I need some help and if anyone can guide me without making it too complicated I will be very appreciative.


I have a Nikon D3100 and I am very much interested in close up shots and especially on portraits, food and flowers. I have 55-200mm / 18-55mm lenses. I usually use 55-200 mm of course. I also have 20mm-12mm and 36mm extension tubes which I have problems with focusing most of the time.

I also have:

  • A very good tripod.
  • External flash because I never use the camera's own flash.
  • One white umbrella and 1 silver umbrella.
  • One small softbox.

I try to use also Adobe Lightroom 4 which I am learning how to use slowly. I also have photoshop but I find it very difficult to use!

I love to take photos, not to make a photo. Because of this I try not to use software so much, but sometimes need to touch it in order to crop, adjust white balance, lighten or darken an image, etc., but I do try to keep my edits to a minimum. My computer is Toshiba and I have had it for the last 5 years.


What kind of equipment is the best for close up shots, especially for food photography? What kind lenses do I need or software as well. Do you recomend keeping it simple and doing my best with a few bits of really good equipment instead of having lots of bad or not very useful equipment?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hello Edd. I am new at this site and i feel lucky i found it by chance while i do search on google. Thank you so much correcting and editting my article and make it clear and better . Hulya \$\endgroup\$
    – hulya
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 11:21

3 Answers 3


For food photography you really don't need so much on the lenses side. It's much more about the background, composition and lighting. I would go for something around 50mm focal length, so both of your lenses should do fine.

Your umbrellas and softboxes should work perfectly for creating a nice soft light, or go for natural lightning, and then combine them.

You didn't mention though what's the F-number of these lenses - that's quite an important characteristic. So I assume you have 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 kit lens and a 55-200mm F/4-5.6 cheapish tele. These are both quite slow lenses with a relatively small aperture - meaning you're not able to get a very shallow depth of field and they don't perform well in low-light situation. So if you want a lens suggestion, then something with a wide aperture like a fixed 50mm F/1.8 would be a great addition to your equipment; not so much for its value in food photography, but in helping you to learn how aperture size really affects the image and what a difference great glass can make.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello Rene, Thank you very much. Your answer helps alot. It is clear and tells me all details. Very usefull information and i am very much appriciated. Thanks ones again.. \$\endgroup\$
    – hulya
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:20

Food photography essentially falls into two broad categories (my personal viewpoint):

  • Capturing the essence of the genuine product in the most appetizing way
  • Making an image, a term you alluded to, regardless of how much the deviance from the original presentation.

Of course, food presentation itself is a significant part of the chef's art, and if the chef is a consummate artist, the first category above becomes that much easier.

To achieve the desired result, images such as this one, shot for a newspaper article, take advantage of the ambiance and the environs, much more than the equipment:
Mutton Berry Pulav (from my flickr photostream).

If you look at the EXIF info for this image, it was a half-second exposure taken at an unremarkable f/3.5, without flash, on an ancient Minolta DiMAGE A200 ZLR.

The dim, warm lighting at the restaurant was used to advantage to convey the warm inviting ambiance, and the direction of the shot was selected to maximize the glimmering reflection of the lights on the slickness of the oily food - that oiliness was part of the editorial brief!.

No specific equipment or software tricks, just some extra minutes figuring out the shot.

On the other hand, for the "made" images popular with the advertising industry, it isn't just equipment, there is also a lot of additives involved. For instance, the food could have been lit with a softbox to make the shadows gentler, the slickness enhanced by spraying a bit of machine oil on it (not kidding!), and some silverware added.

The silverware would be artfully lit by a key-light, or made to twinkle at the highlights by stopping the aperture way down. Sometimes, a hand-held laser pointer or flashlight is used to add interesting highlights, and incense smoke can be used to emulate steam rising from the dish.

Add to that a small portable humidifier / ultrasonic fog spray unit to keep the food moist and provide a "soft focus" glow to the entire "stage", if you want to go overboard.

There is, of course, the ultimate image-maker: An attractive model in the background, ostensibly transported by the aroma or the flavor of the food, and you're getting to the home stretch.

Many of these artifices are easily incorporated into a food shot if you so choose, without hige investment involved. Are they necessary? Depends on your client, the person footing the bill.

... which brings me to my last point: Sometimes, a professional will use an impressive looking lens in preference to a mundane looking one, or rig a dozen additional lights which are actually dialed down to nearly no impact, because the client is really paying for a performance, not just the image. What better way to augment such a performance than through some fancy looking gear, so the client knows their money is well-spent, and that their nephew from art school could not be expected to achieve the professional's results!

I'm not expressing any disapproval of such performance enhancers, in fact I have applied them myself on occasion. However, do keep in mind that they are probably not essential to your goal, depending on how you define said goal.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello Anindo,Such a great and long answer..Thank you so much. I am agree whatever you say. \$\endgroup\$
    – hulya
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Anindo,.. I am going to read your answer few times more because of my language barrier and will try to use all information you gave to me for the future.. I save it in a folder and will keep for usefull information for photography. So good to be on this website and i am so happy to read such detailed answer..Thanks ones again for your effort. \$\endgroup\$
    – hulya
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 16:22

You mentioned food, flower and portraits.


You usually need one macro and one standard lens. Having a macro means you can take close up of tiny things. However a large part of food photography actually requires a "stage".

You need to setup knife and fork, choose the colour of your table cloth, put some flower next to it etc.

The idea is to create a mood. For example if you want to photograph some food that is light and healthy, you may want to go for a relaxing and casual environment. So perhaps it is a good idea to photograph the food using brightly coloured table cloth, maybe even checkers. Put some sun-flower next to it, have some cute and simplistic knife/fork laying around, maybe even have a beach as a background.

If you are going to shoot luxury food, perhaps you want it to be candle lit. You want to put silver tableware in the photo. You want to use fancy table clothes, setup a dramatic lighting, maybe put a vintage violin next to it, roses might be a good idea too.

For these "staged" photos, you will probably need a lens in the standard range. (18-55, 24-70 or 24-105 etc)


A macro lens is a good idea, unless you are photographing an arrangement of flowers created by a florist. Flowers are hard to shoot. People have seen it all, its hard to compose an interesting shot with just flowers. For interesting shots, you either have to be very creative with composition/pov or you need to introduce something else (like a ladybug, a worm, droplets, reflections etc.) to make the shot interesting.

I don't have much experience/success with flowers but a macro lens will be a good choice.


People use all kinds of lens for portraits, so I can hardly recommend a single type of lens. People use wide angle for environmental portraits, tele for a very compressed background, large aperture (like those 50mm f/1.2 lenses) for shallow dof etc.

I would say you can do head-shot portrait with just about any lenses (perhaps less so for ultra wide angle). If you are working indoor most of the time, a 50mm large aperture will work well, if you are working outdoor and can move around freely, a tele will help you compress the background, give you a shallow DOF and exclude distractions better.

A macro can be used for protrait too.

Canon for example, has a 60mm f/2.8 macro and a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. They are both good for portrait in terms of focal length and aperture.


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