels, and to hold items like lights or other equipment.
Wooden Skewers and Toothpicks – Used in food staging to hold food in place e.g. The bun of a hamburger in just the right position. These are also good for moving or adjusting items you might not be able to reach.
Spray Bottles and Spritzers – These are used for many different purposes.
- Adding different sized droplets of liquid
- Create droplets on glasses
- You can use different mixtures of water and other liquids to create different effects:
- Karo syrup
Make-up Sponges and Cotton Balls – These are a very handy tool that can be used to prop up items, clean up spills, remove smudges and oils.
Cotton balls are used to make hot drinks look like they’re steaming. The way you do this is take a cotton ball and soak it in water then microwave it. Now place it in the cup of liquid you want to photograph. The cotton ball will be hidden within the drink and your drink will now look like it is steamy and hot. You can also use this for soups and other liquids that should appear hot.
Q-Tips – Used for quick clean-up in hard to reach places.
Various Wood Blocks – The have multiple general uses.
- Prop up items
- Reflector card holders
- Fix wobbly tables or other items.
- Hold items
Baby Wipes – Good for clean up and a quick wipe down of items including your hands, camera and props. Your hands can get sticky, oily and dirty quickly when doing food photography and these little items can save you time.
Brushes – Make-up and paint brushes are amazing for removing crumbs and other unwanted items from your food scenes.
Over time you will find that there are many other items that can come in handy and you will always be adding and removing items from your tool kit. However the items in this article are a good place to start to build a well rounded food photography kit.