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Best camera for taking food photos?

Hey, foodie bloggers...

I moved to LA from the midwest about 12 years ago, and whenever my friends come to visit I take them to all the ethnic hole-in-the-walls in town. My buddies rave about all the great food here...

...so much so, that they've asked me to blog all of their favorite spots. I love reading others' food blogs myself. I especially love the luscious, up-close photos people take of the food that's served to them.

Tell me--how's it done? Can anyone recommend a small, discreet camera that's perfect for the job of taking photos in restaurants of food? I assume I need a macro lens, no? Do certain cameras come with a macro setting built-in? How do people take the pictures unobtrusively? How can you get the plates so well-lit without a blinding flash?

Can some foodbloggers give me advice on a camera purchase and photo technique?

Thanks very much!

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    1. re: Lucia

      Hmm. Less of a discussion than I thought there'd be in these links...

      ...but there's some info to work with.

    2. I've taken very nice photos with a simple digital camera - NO FLASH. Most digitals have a night setting that works very well. You just have to hold the camera very still. Once gain, do not use flash. That's one of the rudest things you can do with other diners around.

      1. Chris,

        Most of the best food photos are taken with digital SLR's and a high quality lens. If you look at our site - http://foodosophy.wordpress.com - look at the photos by Shokutsu. That is taken with a Nikon dSLR and decent lens (non macro). Another friend uses a 100mm macro lens. The photos taken by foodosopher (me obviously :) ) are clearly a lower quality. I use a point and shoot.

        If you want something more discreet, then you'll end up with a point and shoot. I use a Canon SD870 IS. It is small. It comes with a built in macro function. Pretty much every point and shoot does these days. It's handled digitally, so you don't need a separate macro lens.

        What mojoeater says is correct - the use of flash in a restaurant is definitely a big no no. The way you get good quality shoots is through a variety of features and techniques.

        1. The biggest difference i've found is image stabilization (the IS in my camera name). If you plan on shooting a lot of food with your camera, in restaurants especially, you'll need it. It allows you to shoot at low light with your hand, which will have a bit of shake. It will compensate for that, and turn an otherwise blurry photo into something decent.

        2. Use a high ISO - simulating higher ISO's will decrease your photo quality (it adds "grain" to the photo, and distorts more at the edge of the photo), but make it more sensitive to capturing detail in low light.

        3. Hold your hand very still. I often brace it against a water glass, or the table.

        4. Photoshop is your friend. Worry less about color, and focus on your composition and clarity. You can always change/saturate/modify the color on your photos post production.

        Those four things will have you shooting competent, nice photos. But if you want to do stock photo quality shots, you'll need a better camera and lens, and less discretion.

        Hope that helps

        4 Replies
        1. re: foodosopher

          That does help. I'm good in Photoshop, so no problem there. Macro and ISO questions are answered. Nope, don't want to use a flash....must be discreet. I think there are tiny "tabletop" tripods you can buy, and I was thinking of using one for the stabilization factor.

          Thanks!

          1. re: chrisheadrick

            I have a tiny tripod, but have to admit, i've found it to be more effort than it's worth.It doesnt fit into your pockets easily, and getting busted with a tripod is a lot worse than getting busted taking pictures of food. People are pretty conditioned to food shots being taken. A tripod says something completely different in my books :) Using your water glass, the table, and getting used to hand shooting works well.

            Anyway, if you can, please drop us a line at our site when you get your blog up and running. I'd love to take a look! Thanks.

          2. re: foodosopher

            p.s. -- nice site....that's exactly the type of photos I'm looking to take at the exact type of places. Perfectly able to see the difference between SLR and portable, and your shots are of perfect quality for me, so point-and-shoot it is!

            1. re: chrisheadrick

              Those mini tripods with legs about an inch high might do the trick. They're easy to screw onto the base of your camera and fold up nicely too, not taking up too much space. Another technique to help P&S cameras in low light settings like this is to along with trying to brace it again/on top of something (if you don't have that mini tripod) is to use the timer setting (eg. 3 second delay) and holding your camera as steady as can be. This way, it does not move as much as when you hit the shutter, as that adds to the shake, minute as it is. You should get a more steady shot and clearer image this way. Good luck!

          3. Oh, you will be addicted once you start documenting your cocktails and meals!! Belive me.. I have a Canon SD550- I am sure there is probably a way better one on the market now, since I have had mine for a couple of years. Love it. I agree with mojoeater, NO FLASH!! Take a lot of photos different angles, look at other food photos and see what angles you like.

            I rarely use my macro setting, I have the camera set for everyday use and rarely change the settings. I have a lot of food photos on chowhound, click on my name and take a peak. Good Luck....

            1 Reply
            1. Every Panasonic Lumix digital camera has a built-in 'food' option mode specifically design for user to take these type of pictures. Just point and shoot. Any model with over 7.1 mega pix will give you great quality pictures!