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Best camera for food photography?

d
DollyDagger Oct 19, 2008 01:48 PM

I recently read an article about the new 'Gourmet Mode' some cameras have introduced - presumably with aspiring food photographers and bloggers in mind.

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/mout...

The conclusion: "...the "Gourmet Mode" essentially combined Macro and White Balance functionalities, bringing dishes into sharper focus and compensating for the yellow tint indoor light can sometimes cast. While I'm not going to rush to buy another digital camera (I think my first will last me another five years), I'll make sure to choose those two settings the next time I shoot a dish."

As I'm looking to invest in a new camera, I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations of what to choose? A lightweight discreet digital would be ideal, and anything that works wonders for food photography would be even better.

Also, has anyone actually bought a camera specifically for its 'Gourmet Mode' function? And if so, have you seen a difference in your photos or encountered any pros / cons?

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  1. chef chicklet Oct 20, 2008 12:02 PM

    Sounds like a perfect opportunity for someone to take advantage of new food photographers. Camera's are nice,but its all about lighting, styling and the perspective.
    You want to see some great food shots? Go on flicker.com and there you'll see all sorts of shots done with all levels of photographers, in all sorts of situations all with different cameras. You can click on the photgograher and get information on their camera if that's what you want to know.

    13 Replies
    1. re: chef chicklet
      m
      MartinDC Oct 20, 2008 02:33 PM

      Not to mention that most professional food photographers often put inedible chemicals on the food to make it look appetizing during the duration of the shoot, which often can take hours under harsh environmental conditions.

      Any photographer who understands white balance, depth of field and basic composition can get a good capture, with a camera that has a raw mode. Beyond that it requires the expertise of an artist to get the best angle, and photoshop-ist to play with the color levels, sharpness, etc.

      Most of those camera "special mode" features should be ignored.

      By the way, google the Sigma SD14 for samples, plus look at the Sigma forum on dpreview.com. The sigma cameras have the Foveon sensor that renders very film-like images, with amazing dynamic range. Paired with the right lens,a tripod, and some basic improvised studio lighting, I think you could get some very pleasing food shots.

      1. re: MartinDC
        chef chicklet Oct 21, 2008 08:14 AM

        Oh yeah, forgot to mention photo-shop, great point.

        1. re: chef chicklet
          JoanN Oct 24, 2008 02:52 PM

          Right. RAW and Photoshop. The two magic words that will produce decent food shots from even the most basic point-and-shoot digital (at least, one that has the RAW capability). Don't even need to understand white balance. You can fix it later. Ain't technology grand?!?

          1. re: JoanN
            rworange Aug 31, 2010 05:57 PM

            I despise photoshop. It is even less intuitive than the Chow software. I don't see any reason for paying for this junk when I can get the same thing for free in Window's Live Photogallery.

            At one time this was a good product. I used photoshop years ago. Now they just screwed it up. I'm using the free trial but it is unlikely I'll buy it.

            The only reason I need photoshop is to resize, but I'm looking at a few free software options for that.

            1. re: rworange
              JoanN Aug 31, 2010 06:32 PM

              No question about it. Photoshop is definitely not intuitive. But it's extraordinarily powerful. I'm far from adept with it. But I needed to learn to use it professionally and there's just nothing comparable out there. If you think you're getting all Photoshop capabilities in Window's Live Photogallery then Photoshop clearly isn't the right program for you.

              If all you need to do is resize your photos, I'd recommend Irfanview. It's a really nifty little program, especially good at resizing and converting formats, and it's free.

              1. re: JoanN
                rworange Aug 31, 2010 06:45 PM

                However, you are talking the difference between buying the $$$ version of photoshop or the low-end Elements ... what twit came up with that name.

                Even photoshop advises the casual photo taker just to go with Elements

                I'll try out all the software at all levels, but so far I'm not impressed and there's nothing on their low end that gives me any more than Windows.

                1. re: rworange
                  Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 07:14 PM

                  Actually, PSElements is just that - the "elements" of Photoshop, and 1/6th the price. It lacks the ability to work in CMYK, so if one is doing pre-press work for commercial printers, or for designers, who are outputting to commercial printers, that is out.

                  It cannot create Button Layer Sets (for DVD & BD Menus), but can edit them.

                  It cannot do some of the Adjustment Layers (a great tool for non-destructive editing), nor can it do some of the automation, like Actions and Scripting, that PS can.

                  It ships with an organizational program, Organizer, that is not as full-featured as is Adobe Bridge, that ships with the full PS.

                  PSE is more of a "big button" program, where more is automated. PSE can create SlideShows, and can directly interface with the video-editing program, Premiere Elements, for those SlideShows. While PS interfaces well with either PrElements, or PrPro, (plus Adobe Encore, the DVD/BD authoring progarm), it does not do SlideShows, though PS- Extended does do much more motion work. Still, no real SlideShows, like with PSE.

                  There are probably a few more deficiencies in PSE and also some features that it offers, that PS does not.

                  If one is not doing CMYK work, does not need to create DVD/BD Menus, and does not mind a single button doing more with Presets, then PSE is a great little program. Oh, did I mention that it costs 1/6th what PS costs, and 1/8th what PS-Extended costs? One can buy a bundle of both PSE and PrE, and still come in for about 1/4 the cost of PS.

                  Now, I have used the full-blown version of Photoshop for decades - from the first day that it hit the PC. During that time, I have made a very good living with it, but then do advertising photography, so that goes hand-in-hand with what I do.

                  I cannot imagine doing any photography without my PS handy.

                  "I'm not impressed and there's nothing on their low end that gives me any more than Windows." This depends on what one wants/needs to do, and what they need to end up with. If you have not yet tried GIMP, look into that open source program. I looked at it many years/versions ago, but did not like the interface, and also already owned two licenses of PS, so it was not an option for me. Still, others love that program, and it IS free.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    rworange Aug 31, 2010 07:26 PM

                    >>> If one is not doing CMYK work, does not need to create DVD/BD Menus, and does not mind a single button doing more with Presets, then PSE is a great little program.

                    Thanks. No I don't need to do all that and can not see anything that PSE can do (other than resizing) that Windows cannot for free.

                    And I just intuitively picked up on Windows. I needed to go to the online videos for PSE ... which were out of date ... and which Photoshop refused to acknowledge to a number of people who complained about them on line. It was brush off that Elements 7 is close enough to Elements 8. What a cheesy operation.

                    Let me repeat ... PSE is NOT a great little program and I would discourage anyone to buy it. But then again, there's a free 30 day trial. Give that Edsel a test run.

                    1. re: rworange
                      Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 07:57 PM

                      Does Windows have Layers?

                      Does Windows have Adjustment Layers (though a reduced set)?

                      Does Windows have Levels (I forgot, Curves were missing, but may have been added)?

                      Does Windows have Highlight & Shadow?

                      Does Windows accept plug-ins?

                      I am not being facitious here, but just asking, as I have not used any version of Windows' similar programs, since Paint in the early 80's.

                      Now, if all one needs to do is resize images, then there is absolutely no reason to go beyond freeware.

                      Have you tried GIMP?

                      "Let me repeat ... PSE is NOT a great little program and I would discourage anyone to buy it." I am not at all sure what you are basing this anti-rec. on. I am a professional photographer, and power-user of PS (and Corel Painter), and I actually give copies of PSE to many, just to get them started. All have found it to be a great little program. This has ranged from doctors to engineers. The common thread has been image editing. Just curious.

                      Good luck,

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                        rworange Aug 31, 2010 09:06 PM

                        Yep. Windows has everything PSE has except the resizing. It is better designed, a pleasure to use and FREE

                        Seriously, I was surprised. I started with Windows because I didn't have time to download PSE. When I got PSE, I was really surprised that PSE not only didn't have anything more, it was slow and unintuitive to use. I can't begin to say how turned off those videos for how to use the product made me. The total lack of concern from the rep for that product to a number of complaints was appalling. I don't want a company that will not support their product adequately.

                        Ohhhh ... and add to that the font is teeny so I have to wear my glasses to use PSE. What a piece of junk. Maybe they are only interested in the high end customers.

                        Those are the only two I've tried so far. I have 30 days to test drive this so maybe I might find something astounding that I'm missing.

                        1. re: rworange
                          Josh Oct 12, 2011 02:01 AM

                          Your anti-PS bias is frankly bizarre.

                          It's professional-level editing software, and to call it a piece of junk because it's complex to use is like saying a 747 is a piece of junk because it's complex to fly.

                          1. re: Josh
                            rworange Oct 12, 2011 09:42 AM

                            Most people I would guess are not buying the professional version. The basic package is worse to use and offers NO features that I can't get with windows live which is intuitive.

      2. re: chef chicklet
        rworange Aug 31, 2010 06:27 PM

        ALERT, ALERT, ALERT

        This is a 2008 thread so Dolly has probably long ago bought her camera. I didn't notice until I already replied below

      3. almansa Oct 21, 2008 01:49 PM

        I use a Cannon Digital Rebel XT with Sigma lenses. I've had no problem. The lens is much more important than the megapixels if you want to submit for print media.

        1. Chew on That Oct 24, 2008 02:41 PM

          The Canon SD1000 on the digital macro setting is GREAT for food. I don't have it yet but my cousin does and showed me her food photos and theyre amazing. I have the Canon SD400.

          1. n
            nkeane Oct 24, 2008 04:31 PM

            I have a D80 with a macro lens. while its less then stealthy at a restaurant, it takes amazing photos in any lighting situation. I will echo the photoshop rec., it doesnt seem fair to all of us that took the time to learn photography, but you really can fix/do just about anything later. You still have to get a good angle and capture depth fairly well but thats pretty easy.

            1. t
              theuninvitedguest Oct 29, 2008 12:21 PM

              I suggest checking out food blogs with photos that you like and asking what they use. 101 Cookbooks, for example, uses a Canon EOS 20D.

              1. h
                hsk Nov 1, 2008 11:29 PM

                For pics while dining, I found my iphone takes really good food pictures and it's pretty discreet.

                1. m
                  MartinDC Nov 4, 2008 11:17 AM

                  Another thought, something I learned on the FXCuisine.com food site. You should have only one key light source. If you can set up a stuidio light with a diffuser of some kind, you will get the reflection of a soft light source on the food, and it will look more natural and more 3D.

                  1. Scargod Nov 7, 2008 06:31 PM

                    I have done product photography and a whiz-bang camera shooting RAW is nice but not exactly what you want to take into a restaurant and be discreet.
                    I have shot almost all the images I have posted on Chowhound with a pocket-sized Sony Cybershot, with 12 megapixels and closeup setting. A little Photoshopping and you're all set.
                    BTW, some of my images stink because Chowhound can only deal with low-end RGB color settings. Stick with Adobe 1998 RGB JPGs.

                    1. l
                      lexpatti Nov 7, 2008 06:54 PM

                      my son takes fantastic pics every time he eats out with a sony digital, very slim - fits in his shirt pocket. he rarely uses the flash, and uses salt shaker, water glass, etc. to anchor the camera for clear shots.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lexpatti
                        Scargod Nov 7, 2008 08:26 PM

                        Great idea. I have a tripod/monopod which will fit in my pocket.
                        I could see asking for a bottle of ketchup so you could rest your hand and camera on it. I usually try to refrain from using a flash, if at all possible. I also cut back on the flash level. A fast lens helps. Our goes to F 2.8. Not bad.

                        1. re: Scargod
                          l
                          lexpatti Nov 8, 2008 05:24 AM

                          ya, he tries to be inconspicuous about taking a pic. I love the creativeness in his shots. Mine is a canon power shot and also takes great pics, close up too but still think his is better (or maybe I'm still learning the right settings for that)

                      2. d
                        dwagner6 Nov 9, 2008 09:22 AM

                        I have found the macro mode on my Canon Powershot G9 to be great for photographing dishes. Its use above ISO 400 is pretty poor, but it takes pretty good low-light shots for almost-pocket sized camera. Much better than busting out the DSLR in the middle of the meal.

                        1. Candy Nov 9, 2008 11:14 AM

                          I got an Olympus 750 Stylus about 2 years ago. It has a cuisine setting. It is tiny and discreet. Ideal for restaurant photos and doesn't bother other diners.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Candy
                            Scargod Nov 9, 2008 12:40 PM

                            Does it say what settings are being used in this mode? If it has a macro mode I'm guessing it's used and it must up the ISO. Do you see any degradation compared to other auto shoot settings?When you say "it doesn't bother other diners", I'm assuming it doesn't use the flash in this mode?

                          2. fmed Nov 9, 2008 01:50 PM

                            For restaurant photo-blogging shots, I use a Fuji Finepix Z20fd ( http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digi... ). The images can't compare to my wife's Nikon DSLR (she's a professional photographer), but I think they are just fine for posting on the web, etc.

                            It is discreet (it looks sort of like a makeup case or a cellphone); it has a decent macro feature; it shoots OK in low light conditions (if you can put up with the noisy artifacts - I often do some correction in Photoshop or iPhoto)...but what I like about it the most is that it is so slim and light that can do "one-handed" macro shots. (See attached for some sample images).

                             
                             
                             
                             
                            3 Replies
                            1. re: fmed
                              Scargod Nov 13, 2008 05:31 PM

                              Pretty good shots for no flash. I'm afraid to ask what the first picture is...
                              Personally, I enjoy taking my D300 with the added grip/battery and WA lenses into a place. Kinda like laying your pistol on the table.

                              1. re: Scargod
                                fmed Nov 13, 2008 06:17 PM

                                Thanks Scargod. I disable the flash for the most part. You can get interesting "arty" shots sometimes when it is too dark.

                                That first shot is Xiao Long Bao.

                              2. re: fmed
                                free sample addict aka Tracy L Dec 22, 2008 09:18 PM

                                I'm happy with my fuji camera too. I have a Fujifilm Finepix A800. The macro feature is very good and has a stabilizing feature which comes really handy in restaurants if the table is shaky or you've had too much caffeine. After talking w/two photographers during my last vacation I've learned it is all about lighting and how you set up your shot than the camera itself (if you are a non-professional). One of them got their start using a pretty basic coolpix form Nikon. It's like any skill he more practice you get the better skills you develop. For my next big vacation I'm getting a digital SLR but will keep my smaller camera for more discreet moments. Camera phones are good too and it seems with each new phone the options keep improving.

                              3. Prav Nov 13, 2008 06:45 PM

                                When I'm at a restaurant, I rarely care about being discrete, so I bust out my clunky brick of a Canon 5D with a gigantor battery grip, and the classic 50mm f/1.4 lens. It's one of the sharpest pieces of glass out there, and it takes just MARVELOUS photos - rich in color, tack sharp images. The best thing about it is that its aperture is wide enough to capture some lovely photos in even the darkest of restaurants.

                                If I'm shooting something at home, I usually play around with lighting, striving for even, diffuse lighting. I like to avoid harsh shadows and washed out highlights. For this photo of chirashi, I used a hotshoe flash pointed towards the ceiling, and fitted with a Lightsphere diffuser. http://flickr.com/photos/icedhotchoco...

                                This was probably far longer of an explanation than most people care about. ;)

                                1. Bill Hunt Dec 1, 2008 04:04 PM

                                  Well, there is "food photography," and then there is "Food Photography." With the former, you are taking a snapshot of your food. With the latter, you are photographing the food of advertising. Think the cover of "Gourmet Magazine." Other than the subject being food, they are night and day.

                                  Now that I'm off my little soapbox, what you describe is the former. I have never heard of the "Gourmet Mode," but then I spend most of my day doing the latter, just not that often with food as the subject.

                                  Still, as you state, a good macro-mode, quick and accrate auto-focus, adequate depth-of-field (pretty much a given with digitals nowadays) and a flash are the main requirements. It does need to be smallish, so you can dine without a full bag of equipment. These requirements are not really different from a good "travel" camera.

                                  The one that has impressed me has been the Canon G10 (just replaced their G9). It is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, though not the breast pocket. It offers more control than most. The auto-focus seems to be very fast and accurate. The auto-white balance seems quite good. The flash, which is integral to the camera would be the one negative, but that is the same with almost all small cameras, and even some high-end DSLRs. The lighting will be one-point and only from the front. One can add a auxiliary flash, but that adds weight, bulk and takes time to attach/detach. One might think of taping a small piece of drafting vellum over the lens of the flash. Depending on the control that the camera has over the flash, the diminished flash power, through the diffusion material, should not be an issue. For what you are apparently looking to do, it might be the best that you can get. If you are getting more serious, and less covert, then think about using an additional flash, attached via PC cord and held to one side. Then, set the on-camera flash to about 1/3 to 1/2 power, and let the second flash be your key light.

                                  I'm so impressed with the G10, that I am going to replace my wife's S60 "travel" camera for one. Now, I've used Nikon since the 1960's, but this Canon is impressive.

                                  If it really needs to be covert, you might want to think tiny, almost credit-card sized. Think a digital version of the old Minox "spy-camera," but a lot flatter.

                                  Good luck,

                                  Hunt

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                    steve h. Aug 31, 2010 06:15 PM

                                    The Canon G11 is one fine point-and-shoot camera. I was a big 6x6 bigot for the longest time but not anymore. I've even started leaving my DSLR at home. Now, it's the G11 and my iPhone4. That was the duo I used at the Pebble Beach Concours and I plan on doing the same at the Lime Rock Fall Vintage Festival (races and concours).

                                    Technology is a wonderful thing.

                                    1. re: steve h.
                                      Bob Martinez Aug 31, 2010 06:22 PM

                                      I use the G11 too and I've very happy with it. The low light sensitivity is very good indeed. The Canon s90 uses the same sensor in a much smaller form factor. It has fewer overall features but for pure food photography is would be a fine choice.

                                  2. 3
                                    33limes Dec 6, 2008 08:12 PM

                                    I know this strays a bit - but I'd prefer to shoot food with a view camera. A good majority of stuff I see in food magazines has certain perspective control and whatnot that could only have been done with the movements inherent to that format.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: 33limes
                                      Bill Hunt Dec 20, 2008 06:41 PM

                                      This is one of the main differences between photography of food, and food photography. Were I shooting food commercially, I'd be using my Cambo 4x5 with a digital capture back and appropriate lighting. This difference is what I alluded to, earlier on.

                                      I am also NOT a fan of the penchant for having one mm of a scallop in focus, while 99.9% of the plate is very soft. There are reasons for using extremely shallow and defined DOF, but to show off a plate of food is NOT one of them. Decades ago, I cancelled my subscription to Condé Nast, because of their art directors' choices in this area. Art is art, but when you are trying to entice readers to travel and dine, cutsie DOF is not a good way to do so, especially for an advertising photographer.

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                        JoanN Dec 21, 2008 05:55 AM

                                        This is interesting, and very timely. I've been using a Canon S60 for the past few years. Bought it mainly for travel and underwater photography, but in the last year I've been using it a lot for food photography (small eff, small pee). I decided it was time for me to go pro-sumer DSLR, so Santa will be bringing a Canon Rebel XSi. I'm photographing what I cook at home, not what I eat at restaurants, and have been reading up on what various food bloggers have to say about the equipment they use.

                                        Many started out with, and recommend, a 50 mm f /1.4 (or 1.8) and I've been thinking that would be a more versatile lens for me than a dedicated macro lens. But your DOF comment stopped me in my tracks. Should I be rethinking this? Am I going to look like an artsy-fartsy wannabe?

                                        1. re: JoanN
                                          Bill Hunt Dec 21, 2008 05:00 PM

                                          JoanN,

                                          Actually, DOF is less of a problem with digital, than it was with silver-capture. Matter-of-fact, many work hard to get *back* to the old DOF of by-gone days.

                                          Depending on the sensor (do not know th Canon XSi), the 50mm might be a tad long. If one is doing existing light work (no flash, or tungsten lights), then the max aperture of f/1.4 to 1.8 would be good. If one is going to light the food (the way to go), then it is of less use. Close-focusing capabilities (or Macro/Micro) might be more of a consideration for me, than the max. aperture.

                                          Last cookbook that I photo-illustrated, I used a 35-135mm Macro on a DX sensor camera. I also used strobe for all shots with about 5 heads in various diffusion boxes/modifiers, plus several fill cards and mirrors for sparkle. DOF was never a problem, as I was shooting at f/11 - 16 for all images. It pays to have 23,000 WS of strobe power at hand.

                                          It really boils down to what one has, and what one wishes to do with the equipment. My wife's S60 is our small "travel camera," but will replaced by a Canon G-10 soon. For my work, I use Nikon exclusively (but bought Canon for the widest angle zoom on a PnS body, and it has been almost flawless). I even use Nikkor optics for my 4 x 5's. Still, for a travel camera, the Canon G-10 offers a lot!

                                          I would lean towards a good macro, with adequate working distance, were I doing much of this work. I use a 105mm Nikkor Macro with tubes, Proxars and reversing rings, if needed. My 35 - 135mm is only Macro at 35mm, and that's a tad close. I like being able to setup away from my subject a bit, to leave room for lighting and reflectors. I shot it out of macro-mode mostly and probably was in the 85mm (35mm equivilent) range for most of the full place-setting shots.

                                          If you really get serious about doing photo-illustrations of your cooking, you might want to look into a diffusion dome. You can soften the lighting by moving the instruments away from the material, and harden it up, by placing them closer. Also, silver reflectors/mirrors can add a lot of "punch."

                                          Good luck,

                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            JoanN Dec 22, 2008 05:01 AM

                                            Bill,

                                            Thank you so much for your detailed, and very interesting, reply. I suspect my forays into food photography will go no further than existing-light exploration, one of the reasons the 50 mm appealed to me. I’ve worked with professional photographers in a number of different fields and have great admiration and respect for what it is you do. But it’s not for me. I just don’t have the patience. Nor do I have any aspirations beyond strictly amateur. I would prefer to spend my money on ingredients rather than equipment and my time on food prep as opposed to lighting setups.

                                            That said, it looks as though there will indeed be a macro lens in my future—some time after I figure out what the camera and the kit lens are capable of.

                                    2. n
                                      nickblesch Dec 7, 2008 10:55 PM

                                      My experience thus far has been that taking good pictures is much more about knowing how to use a camera than the camera itself. That's within reason, of course; obviously, your cell phone camera or an eight year old point & shoot isn't going to give you much of anything.

                                      I've got a Canon PowerShot SD1100 and it takes pictures that are good enough to wow family and friends, and I think that the problems with the photos beyond that lie in (1) my utter inability to plate anything so that it looks good and (2) the fact that I'm still a total newbie and I never get the lighting quite the way I want it. :D

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: nickblesch
                                        rworange Aug 31, 2010 06:18 PM

                                        Amen

                                        You can buy a Stradivarius , but that isn't going to make you a concert violinist.

                                        I just started taking food photos and find it is not really my thing. I almost like it less than cooking .... which I hate ... because I don't have the patience or artistic eye.

                                        One thing you need to determine is what you will be using it for. Are you blogging? Are you just sharing photos on Chowhound or for your own pleasure? It doesn't sound like you are doing this professionally for a living.

                                        I would say to start trying out cameras. Get recommendations, but see how they work and feel to you.

                                        I bought a low end Cannon due to being in a foreign country and my real camera had 'issues'. My criteria for buying it was that the sales person spoke English.

                                        First ... I wish the batteries would stop falling out.

                                        Second ... when I do get a camera shutter speed will be a big criteria. The wait between shots is a pita.

                                        Third ... well ... there's lots of stuff ... but those are the first two.

                                        But it is good enough for now. When I get back to the states, I'll be roaming the camera stores and seeing what is available.

                                        Oh yeah ... my screen resolution is too low for the Cannon on my netbook so it will NOT allow me to upload photos. So I have to go to my regular laptop, upload photos there, burn a cd, attach a cd drive to the netbook and copy the photos

                                        pita

                                        Small is good, but I'm always afraid I'm going to lose the camera. And I've noticed that no restaurants have an issue. I always ask first though. So size would not matter to me.

                                        Anyway, the better investment would be to take some photography classes.

                                        1. re: rworange
                                          steve h. Aug 31, 2010 06:44 PM

                                          Composition is what makes a good picture. Without good composition, you have, at best, a snapshot. When you want to add icing on the cake, spend a little time playing around with light: natural light, artificial light, whatever.
                                          It's not the camera, it's the photographer's understanding of composition and light that makes a compelling photo.

                                          1. re: steve h.
                                            Bill Hunt Aug 31, 2010 07:22 PM

                                            Steve,

                                            I would place composition right there with lighting. One can compose per the "classical layouts," but if the image is not lite properly, one cannot pick up the depth, the shapes, or anything good about the image.

                                            The inability to light, unless one has the run of the place, is the main reason that I do not waste my time with snapshots. My composition is great, but if I cannot light, it is moot.

                                            I strongly agree with your last comment - the camera is but a tool. It only records an image onto a CF card, or onto film. The lens might produce a slightly sharper image, but will not make a tourist into a food-photographer, regardless of the price paid.

                                            I could put an on-camera flash on my Hassleblads, with those wonderfully sharp Zeiss lenses, and it would just be a medium format snapshot, and really no more useful than a quick "happy snap" with a decent point-n-shoot. Give my team an hour with my Speedotrons, a competent stylist, and some great looking dishes, and we will create art. And at that, I am NOT a food photographer. When the project goes from "shots of food for the resorts ad," to "food photography," I give recommendations to the client.

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                              steve h. Aug 31, 2010 07:42 PM

                                              Bill,
                                              Thanks for sharing. You and others make this board a lot of fun to read.

                                      2. w
                                        wontonfm Dec 24, 2008 09:33 AM

                                        As a novice blogger who takes pictures of their food I have found this thread interesting. I havae a Fuji FinePix f440 that I'm not a fan of but with a mini tripod and in better lighting I find that my photos have been getting better. I will try the white balance trick because my photos always seem too yellow.

                                        thanks all!
                                        WON
                                        ------
                                        http://whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: wontonfm
                                          d
                                          DJ Xavier Mar 2, 2010 08:54 PM

                                          I have done a lot of food photography, I found my Sony DSCW80 from 2006 worked well for my photos. If you understand about lighting and know your camera, you can take great shots in the Macro mode and no one will know the difference. You can even print the photos. I am sure a SLR and pro-sumer lens will do. As long as you have a concept in mind it will work. I like to photograph Baked goods. I found that with digital you can take many photos and pick the best one. Then you retake until you get it right.
                                          Its all about knowing your camera and Artistic ability. Try the new Cams with larger lens and better anti Blur chips, You may not need an SLR.

                                        2. shoku_tsu Apr 13, 2010 01:29 PM

                                          Had another in-depth look at some new camera developments specific for food photography. Come have a read here (http://tinyurl.com/y3bg7re) for more...

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: shoku_tsu
                                            h
                                            hye Apr 22, 2010 04:06 PM

                                            The Fuji f-series used to be king of low-light performance in compact form-factor, but it has declining since the f40. (The aftermarket for the f30 and f31 is still going pretty strong.) The newest one, f200exr seems to be a good return to the old levels of performance, and has a high ISO setting that should be good for dim settings without flash.

                                            On that note, some other camera manufacturers have now tried putting manual features in compact cameras along with larger sensors and faster lenses. These are also useful for food photography. The Panasonic LX3 and Canon S90 are two examples. (The S90 has the same internal sensor and processor as the G11, but different lens, I believe.)

                                            1. re: hye
                                              f
                                              freelancer Sep 13, 2010 10:28 PM

                                              I'm looking at the Panasonic ZS7 and the Sony HX5. Both of these produce fantastic image quality but neither have flash adjustment/control. Which means a really bright flash that will blow out the food porn in a dark setting.

                                              I considered the Fuji F80 as it auto adjusts flash with its Low Light mode and its Pro Focus mode produces these beautiful shots of food with amazing depth of field. But the image quality stinks.

                                              What would you do? I am having a hard time deciding.

                                              1. re: freelancer
                                                Bob Martinez Sep 14, 2010 05:34 AM

                                                If you take flash pictures in a restaurant you may have problems with the restaurant management and your fellow diners. You may want to consider a camera that doesn't need a flash to get good low light performance .

                                                1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                  fmed Sep 14, 2010 08:04 AM

                                                  And more importantly - the food shot with a flash straight on doesn't look that appetizing. I agree - get a camera with good low-light performance.

                                                  I just read a posting from David Hagerman of the amazing food blog EatingAsia where he recommends the Richo GR III http://davidhagerman.typepad.com/weblog/2010/09/dont-call-it-a-point-and-shoot.html

                                                  EatingAsia: http://eatingasia.typepad.com/

                                                  I have a very compact Sony TX1 which performs really well in low light. It has a couple of modes where it takes multiple shots in rapid succession and then combines them all into one image using an internal image processing chip. http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/s...

                                                  1. re: fmed
                                                    f
                                                    freelancer Sep 14, 2010 10:38 PM

                                                    I've taken some pics with flash and some without, now that I think about it. Usually no one minds as I try to be super discreet - but thanks for reminding about how bright the flash can be. My old camera took terrible photos with flash (overexposed) but some other ones needed it.

                                                    Is there any possible way to get a low light camera that still has a decent extended optical zoom? This is essentially my problem - I'd prefer 5x + but I know it's ridiculously tough since the extended zoom means less light coming through.

                                                    The Ricoh looks ridiculous. If I had an extra $700 to spend on a spare camera, that'd be the one. Wow. Any other recommendations?

                                                    1. re: freelancer
                                                      Bob Martinez Sep 15, 2010 06:16 AM

                                                      A flash shot in a restaurant is like lightning at a picnic. Everybody is aware of it, even if they pretend to ignore it.

                                                      For good low light performance with a small form factor I'd consider the new Canon S95. It's got a 3.8 optical zoom.

                                                      http://www.dpreview.com/news/1008/100...

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                        f
                                                        freelancer Sep 15, 2010 08:45 AM

                                                        True true. I guess when I take pics of food, it's usually at home or when I'm on holidays. And I eat really late so it's usually emptyish! Haha. But you're right, it's better to get a low light camera.

                                                        Thanks for the rec on the new S95. I am considering that one as well. The Panasonic LX5 is also out... Hmmm

                                                      2. re: freelancer
                                                        fmed Sep 15, 2010 07:33 AM

                                                        The Fujifilm 300EXR cameras have excellent low-light performance and 15X optical zoom: http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digi...

                                                        I had its predecessor for a couple of weeks but returned it because I wanted something more compact (the Sony TX1). It took great photos. Like the Sony TX, the EXR cameras have sophisticated image processing features that enable them to perform in low-light conditions.

                                                        1. re: fmed
                                                          f
                                                          freelancer Sep 15, 2010 08:43 AM

                                                          Thanks for the rec fmed. I had the predecessor too - EXR200? I found it took amazing macro shots but terrible image quality (when looked at in detail). So I returned it. I find the Panasonics better for image quality but you don't get the beautiful macro shots with bokeh as you would with the Fuji's. It's such a hard decision.

                                                          1. re: freelancer
                                                            fmed Sep 15, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                            Buy the camera from a reputable dealer with a generous return policy. Then run each camera through its paces. Keep the one you like. (Which is what I did).

                                                            The EXR has a mode where it creates bokeh digitally using the internal image processing chip. The bokeh looks convincing at first glance, but a careful inspection reveals a "digital" quality.

                                                            The Lumix (Panasonics) are very nice. I tried out the DMC-LX5 recently. Very good camera. It performed very well in low-light conditions. It's also in the $600 range, IIRC.

                                                            Here is another excellent camera in the price range (Olympus E-PL1) http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olymp... .

                                                            1. re: fmed
                                                              f
                                                              freelancer Sep 15, 2010 11:17 AM

                                                              What you said about the EXR mode is spot on - it looks convincing at first glance, doesn't it? But upon further inspection, the image looks grainy for the most part.

                                                              I might pick up the LX5 and give it a shot. It's a bit on the pricey range for me but if it can do what I need it to for concert shooting, then I'd be fine. the problem is I need a decent amount of zoom for live music and 3.8x just seems so minute.

                                                              1. re: freelancer
                                                                fmed Sep 17, 2010 08:39 PM

                                                                I think you will struggle to get good concert shots with only a 3.8x zoom. The LX5 will make a great food blogger's camera though!

                                                                1. re: fmed
                                                                  h
                                                                  hye Sep 26, 2010 10:14 PM

                                                                  You could use a napkin or something as a light diffuser for the flash, as long as your camera allows you to adjust the appropriate settings to account for the lowered light (compared to normal flash).

                                                                  1. re: hye
                                                                    f
                                                                    freelancer Oct 25, 2010 06:00 PM

                                                                    I ended up picking up the Lumix LX5 - it lacks the zoom I so desperately wanted but the f2 lens is absolutely stunning. Great low light capability and the macro shots are incredible. See pics below. No flash, and the lens was just about touching the food :) You can go that close!

                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                            2. sped98 Aug 30, 2010 06:32 AM

                                              I use a finepix s9600 and cant really complain , however im now looking for something a little more advanced as im not happy with depth of field and pin sharp focus on close ups.
                                              Heres some i took recently.
                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/24726943...

                                              1. f
                                                fredgy127 Aug 31, 2010 07:14 PM

                                                iphone takes really good food pictures and it's pretty discreet

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: fredgy127
                                                  steve h. Sep 1, 2010 03:08 PM

                                                  In good light, my iPhone4 is capable of pretty good snapshots and modest travel video. I have to carry it anyway so I'm pleased with its results under the right (impromptu) conditions. Operation is a snap.

                                                2. tzakiel Sep 17, 2010 08:43 PM

                                                  As I'm sure everyone has already beaten to death, worry more about the light and your food. Any camera will do with the right combination of light and presentation.

                                                  If you really want to take it to the next level, I would suggest a entry level DSLR so you can learn some more advanced techniques and how to post-process RAW files.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: tzakiel
                                                    Bill Hunt Sep 17, 2010 09:59 PM

                                                    That, and a good strobe system to light the food, plus years of experience.

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: tzakiel
                                                      fmed Sep 17, 2010 10:25 PM

                                                      You are absolutely right (re: light & food). Restaurant bloggers often don't have much control of the lighting, however (unless you use a flash of course)...which is why I believe a camera that can handle low lighting is almost essential in that context.

                                                    2. deepsouth Sep 17, 2010 10:07 PM

                                                      i should probably do better, but right now i'm using my iphone 4 and it's taking decent pictures. i posted a few in my introductory thread over in home cooking.

                                                      cheers!

                                                      1. c
                                                        CocoaNut Sep 27, 2010 08:57 AM

                                                        Thanks for the discussion about "White Balance".

                                                        1. s
                                                          SherBel Oct 27, 2010 08:21 AM

                                                          I sell my work online, and a good camera is vital. I've just switched from an older Nikon to a Canon G11, and it's a kick-a** little camera. Intuitive, easy, and it has RAW capabilities. I'm delighted with it, and recommend it highly.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: SherBel
                                                            Bob Martinez Oct 27, 2010 02:26 PM

                                                            It's what I use. You can't carry it in your pocket but the low light performance is excellent.

                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez
                                                              sped98 Nov 30, 2010 11:23 AM

                                                              Fuji finepix S 9600 in macro mode , fantastic results for a very cheap camera

                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                          2. deepsouth May 26, 2011 01:54 PM

                                                            i just got a canon powershot s95 and so far, i'm very pleased!

                                                            1. sped98 Oct 11, 2011 12:23 PM

                                                              Check out what i think is the best food blogging camera ever invented...The Panasonic Lumix LX5.... I`ll let the photos speak for themselves. Type "Cumbriafoodie" into a search engine. Cheers

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: sped98
                                                                f
                                                                freelancer Oct 12, 2011 12:01 AM

                                                                I ended up with this one. It's incredible and great for concert photography as well.

                                                                1. re: sped98
                                                                  fmed Oct 12, 2011 08:54 AM

                                                                  I have recently purchased the older model, the LX3 (which is nearly identical to the LX5) and I too recommend this series of cameras for food blogging photography.

                                                                  1. re: fmed
                                                                    s
                                                                    streaksinthesky Nov 13, 2011 09:39 PM

                                                                    dumb questions from an amateur photographer...when shooting in iso mode in low light, are all point and shoot cameras going to have a green light that shoots out onto the target? my nikon does this and i want something a bit stealthier

                                                                    1. re: streaksinthesky
                                                                      fmed Nov 14, 2011 08:51 AM

                                                                      That is the focus assist light (ie the camera uses it to aid the auto focus mechanism). I can turn it off on my cameras....look for the term "focus assist light" in your manual to see if you can do the same.

                                                                      1. re: fmed
                                                                        c
                                                                        cwdonald Nov 14, 2011 04:50 PM

                                                                        Does anyone use a DSLR with a macro lens? Are you getting incredibly better photos? Also curious whether the Iphone 4s has any macro capabilities and how it is for food photography.

                                                                        1. re: cwdonald
                                                                          fmed Nov 15, 2011 09:20 AM

                                                                          I do - and yes they do take better photos than a typical P&S. P&S and smaller cameras (eg Micro4/3) are closing the image quality gap though. Also, I find a DSLR too bulky to lug around to restaurants. They are just find if I am taking photos at home, of course.

                                                                          The iPhone 4s doesn't do well in low light (very noisy compared to a digital camera) and I find the pictures to be too soft. In bright light, they images look just fine and good enough for food-blogging, etc. The macro is decent but again has trouble in low light.

                                                                          1. re: cwdonald
                                                                            honkman Nov 19, 2011 08:55 PM

                                                                            Just went from a P&S to the Canon D60 and the quality difference is unbelievable especially with a good macro lens

                                                                            1. re: cwdonald
                                                                              fmed Nov 20, 2011 09:59 PM

                                                                              A relevant article by ArsTechnica on the iPhone 4/4s vs Digital Cameras http://arstechnica.com/apple/guides/2...

                                                                      2. re: sped98
                                                                        drongo Dec 2, 2011 06:52 AM

                                                                        I bought the LX5 today for $269 (list $500) from Amazon, where it's the "Gold Box Deal of the Day".

                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003...

                                                                      3. JReichert Nov 25, 2011 11:08 AM

                                                                        I wouldn't bother.

                                                                        Any cameras wtih that sort of setting will be a point n' shoot, which though portable and lightweight, will not give you the richness and saturation that really makes food photography pop and draw in the viewer.

                                                                        When you adjust for lighting you have to factor in fluorescent, tungsten, a mix, etc. - you have to know your Kelvins. Any decent camera can be set to 'Auto' and it will pick the appropriate setting. If it still looks funky, it can be fixed in post processing.

                                                                        Clarity comes down to your sensor and the qualtiy of your glass (lens). For the majority of my photography I use my 35mm f/2 on my Canon 5DII (full frame sensor, never going back!). Great for my forte - pet photography - and passable for food photography, but ideally you'd want to keep a large f-stop (aka aperature, small number) with longer reach - so 85mm, 105mm or 125mm no larger than f/6 or so.

                                                                        With point n' shoots, your f-stop automatically decreases in size (number gets higher) when you zoom, and it will ruin whatever amount of out-of-focus element you're trying to impart in the photograph. That's why fixed focal length telephoto lenses are a wedding, portrait, and product photographer's best friend.

                                                                        A lens shorter than, say, 50mm will give you too much distortion and won't show the food true-to-life.

                                                                        Also you want to keep your ISO low too, because it retains the quality of the image. Grain or 'digital noise' is a real issue with lower-priced cameras. On a point n' shoot I wouldn't chance going above 200, and on a mid-range camera 400's really the limit. On a full-frame camera, the sky's the limit - I can get great shoots even at 1600, sometimes more, that still have a lot of quality. You can set your ISO to auto (I do) and on some cameras you can pick a range to work within - say, 100-400 - and no matter what the lighting situation your camera won't go above 400 - so that means to compensate an incredibly slow shutter speed and really open f-stop/aperature - great, because you'll want a shallow depth of field and you'll be using a tripod, anyways.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: JReichert
                                                                          JReichert Nov 25, 2011 12:06 PM

                                                                          Also, my hiking camera is the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LZ10 - discontinued, but a great little 10MP camera with full manual controls in addition to 30-150mm lens range. It's not the fastest thing in the world, either literally or lens-wise, but I hiked 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail this spring - where every ounce matters - and not only was I extremely pleased with it, but I captured some lovely macro-esque shots that were very pleasing. Worth the money if you can find one. Plus it has a Leica lens.

                                                                          I've heard nothing but good things about a lot of the Panasonic and Fuji lines and in particular the Canon G series - I'd start there if you don't want to spend more than $500.

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