My favorite photography equipment
Finding the right camera and photography equipment can be daunting, and a bit of a learning process. There’s a misconception that everything that you use needs to be super expensive and top tier. This isn’t true at all! There are a few things that I am going to cover that I recommend splurging on, but lots of photography equipment can be found second hand in excellent condition for really fair pricing. In fact, the majority of my photo gear (probably around 90%) is second hand!
*This post is not sponsored or affiliated in any way shape or form. I do not earn commission from any external links. All recommendations I make are purely based on my experience and genuine recommendation of the product
I began my food photography journey shooting entirely on my iphone X. There are a lot of food photographers on instagram that only shoot with their phones and create beautiful images. Here I will be talking about my camera gear specifically, since I only use my phone for minimal filming.
Camera Body & Fuji Overview
I shoot exclusively with a Fujifilm X-T20 mirrorless digital camera. It’s not the most common choice for food photography, but here’s some reasons why I love my fuji:
- The camera body has physical dials, which makes shooting a very tactile experience. Fuji is a very photographer-centric brand. Having the dials, rather than a digital menu, really helps you understand how to properly do your camera settings. It makes you feel really connected to your work.
- It is a mirrorless camera, which makes it a more compact design. Not only is it easy to hold in the studio, but it’s light in transport. It uses an APS-C censor, which also means it is a physically lighter camera, with lighter lenses. It does this all while retaining wonderful image quality.
- Fuji is known for gorgeous color, and excellent image quality.
- Fuji lenses are fantastic value for the quality. All their lenses are real powerhouses. Fuji is famous for making high grade movie lenses, and their expertise really shows in the quality of their products. You get really fantastic lenses for very reasonable prices, especially when you buy used.
- Because of the quality of their lenses, you end up spending less money on a complete Fuji system.
Where to buy photography equipment
You can find the x-T20 for sale in many places including Best Buy, Amazon, and B&H Photo Video, which is my favorite for buying photo gear. They not only have an amazing selection and fantastic customer service, but they have a tremendous catalog of used items. Again, this isn’t sponsored in any way. I’ve been using them for years and genuinely love them!). Remember, buying used is really one of the best ways to start growing your collection of camera equipment without breaking the bank. I actually found my camera and 50mm Rokinon lens on craigslist for about $500 bundled and it was in perfect condition. Just make sure to do your research before you buy from an online marketplace like craigslist or ebay, and take the proper precautions before agreeing to a sale!
While it’s important to have a trustworthy camera body, the lenses you use are arguably even more important! I suggest starting off with two lenses, ideally one fixed 50mm and one zoom lens. My zoom is the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens. Fuji often pairs their camera bodies with this particular lens– but don’t consider this to be your run-of-the-mill kit lens! It’s a reliable and highly recommended lens, and has built in optical image stabilization, which helps reduce camera shake. It’s happily used by almost every fuji user. It gets a lot of regular use in my shoots, especially with flatlays and video.
My other lens is a Rokinon 50mm f/1.2 (this on my APS-C– it is 70mm on a full frame). This gives me a lot of control over focal placement in my shots. It’s my lens of choice when I want a very narrow depth of field or bokeh light effects. It’s also a manual focus lens, which makes it a little trickier to learn at first. However, I recommend every photographer learns how to focus their lenses on manual settings at some point. Manual lenses are also cheaper, which makes them a great choice if you are on a budget.
I use my 50mm a lot more than my zoom, but it’s very difficult to use for flatlays or large styled shoots. That’s where my zoom lens really comes in handy!
Tripods and Stands
One invaluable piece of food photography equipment is a tripod. Trust me when I say it’s essential to have one– even if you are shooting on a fast shutterspeed, you will get much more reliable photos when using a tripod. It also allows you to do long exposures or work in a darker room.
My tripod was given to me by my dad, who loved and used it for many years before upgrading. It isn’t expensive, but is very sturdy and doesn’t wobble or slip, which is one of the important things to pay attention to when looking for a tripod. My particular tripod is nothing fancy but gets the job done!
Aside from a tripod, I highly recommend using a C-stand, which is a multifunctional piece of equipment that I use in some form every time I shoot. Because my tripod doesn’t have an adjustable arm for overhead shots, I rely on my C-stand for flatlays. This is one of my few pieces of gear that I bought new, and I do recommend splurging a little bit on it. You want to make sure you are buying a really sturdy, quality product, and that won’t be the cheapest option!
I use the Impact Turtle Base C-Stand with overhead kit, and a Manfrotto ball head attachment for my camera. When I’m not shooting flatlays, I use my C-stand for securing diffusers and reflectors, and you can also use it for artificial lighting. It’s a bit heavy, but comes apart for easy storage, and it’s an incredibly useful piece of equipment that I recommend for any food photographer.
You will likely need a few different camera adapters for your photography equipment. I also use an iphone adapter on my C-stand from a cheap iphone tripod that I purchased from Amazon when I’m shooting any video content for my stories, like timelapses. Even though I rarely use the actual tripod part anymore, the attachment is super useful for when I need to secure my phone to my other equipment.
Memory and Storage
It’s useful to have multiple memory cards so that you can quickly switch them out if you fill one up while shooting. Aside from immediate memory, you need to have a lot of external storage space that’s fast. You should have an SSD drive that’s at least 2 terabytes where you can store your photos without taking up all of your computer hard drive space. They are very easy to find from any store that sells electronics.
If you take a lot of photos, I also suggest getting a larger drive for archiving any work that you don’t need immediate access to. Two terabytes fills up pretty quickly– my larger hard drive can store about 7 terabytes worth of data.
Remember to back up your photos in multiple places if you can, and store them on your external drives! If something were to happen to your computer, you can rest assured knowing your photos are safe in their external storage.
Diffusers and Reflectors
Diffusers are a very important piece of photography equipment that a lot of people overlook at first. If you can’t shoot on an overcast day, a diffuser is incredibly helpful in taming bright light, and reflectors help control where that light goes. I use large, round diffusers and reflectors in all of my shoots, but I also use pieces of black and white foamcore to help block or bounce light. Foamcore is very cheap and is a great way to help control your lighting, regardless of your skill level.
Now for another type of photography equipment: backdrops! I use a range of backdrops for my shoots, but generally prefer rigid backgrounds with some degree of texture rather than vinyl. This is simply personal preference. However, I do have a few vinyl backdrops, and printed backdrops that I love from Replica Surfaces and Ink and Elm backdrops. Vinyl backdrops are very affordable and storage friendly, so I highly recommend starting with those if you are just starting to explore food photography.
Aside from my homemade wooden backdrops that get a lot of regular use, the backdrops that I use the most are from Backdrop Woodville. They’re a little bit of an investment, but I can confidently say that they are incredibly high quality and really help up your styling game. They are double sided boards which gives you more flexibility in shooting, and you can choose from ready-to-ship boards with pre-determined sizes and sides, or you can fully customize your boards to fit your sizing and styling needs. Here are the surfaces I have from them:
- Singapore/Philadelphia (purchased as a ready-to-ship surface)
- Angers/Seoul (custom order)
- Rome/Alicante (custom order)
If you feel like you want to take the next step in creating atmospheric food photos, I cannot recommend them enough!
There are some great ideas for homemade backdrops on pinterest. This is another way to give yourself control over budget, and the final result.
You can mix and match how you use different types of backdrops. The photos for my Cardamom Bundt Cake recipe were shot with a DIY and a mounted printed backdrop.
Know when to spend
Remember, you don’t need to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on photography equipment to take good photos. This is one of the times when I encourage buying used gear, or making your own backdrops, rather than buying everything new. The more you learn about how to use your equipment, the better your photos will be. It’s about putting in the work, not spending tons of cash!
I hope you found my photography equipment breakdown useful! Feel free to leave a comment or question below, send me an email at email@example.com, or DM me on instagram @marissamakes__i !