In helping Nicole at Great Eats with Petes get her blog going, we knew that photography would be a very important aspect of the site. When you're writing about food, what better way to whet the visitor's appetite than to show them mouth-watering photos of the food they could be eating? The question is, what gear will help make those images possible? Nicole uses a Canon Digital Rebel whose interchangeable lens system opens the door to lots of high quality options in the glass department. The problem is I know nothing about food and cooking, so when she asked me which lens to use for photographing food I initiated my highly scientific process of analysis: "Shoot lots of photos and let's see what happens."

Data Collection

So she made and photographed lots of delicious food, and I ate it, and we gradually came to know what was necessary to make images of food. She experimented primarily with the 18-55mm IS kit lens and the EF 50mm f/1.8 II fixed lens, and the roadblock that came up over and over was minimum focusing distance. Time and again, getting close enough to fill the frame with an edible subject was difficult because the lenses would not focus within that short distance. The 50mm f/1.8 needs at least 1.5 feet to the subject and the 18-55mm kit lens wants 9.8 inches. Since the main requirement has turned out to be focusing close, the answer is a macro lens. A macro lens is able to focus close and produce sharp images, making the subject appear life-size. That sounds like the makings of a great food photograph.

Picking a Lens

Nicole picked up the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens which has proven to take very sharp, high quality images. I'm really amazed at the great quality that comes out of this very reasonably-priced lens. If weather sealing and image stabilization is important to you, there's a professional-grade version called the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM for a few hundred more dollars. An equivalent Nikon lens (which I have not used) is the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR. If you will be shooting from your seat in restaurants instead of a kitchen and will have less room to move around, you might want to consider a shorter focal length macro lens such as a 50mm, 60mm or 70mm. Although the majority of Great Eats with Petes' images are now made with the 100mm macro lens, there are still times when getting in close is not entirely necessary. For those situations Nicole still makes use of the EF 50mm f/1.8 because it's very sharp and at f/1.8 produces blurry out-of-focus backgrounds.

Sample Images

Food photography sample - pork

Canon EOS Rebel T2i w/ 100mm f/2.8 USM @ f/6.3, 1/200 sec., ISO 1600, bounce flash

Food photography sample - osso buco

Canon EOS Rebel T2i w/ 100mm f/2.8 USM @ f/7.1, 1/200 sec., ISO 400, bounce flash

Food photography sample - drink

Canon ESO Rebel T2i w/ 100mm f/2.8 USM @ f/2.8, 1/4000 sec., ISO 800