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What should your first food photography lens be? Making your first lens purchase as a food photographer is both an exciting time and a daunting one.
There are lots of lenses to choose from, and even more opinions!
There are two staple focal lengths that I recommend food photographers owning. I’m going to recommend focal lengths over actual lenses because lenses differ on specs depending on brand.
- Jump to your first food photography lens for cropped sensors
- Jump to your first food photography lens for full-frame cameras
Depending on the brand of camera you have, there will be different specs for each specific lens, but here are the best focal lengths to look for. What should be your first food photography lens:
- A 35mm, 1.8 prime lens for cropped sensors
- A 60mm macro, 2.8 macro lens for cropped sensors
- A 50mm, prime lens for full-frame. Consider an f-stop of 1.4 or 1.8
- A 100-105mm macro, for full-frame. This is the best lens for food photographers.
Cropped Sensor vs Full Frame
My advice as to which lens should be your first lens for food photography is heavily dependent on two things:
- What type of camera you have – cropped sensor vs full frame
- What style of food photography you’re drawn to
A full-frame camera has a sensor that is equivalent in size to 35mm film. A cropped sensor is essentially a smaller sensor and gets its name from what is known as the ‘crop factor’. To understand the differences between cropped sensor and full-frame cameras, check out this post.
Lenses For Food Photographers
First Food Photography Lens for Cropped Sensors
I’m making an assumption that if you have a cropped sensor camera, you like also have the most popular kit lens the 18-55mm zoom.
The two lenses I recommend checking for your first food photography lens if you’re a cropped sensor shooter are:
- A 35mm, [equivalent to a 50mm on a full frame] if you like photographing overhead shots, flatlays and wider food scenes.
- A 60mm macro, [equivalent to a 90mm on a full frame] if you like food portraits, capturing up-close detail shots and what more 45-degree shots.
If you have the 18-55mm kit lens, you might be wondering why you would buy a 35mm lens when the zoom lens gives you access to the 35mm focal length.
Great question! Let’s explore that.
Consider the 60mm first, followed by the 35mm
Because you have access to the 35mm focal length in your kit lens, you might want to consider getting the 60mm macro lens first.
This will give you the best variety of options, allow you to capture nice 45-degree shots with blurry backgrounds and get up close to your food.
With the combination of the 18-55mm kit lens and the 60mm macro, you’ll be able to have the best variety of options.
Nikon lens options to explore
Canon lens options to explore
The 35mm 1.8 will give you creative freedom & low light capabilities
Even with access to the 35mm focal length in your 18-55mm kit lens, considering a 35mm prime lens is a good option for a couple of reasons.
- You’ll get access to larger apertures, i.e. f/1.8 vs f/4.
- This will give you more creative control over aperture choice and blur.
- You’ll have the ability to use those apertures for optimum exposure in low light. This is especially handy when shooting without a tripod.
- Apertures we often shoot food at between f/3.5 – f/5.6 are generally sharper on a prime lens than the entry-level kit lens.
Which Lens Matches Your Food Photography Style?
First Food Photography Lens for Full-Frame Cameras
Perhaps you’re lucky enough to start out with a full-frame camera, or you’ve spend your money on a camera and are using a kit lens.
The two focal lengths I recommend considering for your first food photography lens on a full frame are:
- A 50mm, if you like photographing overhead shots, flatlays and wider food scenes.
- A 100-105mm macro, if you like food portraits, capturing up-close detail shots and what more 45-degree shots.
I strongly believe that every food photographer should have a macro lens. Especially if you plan on taking photos for clients.
Consider the 100mm-105mm first, followed by the 50mm
If you have a kit lens and have access to a range of focal lengths you might want to save up for a narrow macro lens like the 100mm for Canon shooters, 105mm for Nikon users. [90mm for Sony users].
45-degree and up close macro shots are essential angles and crops when it comes to food photography. While you always want your photos to be sharp, sharpness matters more at these angles.
Only a macro lens can give you a generous minimum focusing distance which allows you to get close to your food. Even if you’re not planning on taking macro photos, the great thing about a macro lens is that it allows you to get much closer than other lenses.
Nikon lenses to consider
Canon lenses to consider
‘Nifty fifty’ or 50mm 1.4?
This one really comes down to your budget. The thing to consider is that when you shoot full frame, you’re more likely to upgrade your camera over the years than your lenses.
My biggest advice is to save up for the best lens possible, even if it means waiting longer to get it. It will pay off in the long run.
It all comes down to your budget and creative eye.
The 50mm 1.8 is called the nifty fifty because it’s cheap and pretty sharp for the price. It’s small, lightweight and cost effective.
If you’ve got a bit more cash to play with, having a wider aperture like the f/1.4 or even f/1.2 will give you more creative and low light options.
Let me know in the comments which lenses you currently have and what lens you think will work as your first food photography lens!
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