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“You don’t need fancy gear to take great food photos!”

Well, it’s partly true and partly very false (sorry, guys!). It depends on the level of picture quality you want to achieve. When I first started with food photography, I read countless blog posts telling me I didn’t need much equipment to take amazing pictures. I could even use my phone, get away with it without a tripod, etc. So there I was, trying to take beautiful shots with barely anything. The result? Very, very meh.

So this blog post might be about the basic gear, but let’s say it’s the basic gear to take GREAT photos. Because if you're serious about photography (or even just curious), I want you to have a real idea of what you need to achieve results like the following images. That being said, you don’t need to break the bank, and I will show you how.

someone cutting limes on a wooden table


First things first, the camera. Yes, you can use your phone, but it will NEVER be as good and professional as a camera. Again, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. Simple pictures for a blog post? You can shoot with an iPhone, but, once again, what are your goals? Do you want to level up your blog content, look professional, or focus mainly on the recipes (which is totally fine)?

The thing is, I see a lot of people struggling and being stuck while trying to improve their photography game without understanding what the problem is, only to realize they are shooting with their phones. Let me show you the difference below to illustrate better what I mean. The first picture was taken with my iPhone 12 at the beginning of my journey. Compare it with the second picture. I mean. That second picture was taken with a real camera only a few months after I started learning how to use mine. Can you see the difference?

lime photography

So, to come back to the gear, I would definitely invest in a camera. I started with a Canon EOS M50. It’s not a super expensive camera, but it takes amazing pictures. All of the pictures you see in this post were taken with it. My point is not to tell you to buy this one, but that you don’t need to buy the best thing out there to start. I would even highly suggest buying it second-hand or refurbished. You can then get it at a very cheap price. And it will make all the difference in the world. Since you’re probably going to upgrade over time, buying second-hand is your best option.

Hot Tip: I shoot Canon, so I use this website all the time to find deals. It’s basically all refurbished gear, and you can subscribe to the very specific things you need (for example, let’s say you want the Canon EOS R6, you can get notified by email every time there is a deal for that camera! And since it’s a Canon website, it comes with guarantees. You’re welcome!


What other essential gear do you absolutely need? A good lens. Because when you buy a camera, you either buy the body only, or it comes with a lens already. The thing is, this lens is usually an entry-level lens. The quality is not top and it also has important limitations. So to start, I recommend opting for a 50mm f/1.8 lens. It's the lens I use 90% of the time, and it's extremely budget-friendly.

For instance, I purchased mine for $150. It offers great quality and can be a complete game-changer for your photography.

Here's an important point to remember: your lens should have a fixed aperture of at least f/2.8 if you want that professional, blurry background effect (bokeh) and the ability to perform well in low-light conditions. A smaller f-number allows more light into the camera, which is particularly essential for indoor settings. Food photographers often face the challenge of limited natural light, and a wide aperture is key to maintaining proper exposure.

That said, the lens that typically comes with your camera when you purchase it is usually very basic and lacks a fixed aperture. Additionally, the maximum aperture (the smallest f-number) might not be quite enough. Investing in a good lens (and you can find refurbished ones!) will significantly enhance the quality of your photos.


Let me emphasize, this one is absolutely essential. Since you'll often find yourself shooting in low-light conditions, you'll need to use a slow shutter speed. (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, don't worry; understanding camera settings is not as complicated as you may think. When you're ready to explore this topic in-depth, check out my manual camera settings post!) For now, all you need to grasp is that to use a slow shutter speed effectively, your camera must remain extremely stable. Even the slightest movement can lead to blurry photos. This is where a tripod becomes indispensable.

When you shoot handheld, you might think you're perfectly still, but trust me, the camera can detect even minor movements. So, investing in a tripod (which isn't the most expensive item on the list) is a must. Not only will it ensure sharper images, but it will also significantly enhance your composition. You can take the time to set up your scene perfectly before capturing the shot.


A C-Stand is essential if you plan to capture overhead shots. While it's possible to take them handheld, imagine this scenario: You're precariously perched on a chair, or worse, on the very table where your dish is placed. You're struggling to keep your camera level and find the right composition, but your arms grow tired, you need to be higher up, but you can't... The table is wobbly, and you wonder where the heck this is going and quit before breaking your neck. Without a C-Stand, that's pretty much how it goes.

I quickly realized the need for a C-Stand and decided to invest in one as soon as I had the funds. However, if you don't anticipate taking many overhead shots, you can hold off on this purchase. But if overhead photography is something you're passionate about, it's a worthwhile investment! Here's the link to my C-Stand, and I absolutely love it!


Let's finish this post with lighting, which, in my opinion, is the most crucial element for achieving beautiful results in photography. The good news is that you can make excellent use of natural light. In fact, some highly experienced photographers exclusively rely on natural light, so it's not just a "beginner" tip. Natural light is inherently beautiful, free, and all you need is a window, perhaps with a white curtain. I'll delve further into lighting techniques shortly, so stay tuned! But remember, when you're just starting out, you don't need to spend a penny on lighting equipment.

apple pie on wooden cutting board

That's pretty much the gear essentials, folks! I understand it may seem like a substantial list, but if you opt for second-hand purchases, you can build up your equipment at a reasonable cost. However, I have to be upfront about it: food photography is not a budget-friendly hobby. It can be quite expensive, which is why if you're genuinely passionate about it, considering turning it into a source of income is a great idea. You don't need to be the top photographer in the industry to get hired; knowing how to find clients is a skill all on its own, but we'll save that topic for another day!