Photo Essentials: Best Camera and Lenses for Food and Still Life Photography | Daniela Lambova | Skillshare

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Photo Essentials: Best Camera and Lenses for Food and Still Life Photography

teacher avatar Daniela Lambova, Food Blogger & Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Camera for Food Photography


    • 3.

      Full frame and Crop Frame


    • 4.

      Using a Mobile Phone for Food Photography


    • 5.

      Mobile Photography: image comparison


    • 6.

      Lenses for Food Photography


    • 7.

      Image Comparison: different focal lenghts


    • 8.

      Class Project


    • 9.



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About This Class

Taking beautiful food images may be a challenge. But if you are passionate about this type of photography, you need to start from the basics: the equipment.

This class will give you all the information you need about the camera and lenses for food and lifestyle photography. You will learn the basics of the gear for still life images, without going into complicated technical details. 

What you will learn:

  • Which are the best types of cameras for food photography
  • What exactly is a full frame camera and do you need it
  • Why the mobile cameras (even the most advanced) are not ideal for food photography
  • Which type of lenses work best for food and still life images
  • You will also see comparisons between images taken with different cameras and lenses

This class will NOT tell you which specific models are good. It rather clarifies the functionalities of different types of cameras and lenses.

The goal of this class is to save you the frustration of using the incorrect equipment and to help you understand what you really need for your particular style.

If you want to learn more about the topic of Food Photography, I recommend you to have a look at my other courses. here are two examples:

Meet Your Teacher

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Daniela Lambova

Food Blogger & Photographer


I'm Daniela, a Food Blogger, Food Photographer and Cookbook Author based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I love everything about food, especially desserts. In my blog Dani's Cookings you will find all kinds of sweets, including sugar-free, low carb and vegan. 

I've been baking since I was a child and I enjoy helping other people become confident in the kitchen. My philosophy is that everyone should be able to eat good homemade desserts, made with love and without guilt.

In 2019 I published my first cookbook about healthy desserts (it is only in Bulgarian for now but I am planning to release it in English soon!)


My second big passion is the Food Photography. Since I started my first blog in 2012, I have gone... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Intro: Hello, My name is Daniela, and today I'm going to talk to you about Cameron lenses for food and still-life photography. I look at aspiring photographer forests are wondering what is the best camera and which are the best lenses for food photography. Can you take beautiful food bottles with your mobile or with a compact camera? Is full-frame camera important? I will answer all these questions in this class, and also, I will help you choose your first or second lenses. No matter if you all know already, cameras and lenses or E to be your first time when you buy them. And a food blogger and a food photographer. And I had been in this journey for more than a appears. When I started my blog, I started shooting with my mobile camera and I was wondering why my images were not as good as I was hoping them to be. Then I got a DSLR and I will shooting a longtime with my Caitlin says obviously my bottles or not, that's fantastic as I was seeing images on Instagram and other social media. Once I bought my first real lenses, they were against changing, even though they were expensive at all. I spent a lot of time being frustrated with my food photography, not understanding what gear I should buy from you. If you're a food photo enthusiasts or if you're just starting, I would like to save you the frustration and to explain you what kind of gear you need and why is that important to understand what exactly you need to before purchasing lenses, our camera. That's why I created this course. I will guide you through the different cameras without going too much into technical details. So if you're ready, let's dive into the course. 2. Camera for Food Photography: Hello everyone. Let's start talking about the cameras. How is the camera important for food photography? There are so many different cameras nowadays on the market, and it might be overwhelming and cards to choose the right one for you. But what is the most important thing in a camera when you want to take pictures of food. I have used the different DSLR cameras, mobile phone, also compact cameras for food photography. And I can say that DSLR is definetely so far the best one that I can recommend. But what is really the most important thinking a camera is DSLR, so important in order to take good photos. The most important thing in a camera are interchangeable lenses. That because for food photography lenses are specific, you cannot just shoot food with any type of lenses. Also, you may start with one kind of lenses and you might find out later that your point of view changes, your style changes if you change your lenses. The best thing about DSLR cameras is that they have very wide variety of lenses to choose from. These are the kind of cameras currently on the market that door for most accessories and more different lenses. But of course, the DSLR, not the only one cameras with interchangeable lenses. Others are the mirrorless cameras. The difference between mirrorless cameras and DSLR is that obviously the mirrorless cameras don't have a mirror. Some people believe that the mirrorless cameras are the cameras of the future that also less bulky, easy to transport, but still on the market, there are not that many kinds of lenses for mirrorless cameras as for DSLRs. In any case, even no matter if you buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera, as long as you can change the lenses, this is going to be enough for you to take good photos of food. 3. Full frame and Crop Frame: I will talk in a while a little bit more about lenses. And why is it so important for you to have interchangeable lenses? But now I would like to clarify, what is the difference between crop sensor and full frame and why you don't need actually a full-frame camera for food photography. Many people believe that professional cameras are definitely full-frame. In many cases, this is true, but you don't need full-frame camera in order to take professional looking photos of food for certain types of photography like wedding photography, sports. You may really need full-frame camera. But for food photography, this is not a must, especially in the beginning. But let's talk what is the difference between full frame and crop frame camera? And why is it considered that full-frame is professional camera. Full-frame cameras have the dimensions of 35 millimeter film, which is considered the standard for photography. Therefore, anything that has a sensor below standard is considered as cropped frame. There are different sizes of crop frame sensors. Using the crop frame camera makes the lenses focal lens to increase. Therefore, you capture a smaller part of the frame through a crop frame camera. But this isn't the only difference. Full-frame cameras produce higher-quality images. This means that if you want to make images for large printing like billboards, most probably you need to use full-frame camera. With full-frame, you can create better photos in lower lighting conditions because you can increase higher the ISO without creating unpleasant grain on the photo and without compromising the image quality. In crop frame, the grain is created much easier because the sensitivity to light is not as good. So that's the reason why for wedding photography, you might need a full-frame camera because you want to capture any movement immediately no matter of the lighting conditions. So you might need to work in different conditions and you always want to have the best possible quality of photos. On the other hand, in food or product photography, you create your lighting conditions every time. You can use a tripod, actually tripod this mandatory for food photography even at the beginning, it's one of the most important accessories to buy. And Trudy tripod, you don't need to increase the ISO. Actually, you will keep your ISO always at a 100 if you use a tripod and increase your shutter speed in order to create best quality image. Furthermore, even if you want to create actions shots in your food photography, there is a good chance you can clear the grain in post-processing. So the bottom line is, if you are just starting by a camera according to your budget, just make sure it has interchangeable lenses and is DSLR or mirrorless. Therefore, don't go directly for the full frame. If you have a tight budget, it's better to invest in lenses at the beginning rather than on camera. Again, it doesn't mean you need to buy 23 layers at the same time. And before going to the most important part in my view of this class and the lenses, I would like to talk to you a little bit about mobile phone photos and compact cameras. Can we take beautiful food photos with mobile phone or a compact camera? 4. Using a Mobile Phone for Food Photography: Mobile phones are great. They're convenient. They're always with you in your pocket. You can just pull them out and take a photo. But are they so good for food photography? Personally, I like to take mobile photos of landscapes, even board trade, but I'm not really happy today. Food photos with a mobile phone. Why? The problem with mobile phones is their lenses. They have wide angle lenses, which normally create a lot of distortion. All wide-angle lenses create higher distortion. Then narrower lenses, for example, 24 millimeter, will always have a bigger distortion than a 100 millimeters, for example. The problem is that for food photography, any distortion looks not very nice. The objects, the props, the dishes look distorted. And this for me personally, is really drawback of using these kinds of lenses. Taking photo with a mobile or a compact camera as well, because they have similar lenses, makes your fault be small compared to the environment around. So basically you take in your frame a lot of the environment which most cases you don't want to take. For me, honestly, the only angle that is acceptable for taking food photography with mobile phone is from above or flatly. Another shooting angle that you can try with a mobile phone is straight down. Again, straight down minimizes distortion. So you can perfectly use it in order to try to make nice photos with your mobile camera. Another issue with a mobile phone cameras and wide-angle lenses in general, is that you cannot achieve that good Walker is with a DSLR camera, with a mirrorless camera, it is possible in some cases, especially some of the newest models, mobiles. But in general, it's much difficult again, because the wide-angle lenses are non-daily good to create balky. Of course, again, some people might object that the best ones for bulkier full-frame cameras. But I can give a lot of examples of particular lenses that create wonderful book, even in crop frame cameras, I used to shoot a lot with my 50 millimeters, 1.8, which is a very affordable lens on a crop frame camera, a very old model. And it was creating fantastic book here. Of course, the technology is developing and nowadays, you can find mobile phones that create really beautiful photos, even of food, because they have a lot of enhancements. Their lenses are special even why then go there minimizing distortion and so on. However, with mobile phone, you don't learn really shooting. You don't learn the same way as you learn with the camera. That's why I absolutely advise you to get the camera even if it's not the newest model, even if it's not full-frame as we spoke already, full-frame is totally not necessary for good food photography. But the camera, in my view, is a must for someone that wants to deep dive in photography in general. 5. Mobile Photography: image comparison: So here you see two images of blue velvet cake. You see how the image on the left is distorted, as you might have guessed already, the left image is the one taken with a mobile phone, and the right image is taken with a DSLR camera, a 100 millimeter lenses, actually the right one was made from a distance because a 100 millimeter lenses are kind of a close-up lens. So in order to see like these the image you need to go a little bit. How far away? Like 22 meters away from your object. But regardless, these two photos, I have tried to project the same image, but it was impossible because as you can see on the left one, the one that was taken with the mobile phone. It was simply impossible to show the cake in the same way without the background revealing parts of the objects around. The problem is exactly that. With wide-angle lenses, which are mobile phone lenses as well. You see the front objects bigger and the back objects. We're here, you see the copying from it is much bigger than in the photo on the right. And relatively on the back, the background seems super small, while it's absolutely the same background that you see on the other photo. So the front is kind of rigor than, than the bag. This is not actually a negative side of the wide-angle lenses. It's negative side only for food photography. In other situations, the fact that the front object look bigger is actually good. For example, for landscapes. For, even for some portraits, it's not a bad thing. But for food photography, this is not a desired result. We don't want to see the front cup so big and actually it looks a little bit distorted. 6. Lenses for Food Photography: We already touched the topic of lenses, but let's discuss them in details, which are the best lenses for food photography, depending on the style that we're shooting, we usually want to show something similar to what the humanize viewing. Because normally when we shoot for photography or still life photography, we're shooting in a closed space or in a small garden, let's say. But we're not shooting from a big distance. It is considered that 50 millimeter lenses are the ones that are closer to the human eye view. So starting from this point, of course, 50 millimeter lenses are one of the best for food photography, but we can extend the range. In my view, this is the range that we're looking for from 35 millimeters to about 100 millimeters, 35 millimeters. Our lenses, which are why they go more or less. So they might not be the best for every shooting angle, but they are great for flatly. On the other hand, 40, 50, 60 millimeters, even 85 are almost multifunctional as 485, it's already harder to accomplish flatly with them because they are not wide enough. And with 100 millimeters, you can create beautiful close-up photography. But of course, shooting from above is almost impossible unless you have a very high spends where you can attach your camera. Of course, you can use different lenses if you have, let's say a whitespace, you can also use, you can also go up to a 150 to 200 millimeters. But in general, above a 100, we're already talking about shooting at a longer distance. 100, 150, 200, 300, 400 there either macro or telephoto in most cases. And they are not really ideal for food photography because still life photography, you're shooting the object more or less closer. On the other hand, you should consider also that there are two types of lenses, prime lenses and zoom lenses. Prime lenses are fixed focal length lenses. Therefore, if you shoot something with prime lenses, it always stays the same size unless you move forward or backwards. While the zoom lenses represents a range of focal lens. Therefore, you can just move your lenses and the object is increasing or decreasing accordingly. You might think at first that zoom lenses are more practical than the prime lenses. And it is correct to certain extent because instead of buying 34 prime lenses, you can just have one zoom lens. The problem is that usually the best zoom lenses are quite expensive and they're also quite big. So if you are a starter, you might not need really some huge glands, which is also costing 23 K dollars of Europe starting with small but good lens, guarantees you that you have a quite a nice quality of females. And at the same time, you'll be able to learn and use the maximum of these four covalent. And while a lot of professional photographers use zoom lenses, if you are a starter, I would recommend you to buy prime lenses like 50 millimeters, for example. 50 millimeters in general, are lenses that will guarantee you that you can take almost any kind of photography. When we talk about zoom lenses, of course, we need to talk about the Caitlin says, Well, normally when you buy a crop frame camera, it goes with the 18 to 55 millimeter zoom lenses. They're quite light. They are quite useful. But they had certain limitations. I like to bucket lenses because they come to 55 millimeter, which is a great focal length for food photography. And also 2035 is good for flat lay, even though this particular lenses have quite a wide distortion. But these lenses are quite good to practice food photography and to learn. They're not very sharp, the colors are not fantastic. And you will see this once you buy your first real length is, let's say the first quality lenses. But zoom lenses are great as a starting point because they also teach you how to use different focal lens. The kit lenses are not good at bulky. They are not achieving a good book in general. But once you buy your first real answers, you will be able to see that he's not your skills. It's just the lesser, sometimes slender. When I bought my first lenses, they were 50 millimeter, 1.8. And I was amazed by the level of bulkier they were achieving. This was something that was exciting me so much and I immediately started creating images which were better than the images I was taking before with my kid lenses. However recently I tried again the kit lenses and actually I realize that they're not as bad as I was thinking before. So it's not only the lenses is also the skills. And editing is something that will help you a lot in the future to make beautiful images with almost any kind of lens. So don't forget that the gear is not 0. We have, our skills are quiet, more important than the gear. 7. Image Comparison: different focal lenghts: Let's see some images that I took with different lenses and on different cameras. Some are wheat crop frame camera and other star with full-frame camera. I also want to demonstrate the difference between different focal lengths. Here on this image we see a tree photos. They're all taken with a crop frame camera. The first two are with a kit lenses 18 to 55 millimeters in different for Garland. And the third one is with 40 millimeters. All images are taken in the same place and with the same lighting conditions, nature of light from the right. I have changed a little bit settings just because it's different cameras and different lenses have different light sensitivity. So it was not possible to keep the same settings without the image look or overexposed or underexposed. The editing is also absolutely the same, except the exposure which was adjusted accordingly. So we see the kit lenses on the left, the first two images from 28 millimeter to 35 millimeter, and compared to the 40 millimeter lenses which are on the right, the images look more or less similar. I would say that the colors of the 40 millimeters are slightly sharp or slightly nicer maybe or maybe it's just my impression. We see a little bit yellowish on the kit lenses, but for the untrained eye, I believe there is nothing that can say how this introduced. So what they come, what kind of lenses or use? Moving to the next example, this is a full-frame camera with different lenses, 40 millimeters, 50 millimeters, and a 100 millimeters for the same 40 millimeter lenses were, had been used here on a full frame camera. And next to it is the 50 millimeter lens, which is just slightly larger. And then we see the a 100 millimeter lens here also, the shooting angle is slightly different just because with the same shooting angle, we cannot take the same photo with a 100 millimeter lens. Therefore, changing lenses changes a little bit the style of your shooting because you simply cannot shoot at the same angle with our focal lengths. One thing we can notice here is that with a 100 millimeter lenses, the strawberries on the back look a little bit larger than with a 40 millimeter lens. And with the 50 millimeter lens. Also, there is a slight bucket with a 100 millimeter lens. You see in front the fork and the strawberries on debate, it is more noticeable than in the 50 millimeter and significantly more noticeable than the 40 millimeter. I want to show you also closer difference between crop frame with 440 millimeters and full-frame with 40 millimeters, there is a difference, obviously in the colors because normally with different cameras you should differently the colors and the sharpness is different for phone cameras have also higher sensitivity to light. If we zoom in the two images, obviously on the crop frame, we see slightly more noise than with the full-frame, but that is not really significant. More or less the two images are similar, so there is not such a big difference between shooting with a crop frame camera and with a full frame. And by the way, my crop frame camera is really an old model, but the images he takes are quite nice. Still, let's observe here the difference between the different focal lens. So these two images or daikon from the same distance and with the same lessons but there zoom lens 55 to 250 millimeters. The first image is at 55 millimeters. And absolutely the same settings, absolutely the same distance on 250 millimeters. We're already having quite an increase of the image. So basically, if you want to shoot food photography with 250 millimeters, you really need space. Here. I will do a little bit backwards in order to be able to photograph the whole slice of cake with 250 millimeter or setting. And after changing it to 96 millimeter, which is almost a 100 basically, you see that the size of the cake is significantly smaller. And the bottom line of this comparison between the different focal lens is that over a 100 millimeters is simply not practical to use for food photography, you need an enormous space and it's not convenient to go so much far away from the object when you shoot. 8. Class Project: The project for this class will be for you to take images with different lenses that you have. If you only have one camera with the kid lenses, tried to take different photos with wider and wider or narrower focal length of these lenses. If you only have one prime lens or if you are only shooting with a mobile phone. Please try to take image of the same object in three different angles and compare. Afterwards your results. Please upload the results into the project section and let me know. What was your gear, what kind of camera and what kind of blends you had? 9. Conclusion: I hope this course helps you to become clearer about what camera and what lenses you need. In this lesson, I would like to summarize your biggest takeaways from this class, even if you don't remember anything else from it, I would like you to remember the following points when it comes to food photography, lenses are more important than the camera. Prefer. A cheap camera with interchangeable lenses, meaning a DSLR or mirrorless, then inexpensive mobile phone. The best range of focal length for food photography is between 35 and a 100 millimeter. Full-frame camera is not a must for food photography, but a tripod is ultimately you are lighting, styling, composition, and especially editing skills are more important than your gear. Thank you very much for watching this class. I hope it was useful for you. Please let me know if you have any questions, I will be glad to respond to them. Please rate the course because this will help me improve it in the future and it will help it also rank in the platform. You can also watch some of my other courses where I explain more in details about specific points of food photography and also my food photography for beginners course, which will show you the overview of the food photography. Thank you once again for watching this class and good luck.