The best digital camera for photographing food, part 1

Tomorrow is Black Friday, the official start of the most consumery time of year.  I hear that some stores will open at the stroke of midnight so those not who have not succumbed to tryptophan comas can begin their holiday shopping at the earliest possible instant.

Sometimes people ask me how I make the food photos on this blog.  There's no single answer to that question, but I think I can provide some value for those shopping for foodie gifts by describing my ideal digital camera for photographing food.

Of course, if you mean to photograph food in your own home, you can bring in lights, set up a tripod, and strobe to your heart's content.  I'm talking more about photographing food in the wild, in markets, on farms, in restaurants.  And that often means close quarters, poor lighting, and (at least in my case) a desire to avoid firing off a flash.

I don't have experience many individual models (manufacturers are encouraged to send samples for review), so I will tick off some criteria and discuss them in the next couple of posts.  After that, I'll talk a little about my quick and dirty photoshop techniques for food photos.

The limelist of desirable compact digital camera qualities for shooting food in restaurants:

  1. macro focusing or closeup mode (or "food mode")
  2. a wide angle lens
  3. a "fast" lens
  4. flash that's easy to turn off (and stays off!)
  5. ergonomics you like

Let's start with #1: macro mode. Just about all cameras have this these days, often under a single button with a flower on it.  Macro focusing lets you get as close as an inch or two from your subject, which is often desirable for that juicy succulent "food porn" look.  Too many beginners don't get close enough to their subjects, and this feature helps force you to get in there, because once in macro mode, your camera probably won't be able to focus more than a foot away.  Not unlike me without my glasses.

Some cameras have a dedicated "food mode" which is typically a combination of macro focusing and increased contrast or color saturation.  You can generally get these effects by twiddling settings or in post-production, but it can be nice to have the bundle of settings all in one place.

Next time, we'll discuss lenses - why wider is better, why I hate zoom lenses, and how to read all those little numbers on the lens.

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  1. [...] last three posts were all about choosing the right digital camera for photographing food.  Despite that, we all know that what you do with the equipment is the important part.  Here, I [...]

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