Food Photography 101: Cameras

Food Photography Cameras

Happy Thursday! Only one more day until the weekend. I don’t know about you guys, but I really need a nice weekend.

Today we are going to continue on with Food Photography 101 and are going to talk cameras. Last week, we talked about why taking good photos is so important in terms of growing your blog and the camera you use is obviously an important piece of this.

Let’s start with a question I think a lot of newer food bloggers ask themselves: Do I need to buy a DSLR in order to take good photos for my blog?

My answer to this question is yes…and no. Helpful, right?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is where do you want your blog to go? What are your blogging goals? Are you blogging just for fun? Are you wanting to grow your blog as a business? Are you interested in improving your photography skills?

If you are blogging just for the heck of it, purchasing a fancy DSLR may not be totally necessary. When I first started out, I was using a Canon Powershot point and shoot camera and I had no clue what I was doing. However, since I had already been reading other blogs for some time, I knew photography was important so I purchased Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling. This book is really excellent. Even if you feel like you are more advanced, I would still recommend giving it a read.

I had contemplated buying a DSLR, but I was still in graduate school and buying a fancy camera was really not feasible at the time. I decided that even though I didn’t yet have the camera I wanted, there were still things I could work on to improve my photos without spending so much money. So I went ahead and purchased some photography lights, foam boards, and a number of props. Now before you rush out and buy lights, I recommend waiting until I do my post on lighting as I will talk about artificial vs. natural lighting. I actually had some decent light in my old apartment in our guest room so this helped me, but the artificial lighting also really helped me out since I did not have control over certain things such as white balance or ISO using a point and shoot camera.

Below is a photo of my white bean and chicken chili. I am going to be posting an updated post for Flashback Friday tomorrow, but here is a photo from the original post:


Is this photo great? No, it’s not, but is it totally cringe-worthy? No, I don’t think so. The lighting was decent. It’s not perfectly styled, but it’s not so bad, right? Especially when you compare it to the very first photo I ever posted on my blog of guacamole:


It’s not totally necessary to rush out and buy a DSLR. In fact, if you are a newer blogger, I wouldn’t. Wait. Make sure you are actually going to stick with blogging. Work on styling your photos. Do the best you can with lighting with the camera you already have.

When should you seriously consider getting a DSLR?

After blogging for almost a year, I finally got to the point where I realized that I got everything I could get out of my point and shoot camera. At that point, I knew I wanted to keep blogging, I was really enjoying it and didn’t see myself stopping any time soon. I also started to develop an interest in photography and realized that if I wanted to grow my skills as a photographer, I had to purchase a DSLR.  Oh and of course, I was growing more and more frustrated with getting rejected from Foodgawker and Tastespotting.

I used part of our tax refund and bit the bullet. I bought a Canon EOS Rebel T2i with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens (Quick sidenote: Let me just say quickly that I have nothing against Nikon cameras. My husband and I are just Canon lovers so I apologize that I can’t talk more about Nikon cameras). The T2i is an older model now, but if you are just starting out, the Canon Rebel models are really a great place to start. While they are still expensive, they are not nearly as pricey as some of Canon’s other models. I now shoot with a Canon EOS 60D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD and 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD Standard Zoom Lens. I do use the lens that came with it as it is a macro lens, but I also still use the 50mm. I plan to update to a much better macro lens soon.

So you purchased your first DSLR, now what?

I’ve heard a lot of people say that a good camera will fix their photography issues. While this is true, it’s only true if you actually learn how to use it properly. Getting a DSLR does not automatically equal a great photograph. The main reason for buying a DSLR is because it will allow for YOU to take control of your photos. You can control the white balance, the ISO, aperture, etc. so the first thing I did was put my new camera on manual mode, I didn’t even bother with auto. Don’t get yourself stuck on auto mode. You bought a nice camera so that you can have flexibility! Take advantage of this. I knew that what I really needed to do was practice. It was almost St. Patty’s Day so I baked some Irish Soda Bread Scones. I figured this was a good recipe to start practicing with because first, they weren’t dinner, I didn’t have to feel rushed to finish the photos and second, they weren’t going to melt. I put them down and got to work with my camera…on manual mode. It was a weekend so I had some time to waste so what did I do? I practiced. A lot. I experimented. The best way to learn your new camera is play around with the settings. Start with the ISO, try changing it and see what happens to your photos. Then experiment with aperture. See how changing it affects your photos.  Here is one of the first photos I took:


Big difference, right? The styling isn’t anything special, but I wasn’t focused on that with these photos.

If you are wondering whether purchasing a DSLR will be worth it in the end, all I can tell you is that it has been totally worth it for me. Up until that point, I had only gotten maybe 4 or 5 photos on Foodgawker. As soon as I submitted my first photo using the new camera, my photos started to get accepted regularly on the site. This increased traffic to my site. More of my photos were getting pinned on Pinterest. This increased traffic to my site. Other bloggers, brands, and media sites started to notice me. This increased traffic to my site. I can’t promise you that purchasing a DSLR is going to make your blog blow up, but it will certainly help.

Let’s sum up what we have talked about today:
– A point and shoot camera is a fine way to start off with your blog. You can still do some work to improve lighting and can practice styling without spending a ton of money.
– If you want to grow your skills as a photographer as well as grow your blog as a business, a DSLR can be a great investment.
Practice is the best way to learn how to be a better photographer.
– Don’t be afraid to put your camera in manual mode. Experiment with different settings.
– Find some time where you can work uninterrupted.
– Practice with foods that your family isn’t waiting on for dinner. Don’t use foods that are going to melt or wilt over time. Baked goods are great to practice with, but it doesn’t even have to be a recipe. You could even practice using a bowl of fruit.
– Don’t worry so much about styling, the goal is to get to know your camera first.
– Don’t expect your photos to be perfect. Even with the new camera, it still took me a while to figure it out. I am still trying to improve my skills as a food photographer and I still struggle with certain photos. Becoming a good food photographer doesn’t happen overnight!

I hope you guys are enjoying this series! Next week I think we will delve into lighting so please check back! If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments or shoot me an email!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I was not asked to talk about particular products. All products mentioned in this post are products that I personally use and enjoy. This post also contains affiliate links.



  1. I am loving this new series. I also waited over a year to buy my DSLR. I never got into foodgawker until I switched up cameras. I have the T3I and I cringe to say that I still shoot in auto mode. I know… WHY? I even bought the “Dummies” book for my camera, but I still don’t understand all the aperture, white balance stuff. I would love if you would break that stuff down. I have from plate to pixel and a couple of other photo books… but I’m a person that learns from doing it first hand. I like how simply you explain things…. maybe you can get me to finally really use my camera.

    I tried to play around with manual mode a few times… then I got confused with editing. I tried editing with Lightroom that I got on a trail offer… I figured out some of it… but I knew I was not doing it right and my photos were not as good as I wanted them to be. So now I use Adobe photoshop Elements. White balance still kicks my butt at foodgawker. Okay…. I could talk about this all day. :)

    • Don’t be afraid of manual, Ramona! I promise it’s not scary! The best way I figured it out was just with practice. I would play with one setting at a time, like the ISO and would keep changing it and seeing what happened. Like you, I learn by doing. I actually don’t typically have to do a lot of editing. If you can figure out the best settings on your camera, you won’t have to edit too much!

  2. I asked for a DSLR camera for Christmas two years ago and I didn’t get one. I want get the T3i camera but my Husband gets all sad and says what’s wrong with the camera I got you? The Guy at Best Buy said it’s good for food photography. Like the kid at Best Buy knows. I think I’ll sneak out and buy one! I shot in manual mode for about a year and kept getting rejected from Foodgawker ect… But now that I shoot in auto mode I get accepted, weird huh? I really need to figure out all the camera settings. This is an awesome post Steph!!! I need to get my camera!!!

  3. So I’m just really impressed that you got photos accepted without a DSLR! You are the photography queen, and I’m so glad you’re sharing about your process!!

  4. I have to read the previous post before I read this series, and I’m so excited about it, it’s a great post to help food blogger to get better food pictures, can’t wait until the next post.
    Just like you, I didn’t know anything about food photography,few months ago I try to submit to food gawker and tastespoting, I can’t even count how many pictures got rejected with so many reason, composition,light,under exposed etc,but I take all the primary reason why my pictures was rejected and learn from there and try and try again.
    And now I have about 40’s pictures accepted by Food gawker and Tastespoting. and all picture shoot by old small and cheap camera Sony cyber-shot, I just play around with it and I use natural light mostly. so the point is before purchase expensive camera just play around with the setting in your camera first and try shoot few pictures.
    and once again Thanks for sharing stephanie :)

  5. I enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been blogging for 2.5 years now and started off with zero knowledge. I had the camera already (back then it was T2i) but didn’t know how to use it as I was just taking pictures of my kids, but slowly upgraded throughout the time and now I think I take more pictures of food than kids (oh no!). I think all the food bloggers can relate to the hardship in food photography topic. :)

  6. I can learn so much about styling and photography from you, thank you :D


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