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This is the gear I use. I started out pretty simply and upgraded over a few years.
This was my first DSLR–the one I used to photograph food for this blog for the first year and a half. Not full-frame but decent and cheap. There are newer versions that are much more expensive, but an older Rebel like this one can be had for under $200. The kit lens it comes with sucks, so buy a Cannon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens for it (they’re cheap).
This is the DSLR I now use. It’s a professional full frame DSLR with 1080p HD Video capability. They’re not cheap by any means, but now that there is a Mark IV used Mark IIIs are much more affordable. For food photography I mostly shoot with a Cannon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens. This set up is pretty hard to beat.
Super inexpensive prime lens. I probably shoot 90% of my food photography with this lens. It fits both the Rebel (cropped sensor) and Canon full frame DSLRs (not all lenses do). Bear in mind, however, that an APS-C (cropped sensor) camera like a Rebel has a magnification factor of 1.6x, which makes this 50mm lens function more like an 80mm. But even when I shot with the Rebel this was my go-to food photography lens. If you can only have one lens for food photography, this is the one to buy. It’s only around 100 bucks.
Another inexpensive prime lens. This compact, ultra light weight pancake lens has a really nice focal length for use as a general “walk around” lens on a full frame camera. Note that it’s more like a 64mm on a APS-C cropped sensor camera (e.g., the Canon Rebel). For food photography is allows you get some really detailed tight shots. The 10% of food photography shots I take with something other than my 50mm f/1.8 are with this lens.
You can easily spend thousands on a good zoom lens. This is a really decent image-stabilized full frame Canon zoom that doesn’t break the bank (under $500). This is the only zoom I own. I don’t use it much for food styling photography, but I do take it to farmer’s markets, dinner parties, or anywhere I’ll be shooting people, groups, landscapes, and whatnot. This is my go to “walk around town” lens.
I love cookbooks. Here a few of my favorites and few that I find myself referencing again and again.
Really more of a memoir of famous American in Paris expat writer, and partner of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, this cookbook makes use of recipes as a pretense to share brilliantly written stories and observations. There may not be a more eloquently and beautifully written cookbook in the English language.
A giant rhyming thesaurus for flavors. The Flavor Bible choreographs what goes well with what, including flavor compliments and contrasts. Find out what goes with rosemary, with tangerine, with saffron, with allspice, with horseradish, with fish sauce, with ginger, with juniper, and so on. It’s great. Everyone who likes to experiment with their own recipes should own a copy.