One of the most common questions that I hear is “what is the best lens to use for food photography?” This is a tough one to answer, because like so many things in photography, it depends greatly on the photographer.
The art of food photography is like product or still life photography – with one major exception; the subject has a very short shelf life. Once the food is in the front of the camera, you only have about ten or fifteen minutes to get your shot or the food will start to fade and look lifeless. With ice cream you have even less time.
If the photographer knows what they are doing, they will select a camera lens because of a combination of factors that pertain the reason for the photograph and to the individual needs of a particular subject matter.
I am a Nikon user, so, all I am telling you in this post is my personal opinion based on my experience. I will not try to make you change your camera or lens. All I am going to do is tell you about the lens I use for my food photography.
Even I have 3 lens, for food photography I use only 2: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. My third one is a tele photo : Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 which is amazing for other types of photography. So let’s begin:
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
I start using this lens after almost 2 years since I got it. It was a gift when I bought 24-70mm. I love it. Is a great lens and autofocus is fast and accurate. I used it when I want to shoot with my camera in my hand and I have low light. I can keep ISO small and I will have less noise in my photo.
If I were starting out, I would probably pick the 50mm f/1.8G.
Prime lenses are the primary choice of the food photographer. The fixed glass produces a nicer image with less distortion than a telephoto or zoom lens.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
While the 24-70mm is not a macro lens, it has a 37 cm (14.5″) minimum focusing distance. That sounds like a long way, but at 70mm you can get pretty close to your subject. If you are shooting on a high resolution sensor (16 megapixels and above) you will be able to crop in quite a bit and so you will be able to get some good closed photos. Bear in mind, this is not a macro lens, but if you want to get in close to a subject, really nice and close, this lens can do that. The sharpness and clarity is amazing, and it is good to have this ability on this lens.
Another great lens for food photography is a macro lens : Nikon 105mm f/2.8. It is expensive and is on my to buy list. It gives you a lot of details within the shallow depth of field you choose. And if I want to see all those crazy details up close, the 105mm certainly has the reach . The Nikon 105mm f/2.8G may not be as versatile and lightweight as the 50mm lenses, but it still gives amazing results. Just keep in mind that if you have a big dish to photograph, you will need some space around you, especially on a crop-factor camera!
If you purchase a macro lens with a longer focal length, you will find that it will not only take great up close images of your food, it can work well as portrait lens for taking pictures of the people who make the food!
Like all forms of photography, having expensive gear will not make you a great photographer. You will still need to know about styling, lighting, and composition to make beautiful food pictures.
So…. Keep shooting and Make Time For Your Food Photography!