Food photography has become a staple of social media. Whether you want to document your adventures as a foodie or get started as a professional food photographer, it’s important to invest in the right gear to bring your favorite dishes to life.
One of the things you will need is a lens for food photography. There isn’t a single best lens for food photography, but you should consider the following option to put together a versatile toolkit.
Best Lens for Food Photography
The following lenses for food photography will help you capture dishes with sharp details, appealing colors, and original effects. Some lenses are more versatile than others and suitable for other types of photography, while some lenses are a must-have to achieve a specific effect.
24-70mm f2.8 Zooms
The main advantage of this food photography best lens is versatility. If you want to get into food photography but would also like to explore street photography and dabble in portraiture, a 24 70mm lens is an excellent investment.
The 24 70mm range allows you to explore different focal lengths, from a wide angle to a zoom. A short focal length is ideal for capturing a photograph of a dish, but you might want to zoom out to photograph a table spread or show a dish in a composition that includes other elements. There are a lot of possibilities if you use the full 24 70mm range.
The f 2.8 aperture of the 24 70mm lenses creates a shallow depth of field. Working with a shallow depth of field means you will get a sharp and crisp image as long as your subject is near the camera. A 24 70mm lens is ideal for food photography because you will typically stand directly above the dish you’re photographing.
An f 2.8 aperture also helps you achieve a bokeh effect for your backgrounds. A 24 70mm lens will give you a soft blurred effect that is popular in food photography since it allows you to create a dreamy and appealing atmosphere while guiding the viewer’s gaze to the food.
The 24 70mm f 2.8 zoom lens is a popular and versatile option. Most manufacturers offer these specs in their product lineups, with options like the Canon EF 24 70mm f/2.8L USM lens, the Sony FE Zoom 24 70mm f 2.8, or the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24 70mm f/2.8G ED.
24-105mm Zoom Lens
A 24-105mm zoom lens is another versatile option. The focal range of these best lenses for food photography covers wide to telephoto zooms.
Working with a wide-angle lens can create some distortion when you’re too close to your subject. If you decide to set your lens somewhere in the 24 to 40mm range, you might end up with some distortion in the borders of your image. Distortion can become more noticeable when you’re capturing pics at a 45-degree angle that is common in food photography.
You can achieve a unique effect by playing with distortion, but a lot of professional food photographers crop their images when working with wide-angle lenses to prevent distortion from taking over their composition.
There are some advantages to using a wide-angle lens for food photography. You can capture an entire table spread and show different food items in the same shot easily.
Switching to the telephoto mode unlocks more possibilities. If you decide to use a focal length that is somewhere between 80 and 105mm, you will get a more focused picture of your food without any distortion.
You can combine the telephoto mode with a shallow depth of field to get optimal results. Try standing further away from the dish and position yourself to shoot the dish from above. You will get a crisp image that makes the food look very appealing.
If you’re looking for a quality wide-to-telephoto lens, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM lens is an excellent choice.
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24mm Wide Angle Primes
A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length. Prime lenses aren’t as versatile as zoom lenses, but they typically deliver a faster aperture, and there are some advantages to shooting with a lens that doesn’t allow you to zoom in on your subject.
With a zoom lens, the lowest aperture you will find is typically f/2.8. You can find prime models with a lower aperture setting. Using a low aperture creates a shallow depth of field and allows you to capture more light. You can achieve sharp food photography images and get excellent results when snapping pictures in dimly lit restaurants.
Not being able to zoom in on a dish can be a drawback but working with a prime lens forces you to think about your composition differently. Instead of relying on a zoom feature, you will have to find new ways of positioning yourself to capture your shot. It’s a different approach that can result in more creative images.
A 24mm lens is one of the best lenses for food photography because it is wide enough to show an entire table or capture all the ingredients you need for a recipe. If you want to add a wide-angle lens to your collection, the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art and the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED are worth considering.
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A 35mm lens is a must-have accessory for any photographer. It’s an interesting option for food photography, but you can use a 35mm lens for a wide range of applications. It’s the best lens for product photography because it’s close to how the human eye sees things.
Shooting with a 35mm lens creates a subtle wide-angle effect. When you mount it on a full frame camera, the 35mm focal depth mimics the way the human eye sees the world.
Working with a 35mm lens is ideal if you’re new to food photography. It’s a lens that is easy to master, and you will get results that look realistic and appealing even though you lack experience. The compact design of 35mm lenses makes them easy to carry and ideal for travel photography.
Another application for 35mm lenses is commercial food photography. By reproducing the way the human eye looks at the world, you can capture images that look natural to the viewers, and that help them feel present in the shot.
You will often find large aperture settings on these lenses. The combination of the 35mm length and large aperture is ideal for capturing crisp details, sharp colors and creating a soft bokeh effect in the background.
If you’re looking for a 35mm lens, the Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G AF-S is an excellent option.
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50mm Prime Lens
A 50mm prime lens or Nifty Fifty is one of the best lenses for food photography since this spec is standard. Like a 35mm lens, a 50mm lens gives you a focal length that is similar to the way humans see the world.
Shooting with a 50mm lens makes sense for beginners. It’s easy to create compositions that will make dishes look appealing because the image you capture will be similar to what you can see with the naked eye.
Nifty Fifty lenses share another similarity with 35mm lenses. These lenses both have a shallow depth of field, which is an important feature for food photography. Using a shallow depth of field allows you to focus on a plate of food and get a background with a bokeh effect. This soft blurred effect draws the eye to the food without creating a sharp contrast between the different planes of the composition.
A 50mm is a compact option that is great if you need to carry your gear or want to snap pictures of food as you explore a new city. It’s also a versatile option. You can use it for food, travel, and street photography, as well as portraits. If you have a blog or social media presence and want to create stunning content for your followers, a 50mm lens is one of the best investments you could make.
You will typically find fast aperture settings with 50mm lenses. A fast aperture will let in plenty of light. It’s easier to get sharp results and capture details and colors that make food look even better. You will also have the freedom to work with a wider ISO range to avoid noise or create unique effects.
While a prime lens is less versatile than a zoom lens, a 50mm lens will quickly become a staple of your kit because of the creative possibilities you can explore with this natural effect.
If you’re looking for a 50mm prime lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is an excellent choice. The Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 is another option to consider if you want more sharpness.
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60mm Micro/60mm Macro
Micro and macro lenses are two terms that refer to the same thing. You will come across brands that use micro to describe their lenses while others use macro.
The purpose of a micro or macro lens is to give you an image size that is close to the true size of your subject. You should get a 1:1 ratio between your image size and subject without having to add any accessories.
A lot of cameras have a macro feature. This feature allows you to focus on a small area to get a close-up. Even though manufacturers call this feature macro, the magnification ratio will remain under 1:1, and you won’t get a true macro shot. A true macro or micro lens will give you a magnification that is equal to or higher than 1:1.
A focal length of 60mm is ideal for a macro lens if you’re using a crop sensor camera. The 60mm spec is close to the traditional 50mm setting that creates a natural result.
Using a 60mm macro lens to shoot pictures of food is interesting because you can get close to your subject and capture more details. It’s ideal if you want to show the texture of a food or photograph a dish with small elements.
The Nikon 60mm f/2.8 G AF-S Micro Nikkor AF ED is a performing micro lens with a natural focal length.
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105mm Micro/100mm Macro
There is another type of macro lens to consider for food photography. Just like with the 60mm model, you can get stunning close-up shots and show the details and texture of the dishes you’re photographing.
A 105mm or 100mm macro lens will work best for a full frame model. Using a 60mm macro lens on a full frame camera could result in some distortion due to the wide angle of this lens. A 105mm or 100mm lens is narrower and will prevent distortion.
While you can get better results by adopting a 20 to 30-degree angle to capture a shot with a low angle with a 60mm lens, you can adopt a more traditional 45-degree angle with a 105mm or 100mm macro lens.
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens is an excellent 100mm macro lens to consider, and the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG is a great buy if you want a more affordable option.
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Tilt Shift Lens
A tilt shift lens unlocks more possibilities through movement. The position of these lenses changes in relation to the image sensor to create unique effects.
You can create a tilt and shift effect in Photoshop but mounting a tilt shift lens on your camera results in a more dramatic effect.
A regular lens captures an image with a circular shape. The camera then superimposes this circular image over the sensor and crops it to fit the rectangular format of the image sensor. A tilt shift lens captures a larger circle and can move this circle in relation to the sensor to create two types of effects:
- Tilt. A tilting effect changes the orientation of the plane of focus. You can use this setting to adjust the area that will look sharp in the final composition. With a regular lens, the plane of focus is always parallel to your sensor. With a tile shift lens, you can shoot with a plane of focus at a different angle.
- Shift. With the shifting effect, the lens is going to move in relation to the image plane. The position of your subject will change, but you can keep the same camera angle. You can, for instance, look up and capture a photograph of a tall building and have the lines of the building remain parallel with this setting.
A tilt shift lens is an interesting option for food photography because it gives you extremely precise control over where your plane of focus is. You can adjust the depth of your composition and choose which area is in focus.
It’s a very subtle effect that allows you to adjust perspective and focus. You can keep some elements in focus and blur others and find the most flattering perspective for a dish.
Mastering the tilt-shift lens can be technical, but it’s an accessory that can make your pics look more like the work of a professional food photographer. If you want to get started with tilt-shift photography, the Nikon PC-E FX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D is a good choice.
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Mid-Telephoto Macro Lenses
Short macro lenses in the 30 to 50mm range are popular because their focal length allows you to get close to your subject. You can capture stunning photographs with a 1:1 macro setting.
A telephoto lens with a range of 200 to 300mm allows you to capture close-up shots of subjects that are far away from you. These lenses are ideal for outdoor photography, but they’re not practical for food photography because you can typically position yourself close to your subject.
A mid-telephoto macro lens is an interesting compromise. These lenses have a focal length anywhere from 70 to 200mm and can make your subject look closer to the viewer while providing a subtle blurred effect for your background. Mid-telephoto lenses are also a good option if you want to avoid distortion.
Mid-telephoto lenses are extremely versatile. Shooting with a 70mm focal length is ideal for capturing photos of food that sits in front of you. You can stand further away from your subject with a greater focal length.
The mid-telephoto range is interesting to work with because it allows you to stand close enough to your subject to get sharp and detailed shots while getting optimal results in terms of compression. These lenses are also versatile, with settings like 135mm being popular for portraits and wedding photography.
The IRIX 150mm f/2.8 Dragonfly Macro Lens and Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM are two versatile macro lenses in the mid-telephoto range.
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A full frame sensor reproduces the 24x36mm dimension of 35mm film. These dimensions are standard in films and photography.
A cropped sensor is an image sensor with a size that is smaller than the standard 35mm dimension. You can find cameras with a four-third sensor, APS-C sensor, and other sizes.
Shooting with a full frame model gives you access to a broader dynamic range. These cameras typically have better ISO performance and image quality. You can easily get a shallow depth of field that is ideal for food photography, but full frame cameras and compatible lenses tend to cost more.
Crop sensor cameras are lighter, compact, and more affordable. However, the field of view will be wider on a full frame camera compared to a cropped sensor model. A smaller sensor reduces the size of the area a camera can capture.
It’s important to keep these differences in mind when choosing a lens. The lens covering power is a circular zone that is wider than your camera sensor. A full frame model will crop this circular zone to fit the rectangular shape of the image sensor, and a cropped sensor camera will crop this zone further to fit the smaller sensor.
Some manufacturers make lenses for cropped sensor cameras that don’t have enough covering power to work with full frame cameras.
The size of the image you can capture will vary between a full frame and cropped sensor model. You will have to get closer to the subject with a cropped sensor model and potentially deal with distortion.
Using a 35mm lens on a cropped sensor camera will yield results similar to a 50mm lens on a full frame model. A 35mm lens on a camera with a smaller sensor is ideal for overhead shots of your food.
A 60mm lens on a cropped sensor camera is ideal for capturing 45-degree angle shots of your food with a soft blurred background. The results will look similar to shots taken with a 90 or 105mm lens on a full frame model.
Prime Versus Zoom Lenses
A prime lens has a fixed focal length. You will have to move to get your subject to appear smaller or larger.
A zoom lens has a magnification factor and allows you to adjust the distance without moving. A zoom lens typically covers a range of focal lengths you can adjust.
Prime lenses tend to be more affordable. They yield sharp results, and their compact design is an advantage when traveling or carrying your equipment. Moving to adjust the size of your subject helps you master the basics of composition and encourages you to be more creative. These lenses also tend to have fast aperture settings, which is ideal for capturing images of food in low light conditions.
Zoom lenses are more versatile, but they tend to cost more. However, a single zoom lens can cover the focal lengths of different prime lenses. Some zoom lenses come with advanced features like image stabilization to enhance sharpness. Zoom lenses tend to be bulkier and heavier.
Choosing between a zoom and prime lens is a matter of personal preferences. A 35, 50, or 60mm lens is ideal for food photography, but you can zoom lenses that cover this entire range of focal lengths if you don’t mind spending more.
What Features Might I Be Missing on a Cheap Kit Lens?
Manufacturers typically include kit lenses with their flagship cameras. It’s common to find 18-55mm lenses, but you might come across kit lenses with other specs when shopping for a new camera.
Kit lenses are inexpensive and help you get comfortable with your new camera. They’re suitable for an amateur food photographer. The focal length is typically versatile enough to help you get started with photographing a wide range of subjects, including food photography. A cheap 18-55mm kit lens covers the 35 and 55mm focal lengths that are common in food photography.
The downside of kit lenses is that they lack certain features. Image quality isn’t ideal, especially in low-light conditions. You might find that you’re not getting sharp or detailed images when capturing close-ups.
Aperture is typically not very performing compared to other more expensive lenses. Slow aperture can be an issue for sharpness, and you might have a hard time getting the shallow depth of field that makes food pictures look better by isolating the dish from the background. You won’t find any advanced features like image stabilization or a greater number of focus points.
What Brand of Lens Should You Buy?
You should know that brands have their own mounting systems for lenses. Some brands even use several mounting systems. You can shop for adapters but these accessories add to the bulk and weight of your camera.
For instance, Canon uses the EF, EF-S, EF-M, and RF mounting systems. Some Canon cameras are compatible with only one mounting system, while others work with different types of lenses.
Nikon uses the F-mount on many of its models. If your camera has an F-mount, you can shop for Nikkor lenses. Some Nikon models use a Z-mount instead and require a different type of lens.
Third-party manufacturers always indicate which mounts their products are compatible with. Before you choose a brand for a new camera lens, find out what kind of mounting system your camera uses, and narrow your options down to lenses compatible with this system.
You get what you pay for with camera lenses. Cheap lenses typically don’t have quality optics, and you might find the results disappointing because of poor light diffusion and other issues. Aperture speed might not be ideal, and the lens motor might not last long if you opt for a cheap model.
It’s best to stick to well-known brands that deliver quality products backed by an extensive warranty. Brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Zeiss, among others, are excellent choices due to the quality of the products they offer.
What if I Want to Get a Full Pro-Kit of Lenses Right Away?
If you’re ready to invest in a professional lens kit, make sure you choose a package that comes with all the best lenses for food photography.
You will need one or more prime lenses. A 35mm lens with an aperture below f/2.8 is ideal if you use a cropped sensor camera. Look for a 50mm prime lens if you shoot with a full frame model. If you have the budget, consider getting a 35mm and 50mm lens for more versatility.
Look for a lens in the 80 to 105mm range for a full frame camera or 60mm range for a cropped sensor model.
You will also need a zoom lens. A 24-105mm model would be a versatile choice, but you can opt for a 24 70mm model as well. If you want to capture small details, make sure your kit includes a lens with a macro function.
Depending on the kind of foot photographs you want to capture, you might want to invest in a kit that includes a wide-angle lens or a tilt shift lens.
What Is a Macro Function?
A lens with a macro function allows you to capture small subjects from up-close. These lenses place the main point of focus closer to the camera compared to other lenses.
When you use a regular lens, the image size is going to be smaller than the subject you’re capturing. With a macro lens, the image size is true to the size of the subject or greater.
A 1:1 macro lens allows you to capture the true size of a subject. You can find macro lenses that go as high as 5:1 and that magnify your subject to five times its true size.
What Do You Use Each of the Lenses For?
The different types of lenses mentioned above have specific uses in the context of food photography. Understanding what kind of shots look best with each lens will help you get better results but remember that you can always break the rules and experiment with different lenses.
Here is how you should use different lenses for food photography:
- 24 70mm f/2.8 zoom and 24-105mm zoom lenses are two versatile options. These lenses are ideal for overhead shots and 45-degree angle shots. You can use a wide-angle to capture an entire table or recipe.
- A 24mm wide-angle prime lens can show more of the scene. You can use this lens to photograph a table spread or show the atmosphere of a restaurant.
- A 35mm or 50mm prime lens will yield a natural result. The shot will look similar to what the human eye can see. These lenses are ideal for 45-degree and lower angles, with the 35mm lens being the better choice for a cropped sensor camera.
- A 60mm micro or macro lens is perfect for close-up shots. You can stand close to the food and capture details like texture or small elements with this lens.
- A tilt-shift lens is more technical but allows you to get more professional results. You can use this lens to adjust perspective and focus with precision.
- A mid-telephoto macro lens allows you to capture details and make small elements look larger. You can stand further away from your subject compared to a 60mm macro lens.
Here are some additional considerations about the best food photography lenses.
What Lens Should I Use for Food Photography?
There isn’t a single best lens for food photography. If you had to choose a single best food photography lens, a 35mm or 50mm prime lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or below would be ideal.
These lenses make your shots look similar to what the human eye sees, which makes photographs of food more inviting. If you want a lens that is more versatile, a 24 70mm lens would be a good option.
What Equipment Do I Need for Food Photography?
You might need additional equipment to capture professional-quality food photographs. A tripod is a must-have accessory to keep your camera stable. It helps you adopt a consistent angle and perspective when taking a series of photos.
You can use different pieces of equipment for lighting. A softbox creates a soft lighting effect that makes food look more appealing. You can also use a reflector and bounce card to diffuse and adjust natural light.
If you’re shooting food and using natural light from a window, scrim fabric or a simple white sheet can help soften the light that can look harsh.
A lightbox for product photography can be an interesting investment if you want to shoot pictures of food for commercial uses.