As one that deals with both cake photography and food photography the one thing I have learned is; a camera can make a huge difference to your images. Knowing which is the best camera for your needs is critical but also confusing due to the number of options and variations we have available. In this post, I share what I think is the best camera for cake photography.
What is the best camera for cake photography & food photography?
Over the last few years of cake decorating and food blogging; if there is one most important lesson I have learned is "good photos' good photos,' good photos'.
No matter how awesome your cake or plate of food is; if you cannot get a good picture of it - it really does not do justice to your cake, to you as an artist or get picked up on social media by people looking for the recipe.
We eat with our eyes first. Right? So often when you need a recipe what do you look for first? The ingredients? No!! The image. If that bowl of soup looks good - you wanna get that recipe. You wanna recreate the same. That's what good photography does - works like magic.
Often for some cakes that need to be published in a magazine, I get a photographer to shoot them. Magazines need good-quality pictures because that's how they look their best. But these photoshoots can be really expensive.
In the last few years, I spent a little over my budget for professional photographs before I realized I'd better get myself a good camera, good photography lessons, and tools so I can do at least 80% without professional help. I still do get a professional to click some of my magazine submissions but If you see my photographs over the last few years as compared to the previous three years there has been a huge difference.
The reason is a combination of a few things
- Good Camera
- Photo Editing Software
- Photography Lessons
This is how I took pictures before
Yes, I admit these are embarrassing images. I had to really go back and look for these images. But I wanted to share with you my progress so it will encourage you and show you that with a little hard work, the right tools and lots of practice. These images can turn into works of art too. Look below!
This is how I take pictures now
Now, look at my Cake images from two years ago (above) and now (below). See how crisp and clean the recent images are? You can actually see the details in my recent pictures much better.
The purpose of this post is to show you the importance of taking good pictures. But, having the right tools for the right job is just as equally important as the skills. Don't you agree?
So today, I want to share with you what's in my camera bag and what lenses I use for different projects. The lens I use for my cakes and why as well as the lenses I use for my food photos and why.
A little about my experience
When I started cake decorating I started with a regular digital camera and I thought my cakes were good. But over time I started questioning my pictures.
- When I saw cakes that were similar to mine and yet their cakes looked so good. I kept telling myself it was the cake - I need more practice.
- My cakes never got picked when I submitted them for the magazine. Why they were not high-resolution images or professionally clicked? Yup! in the first two years none of my cakes ever got published.
- My closeup shots were terrible. It would be so blurry that's why I'd never share close-up images of my cakes.
The turning point
A few years ago we had new neighbors. This lovely neighbor of mine is a photographer. He used to be the food photographer for a famous TV show here in Israel. Now he does freelance and teaches photography to professionals as well as at the university/school.
As neighbors, we often send baked goodies to each other and once or twice he clicked my cupcakes so beautifully. Just simple cupcakes and I'd go wow. Is that my cupcake?
We got talking photography and he offered some really valuable advice and suggestions.
- First, change my camera
- The first advice he gave me was to change my camera asap; from digital to DSLR.
- I did! Got me a secondhand Panasonic Lumix GH 1.
- I think I almost cried when I saw my first picture! So crisp and clear! I could see the details of my work.
- Good photo editing software
- Back then I use to use Picasa!
- Don't laugh!! I used to consider myself technology impaired because it all went over my head until I started blogging five years ago. Blogging taught me SO MUCH!! Anyway, I got my Lightroom Photo Editing Software.
- This really turned things around for me. I began to see that my work looked more crisp and clean. My food pictures were so much brighter and more realistic.
- Learn to shoot manually
- Once I started seeing so much improvement in my pictures, I automatically started questioning more about how to improve things. Lucky for me, I had a neighbor who is very helpful and shared his knowledge. Over time asking questions and reading endless resources on photography I think I am very happy with how my pictures are now turning out.
I have been lucky to learn from him but also had the opportunity to try a few cameras because he often gets cameras from work home to test them and I have seen some really amazing cameras. Some of these can blow your mind and get you on Amazon to check the prices.
Often, of course, I see the prices and wanna hide in a hole in the ground. If you know what I mean.
So what is the best camera for cake decorating and food photography
Honestly, we all want the best, but the best can mean different things to different people. Personally, I swear by my Canon camera, and also know a friend who won't talk about anything but Nikon.
Heard a National Geographic Photographer in one of his classes say - The best camera is the one that is in your hand right now. Do you know that even an iPhone takes good pictures? Yeah. I take pictures on my iPhone for my Instagram stories and they are good!!
First off, I'm just going to tell you about the camera and lens I use. Then we will explore more options.
My current camera
I've had my Canon 6D camera on my wish list for a long long time. I once had the opportunity to use it thru a friend and gosh, was I hooked. I loved how it made me feel like a photographer. It was so easy to use and simple to understand.
This camera takes incredible pictures, but it also shoots incredible videos in HD. It's not cheap which is why it was on my wishlist for a few years before I could finally afford it but it definitely is worth every penny. Four years ago when I purchased the camera package with three lenses it was a whopping 3.5 K dollars. Yes, this camera is not cheap but it was worth my investment.
My old camera
The Camera I owned before my 6D EOS was a Panasonic GH series. It's a good camera for images as well as videos. The quality is good and crisp. 60% of my food and cake pictures were taken with this camera until a year ago. I really love it.
It's now an old model so if you choose to buy a Panasonic I'd suggest getting a later model. All in all, this is a great camera and lens both in terms of price as well as quality and it was great for all my cake pictures.
If you need something more affordable then the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is another great option. A friend uses it and really loves it.
The Canon Digital SLR Camera Body [EOS 80D] with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5.
This is an awesome DSLR and often I borrow this one from my neighbor. The prime lens is all you need for cake photography but I often use the long lens for my food pictures. Great quality for the price.
This Canon 50 mm lens (1.4) is my go-to photography lens for all my cakes and 50% of my food pictures. This is a prime lens or fixed lens which means it does not have the zoom. So you cannot zoom in or zoom out. You take pictures at 50mm, which makes it perfect for cake pictures. You get the whole cake with all its details so it's ideal for large-tiered cakes. The images are so crisp that you can even crop the pictures later for wonderful close-up shots.
This isn't a cheap lens but it definitely works the extra few dollars and I highly recommend it. But if you are looking for a good starter lens, the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens is almost similar and as good but much more affordable and almost 250 dollars less.
The main difference between the two is 1.8 and 1.4 and makes a difference mostly with food pictures. At 1.4L you can get a bit closer to your food pictures.
Favorite Lens for food photography
This Canon EF 24 to 105 f/4.L IS USM is currently my favorite food photography lens and it can take almost 50% of really good close-up shots of food with this one.
It is similar to the Canon EF 100 mm 2.8 L IS but not the same. The main difference is, of course, the 1.4 L as compared to 2.8 L. This means at 1.4 L you can get closer to getting those dramatic close-up shots of food. It's great for showing texture and those shots where you almost want to pick the food off the screen.
When clicking with these two lenses the big difference is that you have to click at a smaller aperture at 5.0 or 6.0 (I sometimes even go down to 4.5) but this then requires you to bump the ISO up.
For example - with a 50mm I would shoot at f 2.8 with an ISO of 200 and 1/60. With this lens, I would use a setting like f 5.0, ISO 800, and 1/60. The one tip I will give is to shoot on nice bright sunny days which means you can keep the ISO to 400 and 600. Personally, I hate pumping my ISO to more than 400 or 600.
The Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens is great and I use it when I am shooting portrait-type shots or when I go traveling and need to get closer to things that are far away. The quality of this lens is amazing and often perfect when you want to get candid shots of people at a party without having the camera in their faces. I use it mostly for family gatherings and for my travel photos.
SD memory card
Don't forget to buy a good memory card like SanDisk 64 GB Extreme SD Memory Card for your camera and buy one that has enough space. If you one a camera that comes with a card you probably get an 8 GB or less which does not last long if you take lots of pictures and especially if you take videos.
The one important to note about a DSLR is that you store images in RAW file format. This is the best way to preserve the images and also to edit them with. But this also means that it used a lot of memory. Each image can be 4 to 5 MB. And a video takes a lot more of course so the best thing I do is keep a few of these on hand. So I can change a memory rather than having to go download images in between my shoot.
Tripod - I can't live without my tripod
If there is one thing I have learned to do is to shoot with a tripod. I must admit it took me a while to get used to the idea of a tripod because all my life I've only ever been with a camera around my neck.
The truth is I always thought a tripod was for professionals not amateurs like me. I've had a few tripods over the years. The phrase 'you get what you pay for could not be truer'. After a few really cheap tripods I finally decided to buy my Manfrotto and OMG! the quality and the angles you can shoot are worth every penny.
The tripod I use is a Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with Horizontal Column and Ball Head with Manfrotto MH804-3W 3 Way head you can also use the Manfrotto Ball head instead of tilt and pan
Photo and video editing software
Now that you have taken some good pictures, you need to ensure you get some basic editing done. And while there are many good ones out there. I personally think the best is Lightroom is the best. And of course, Photoshop for those of us that like the finer details are taken care of.
I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 for my image editing. What I love about it is that you can do batch editing so if I have clicked a picture with the same light and settings then I can actually edit a batch all at once rather than doing each image one at a time. It saves you so much time.
This is an incredible tool and they have lots of video tutorials too. Unfortunately, you have to work on one image at a time. The editing possibilities are endless. It's just one tool that's great for beginners as well as seasoned photographers alike.
Video edition software
If you like doing video editing then the easiest and best I think is Cyberlink Power Director. I've been using it for over 4 years now. There are endless features and great tutorials on how to use it too. I use to edit all my YouTube videos on this program.
Nowadays I also so use movies for my iPhone - videos that I make for my Instagram and Facebook are generally made on my iPhone for convenience.
How shall I say this? Having the right tools and not knowing how to use it to their full potential is like giving a slow driver the keys to a formula one race car. He probably won't know what to do with it. Right? In the same way - having a good camera is good but even better is if you can learn how to use it to its potential.
I am still learning and I have so much more to learn. I am exploring them one step at a time. More importantly, I am seeing progress in my pictures and I feel proud of them.
If you want to learn just the basics of photography with regard to cakes then Craftsy has a good class.
Building Your Business: Beautiful Cake Photography
Building Your Business: Beautiful Cake Photography - $15.00
Retail Price: $40.00
You Save: $25.00
Best ebook on food photography
But if you are looking to really learn about food photography and take your pictures to the next level? This ebook by Pinch of Yum is priceless. Compared to other online courses this is perfect for a beginner and very affordable. I've spent a lot of money on online photography courses and I always keep coming back to the basics for this one.
If you can't decide between the two I recommended above. Well, the Craftsy class teaches you how to style your cakes for photography and how to edit them after you take your pictures.
This ebook which also has videos included actually teaches you about basic photography. Yes, it teaches you all about lighting, aperture, ISO, and how to play with the three while using your camera in manual mode.
This ebook teaches you the tools you need for photography in general. She emphasizes mostly food photography but I used that knowledge for my cake pictures as well. The videos have examples so you can see how she styles her food, sets the camera as well as edits them in post-photography. Personally, I was surprised it was so cheap considering the amount of knowledge she shared there.
You have the most informative blog. I love coming to read your blog when I need some information. You are always so truthful. THanks
Thank you so much, Alfred. Appreciate your kind words.