Food Bloggers: Photography and Resources
Just as a home cook needs her most trusted kitchen equipment to bring recipes to life, my blog could not exist without the photography, video, and blogging equipment and services I’ve included on this page. These are the items I use every day to bring my content to life, all of which I recommend. I plan to continually update this list as I discover new resources that are worth sharing. I hope this information is helpful to fellow food bloggers, as well as those considering starting a blog for the first time. The equipment ranges from beginner to advanced, so you can see where I started and what I use today. If there are any great tools I missed, I’d love to hear about them too!
FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY TOOLS
In November 2015, I upgraded to the Nikon D750, which is an incredibly powerful camera that takes phenomenal photos and video. I chose Nikon because it performs well in low light (and at high ISOs for you photographers out there). The area where I shoot my photos is very shady, so this was an important priority. I’ve been very happy with this camera, but it is an investment. If you are just starting with photography or have never used a DSLR, I recommend purchasing a more entry-level DSLR, such as the Nikon D3400. The discontinued Nikon D3100 was the first DSLR I purchased (because it also performs well in low light), and I used it December 2012 to October 2015. Last I checked, the Nikon D3400 is the most recent version of this same camera. The Canon Rebel, which many food bloggers use, is similar to the D3400. Not ready for a DSLR? Consider experimenting with the camera on your phone!
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART Series : I LOVE THIS LENS! This is my most recent camera equipment purchase. I upgraded from the Nikon 50mm f/1.8, which I used happily from October 2013 until October 2016 (Canon also makes a version of the same f/1.8 lens). If you can only buy one lens for food photography, I recommend a 50mm. It’s a great all-around food photography lens that can capture a variety of compositions. The quality and investment you’d like to put into that 50mm is up to you. If you are just starting out, the f/1.8 will serve you well. It’s relatively inexpensive, reliable, and takes good photos. The f/1.4 is made of a higher-quality glass and will take images that are clearer, sharper, and richer, but it does cost much more.
The photo on the left was taken with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8. The one on the right was taken with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4, which allowed me to sharply focus on a single spear of asparagus and leave the ones behind it a bit blurry for artistic effect. I didn’t have that control with the Nikon lens.
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 G (Closest Canon equivalent here): I purchased this lens in November 2015, and I love using it. It’s a macro, which means it allows me to get upcloseandpersonal with my food. While I like the 50mm (above) for composed shots and flexibility, it can’t focus at a close range the way this macro lens can. I use this lens to highlight food’s texture and to create that sense of Hello, I want to eat you.
This side by side demonstrates the difference between these two lens. Both were taken on the same day of the same recipe. The one on the left was taken with the 50mm f/1.4; for the one on the right, I used the 105mm f/2.8 G:
Other Essential Photography Equipment
Manfrotto Tripod with an Extendable Arm + Manfrotto 327RC2 Light Grip Joystick Tripod Ball Head: I burned through two lower-priced tripods before I finally settled on this Manfrotto, which (like my newer lenses) was a serious investment. With my dim lighting environment, a tripod is a must for my photography. It enables me to capture clear photos even in minimal light and frees my hands to adjust details of my food that improve the final shot, and this particular tripod has an extendable arm, which means I can use it it shoot overhead video.
If you are looking for a more affordable tripod option, I used this Sunpak tripod for a few years and was reasonably happy with it, though I would not feel comfortable using it with a large, heavy lens because it isn’t as steady.
Wireless Remote: Having a tripod is no use without a remote way to snap the photos so that your finger doesn’t cause any shake as you press the photo capture button. You can use the camera’s self-timer (which I’m ashamed to admit I did for many months), but all of those seconds while the timer ticks down add up to hours of wasted time. This wireless remote is cheap, reliable, has a long battery life, and lets me capture crisp, clear photos more quickly. Be sure to double check that it is compatible with your camera prior to purchase.
ExpoDisc White Balance Filter: The portrait white balance feature of this brilliant device ensures that the white balance in all of my photos is a) natural and b) consistent. Before I owned it, I would drive myself crazy in Lightroom, trying to edit the white balance to make the photos look the correct color and match one another. Now before every shoot, I use this little tool to tell my camera what “white” should look like. I like this particular filter because it comes with a “portrait” setting option, which gives the photos a warmer tone (and offsets the blue/green tint that my light has, thanks to our surplus of trees!).
SanDisk Extreme PRO Memory Card: Have you ever been in a photography groove only to have your camera stop taking photos because you ran out of space? ANNOYING. Suddenly, you have to pause everything you are doing, then go back and start deleting photos one by one. Not fun. This memory card is fast, holds a large number of photos (important if you are shooting in RAW or video), and for a memory card of its size and speed, is very reasonably priced.
Seagate External Hard Drive: While not the sexiest aspect of food photography, how you store your photos is one of the most important. After turning my laptop into a dinosaur because I crowded it with so many images (if you are shooting in RAW, your disk space can fill up fast), I finally invested in an external hard drive, where I now keep all of my RAW files (the final, edited versions of my photos I store on my computer hard drive). Anytime I need to access my photos, I simply plug in my external hard drive—it takes all of .2 seconds and is more than worth the time I’ve saved by speeding up my computer.
To protect and easily transport my external hard drive when I’m on the go but need access to my photos, I carry it in this sassy (and ultra affordable) case. It’s nicely cushioned and contains a pocket both for the hard drive and the cord that connects it to my laptop. Plus, fun colors!
Cowboy Studio Lights. These are the most budget-friendly artificial lights you’ll find. They aren’t strong enough to be your ONLY light source, but I find them perfect for supplementing daylight when I am shooting recipe videos. (Here is an example of a video that uses them.) For my food photos, I use exclusively natural light.
Adobe Lightroom. Besides a camera, post-processing software is the best money you can spend to improve your photos. Good-quality photo editing software such as Lightroom can enable you to take a so-so photo and turn it into a WOW photo (or at least a photo you can feel good posting!). Adobe offers a free 30-day trial, so you can test it out before taking a plunge. Photoshop is another popular, powerful option, but I’ve found it far less user friendly.
In July 2016, I switched from regular Lightroom (a one-time purchase) to a month-by-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud because I wanted access to a wider variety of programs, including Premier Pro, which I use to edit my food videos. It also stays continually up-to-date, so you do not run the risk of older software becoming obsolete.
Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography E-Book. I can’t recommend this ebook enough, especially to beginning food photographers. Lindsay has great tips for everything from understanding the balance between ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, to composition, to editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, to carving out time for taking pictures while having a life.
Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling by Hélène Dujardin. Contains invaluable information on topics that range from understanding photography basics, to composition, to tips and tricks for styling different foods. I checked this out from the library, then wound up purchasing it, because I thought it was so helpful.
FROM THE PROS | Some of my Favorite Links for Food Photography
- Photography Tips for Food Bloggers by Cookie and Kate
- Language of Photography Series by Gourmande in the Kitchen
- Our Approach to Food Photos by Smitten Kitchen
- 10 Things I’ve Learned about Food Photography by The Pioneer Woman
- Rule of Thirds. Know it. Master it. Then decide if/when to break it.
- 25 Photography Tips and Tutorials from Around the Web by the Digital Photography School
Choosing a web host can appear to be one of the most boring, techie-focused aspects of blogging, and on the outside, all web hosts can look pretty much the same. They are not. Choosing the right web host and hosting plan is one of the most important decisions you make for your website, because it significantly impacts how stable your site is, how quickly it loads, and how many people can view your site at one time. While I am by NO MEANS a technical blog expert, I have moved my site around to various hosts and (via time-consuming mistakes) learned a lot along the way. Here’s what I recommend:
I started with BlueHost. It’s one of the most affordable options, offers phone and chat support, and for the features included, you can’t beat the price. For the first year of blogging, I used BlueHost’s base plan and was happy with the services. However, as my site grew larger, I found that I needed to upgrade to a slightly larger server (called semi-dedicated or shared-VPS hosting), which is a fancy way of saying that you share a server with a smaller group of customers and don’t have to compete for space. After making this switch, my site suffered a series of outages (one lasted nearly 24 hours), so I made a decision to change companies. My overall thought is that BlueHost is great when you are starting out, but you may want to look elsewhere when the time comes to upgrade.
I’m now in a very happy hosting relationship with LiquidWeb. Their support is 24-7, available by phone, email, or live chat, and they migrated my entire site over for me for free, a critical point for a technically challenged person like me. They’ve helped me through a few server transitions as my traffic has grown to ensure that my site stays as fast as possible, even when larger numbers of people are accessing it. Right now, I am on what LiquidWeb calls a Storm Dedicated Server.
PLUG-INS + SCHEDULING & BUSINESS TOOLS
Vaultpress: As I write this, I’ve published nearly 500 posts and thousands of photos. What if I were to wake up one morning and, due to a freak accident, all of it was gone?? Vaultpress backs up my WordPress so that, if an apocalyptic nightmare like this should occur, I could restore my content.
Crashplan: I once took a beautiful series of photographs for a sponsored post. Then I deleted them by mistake. I hadn’t backed up my computer to my external hard drive in weeks, so I was left with no choice but to redo the entire recipe and take new photos. This will never happen again, thanks to Crashplan. It wirelessly backs up my computer every time I’m connected to the internet, and when the external hard drive I use to store my photos is plugged in, it backs it up as well for no additional cost.
Tailwind: Pinterest—it is my highest source of traffic and helps new readers find my blog. As a blogger, I hate Pinterest—I could easily spend my entire waking life on it without realizing I’d turned 60. After testing just about every Pinterest scheduling tool available, I’ve found Tailwind to be the easiest and most efficient available.
Mailchimp: This is the email service I use to send my RSS emails (emails that send each time I publish a new post) as well as my weekly recap. (Not subscribed? You can sign up here!). Bonus: the base plan is free!
Moo: Show the world you mean bloggy business with your own business card. This is the website I use to print my cards. They’re excellent quality, and you can upload your own custom design or choose from hundreds of available templates. (And if you use this link, you’ll receive 10% off!)
FAVORITES | Food Blog Links + Tidbits
- How to be a Food Blogger by Recipe Girl. A fantastic collection of links and resources for bloggers. Many are food-blog related, but any blogger can spend hours reading through these links and articles.
- Real Talk Blog Tips by Joy the Baker
- Food Blogging by David Lebovitz, one of my favorite bloggers ever!
- How to Add a No-Follow Tag by For Dummies. A must-read for anyone using affiliate links or writing sponsored posts.
- Blogging as a Business: Where to Find Opportunities by Katy Widrick
- Making a Blogger Media Kit by Katy Widrick
- SEO Tips by Bake Your Day: Keywords & Titles, Links, Recipe Formatting & Rich Snippets, Tips/Tools/Plugins & Resources
- Top 3 Questions to Ask When Planning Your Website from Design*Sponge
What do you think? Is there more you want to know? Resources you find valuable and can share? I’d love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links, and I will earn a small commission if you make a purchase using them. I personally use all of the products listed and recommend them because I’ve found them helpful and reliable. Thank you for supporting my blog, and please let me know if you have any questions about anything I’ve included!