What is the best lens? If you shoot wildlife, a long zoom lens will bring you close to the action but allow you to keep your distance so as not to startle your subject. If you shoot architecture, a tilt shift lens will allow you to make sure all the lines of your room or building are straight. Shooting weddings? You will most likely need a lens that can zoom for a variety of wide and close shots. When photographing food there is only one way to get those close up mouthwatering shots that your clients desire! Allow me to show you how a lens with macro capabilities will change how you shoot food!
A macro lens isn't just for wildlife photographers who like to shoot insects. Its ability to reproduce images at a 1:1 ratio is an essential feature to capture the close up detail that can create engaging food images. Shooting food with a long zoom lens is not the same as using a lens with macro capabilities. Below is an image showing a bowl of popcorn.
On the left is a shot of the popcorn taken with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens at 200mm at the lens's minimum focusing distance. On the right is the same bowl of popcorn taken with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens. As you can see, shooting with a long lens is not the same as using a lens with macro capabilities. With the 70-200, you have to be at minimum 4.6 feet away from the subject to focus. With the 100mm macro, you can be about a foot away. As you can see from the picture, you can capture far more detail with the macro lens than the 70-200mm lens.
4 feet away at 200mm is more than close enough for a shot of a person, but keep in mind that most food subjects are far smaller than a person's face. With food, you need to have the ability to get close to your subject and fill the frame like you would with a person's face. Macro will give you that ability!
In the garden, a macro lens will capture the small details of food and flowers as they grow.
Process and action shots are very popular in food photography. Whether it be a chef laying down a sauce on a plate or a baker icing a cupcake, there is beauty in their ability to perform these precise techniques in small places. With a macro lens, you can capture this detail.
With intricate dishes like sushi, a macro lens allows you to bring out the beautiful details.
Want to make someone hungry?
Seeing food up close and filling the frame will make that happen!
Just because you can go to a 1:1 magnification doesn't mean you have to. 1:2 or 1:3 magnification ratios will make your viewers hungry as well!
If you purchase a macro lens with a longer focal length, you will find that it will not only take great up close images of your food, it can work well as portrait lens for taking pictures of the people who make the food!
Will having a macro lens make you an amazing food photographer? No. Like all forms of photography, having expensive gear will not make you a great photographer. You will still need to know about styling, lighting, and composition to make beautiful food pictures. What a lens with macro capabilities will do is allow you to fill your frame with food shots and create compositions that you can't do with other lenses.
Interested in learning more about food photography styling and lighting techniques? Check out Issues 1-5 of photographing FOOD.