The Perfect Sunrise

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I read in this thread that macro lenses are considered good for food photography.

AFAIK, macro lenses are also used to photograph insects. The lens makes them look giant, and shows up all their details. But that level of detail is not needed in food photography.

If I use a prime lens of 1.4F, and focus manually on the closest food part, will it simulate the macro lens?

Besides focus is there anything else which makes a macro lens more preferable for food photography?

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What do you mean by besides focus? If you mean focusing distance then that is not important at all. Many wide angle lenses are able to focus as close or even closer than many macro lenses, but they are considered unsuitable because thanks to wide angle, things will look rather small even at that distance. –  Imre Jan 3 '12 at 11:52
    
Anisha, I think your edit here is a distinct question. And, honestly, I don't see how it's not completely answered by the quote you gave. –  mattdm Feb 17 '12 at 13:47
    
@mattdm If it is a distinct que I'll post it seperately. But, the aim of posting it was to "confirm" that quote with reasons. –  TheIndependentAquarius Feb 17 '12 at 14:00
    
In that case I suggest a separate question. –  mattdm Feb 17 '12 at 14:08
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Note that using a prime or zoom lens with a reversal ring to get macro focus happens to be really nicely covered on the site blog. –  mattdm Feb 17 '12 at 14:08
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The most important property that separates a macro lens from others is its maximum magnification. While there are many food items for which you don't need much magnification, such as anything that fills a whole plate, it will become relevant when you want to concentrate on some detail or have a smaller item (such as a cookie or truffle).

Also, since macro lenses are usually in the moderate telephoto range, you will benefit from their narrow angle of view, which helps to keep unrelated objects out of your picture (there always seems to lot of stuff around where food is).

Typically, you won't be using very wide aperture, since you are shooting from a close distance and want to keep depth of field above minimum.

For example, let's take this shot:

It was taken with Sigma 28mm f/1.8 Macro lens. Despite its fancy markings, it's actually not a very macro lens, providing maximum magnification of 1:2.9. I shot at minimum focusing distance, and still wished I could get a little closer. The crop factor of sensor narrowed the angle down to 42mm equivalent, but I still had to aim carefully so that people and chairs on the background would not be distracting.

So, in conclusion - the most important factors are focal length (giving narrow angle of view) and magnification (which is obtained thanks to relatively close minimum focusing distance at that focal length). Sure, you can do food photography with non-macro lenses, but you'll have to work harder to find a suitable angle and composition. In post-processing, you can simulate both of these properties (at cost of resolution) by cropping.

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Didn't get your point fully. maximum magnification means? You mean the whole dish gets covered in the frame? –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 3 '12 at 11:14
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Basically, yes. The larger the maximum magnification, the smaller is the minimum area that you can fit into a single frame. See What does the magnification ratio number mean on a macro lens? –  Imre Jan 3 '12 at 11:42
    
But if I want it that way can't I just put the prime lens more closer? –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 3 '12 at 11:47
    
Oh, you mean the accepted distance between the food and the lens w.r.t a normal prime lens is more than a macro lens? –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 3 '12 at 11:49
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If you put your lens closer to subject than its minimum focusing distance, then your subject will be out of focus. The distance alone is not important; rather, the combination of focal length and distance, resulting in magnification - and that's what better in a macro lens by definition. –  Imre Jan 3 '12 at 11:56
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Two other aspects of macro lenses in addition to their high magnification that come in handy for food photography are macro lenses' lack of distortion and the long throw of their focus rings. The lack of distortion isn't as huge a thing as it is for stuff like architectural photography where you really, really want straight lines to remain straight, but I could see if making a difference in instances where you're shooting an item that's sitting on a square or rectangular plate. The long throw will help you more easily dial in the correct focus.

A number of food and product photographers also use tile shift lenses, so you might also want to investigate them.

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