A little advice beforehand
Ok, when it comes to photography equipment, things always get crazy very quickly. On one hand, the stuff costs a small fortune and on the other, amateurs often perpetuate the fallacy that you need pro gear to call yourself a pro. And to make it worse, these people think they are pros when they own pro equipment.
But let me give you some good advice: What really separates a pro from an amateur is not the equipment and its technical specs, but knowledge and experience. It’s about know-how in the truest sense of the word: you should know how to implement your clients’ wishes in order to satisfy them at the end of the day. The technical side of the job is an important part of it, but gaining personal experience is even more important. So please always keep that in mind. These days, you can take stunning pictures using only smartphones and natural light if you know how.
I know there are great discussions about equipment even among professionals – and to be fair, I never participate in such pointless discussions because I truly believe that a photographer should be able to take good photos with any kind of camera.
One of my friends used to say, “If a farmer can’t swim, it’s because of his swimming cap”. I hope that makes some sense in English. It means that if you don’t have much experience in something, you find an excuse for your lack of knowledge instead of facing the unknown and gaining more experience. So if you don’t have much experience with photography yet, do yourself a favor and don’t spend too much money on your equipment, instead invest it in good-looking food or accessories. And after a while, when you’ve gained enough experience, start thinking about getting some fancy new gear. And when the day comes that you start making money at it, then you should get some pro gear, because when you run a business, you get all those tax breaks, etc. Then – and only then – does it make business sense to have pro equipment. For some things, it may be okay to buy it secondhand. I bought a Canon Speedlite 430 EX II for $90 and I’m sure it’s better than a new cheap China no-name product for the same price. Never change a running system!
The good thing about food and beverage photography is that you don’t really need tons of expensive stuff to get excellent shots: You need a camera, a lens, a tripod, and a computer. Everything else I use – like black, white, and silver cards or tweezers – can be made from relatively cheap DIY materials.
I put together my equipment based on two premises: my equipment needs to be mobile (that’s why I mostly just use speedlights and not big studio flashes), so I can work alone for clients without an assistant, This makes perfect sense for many clients because it’s more cost-effective.
Disclaimer: Please note that all links below are affiliate links and if you somehow come to the conclusion to buy one or the other from this list, I earn a small commission, but only if you buy them through these links. This makes my freelance life a little easier and it makes it easier to run the EasyFoodPhotographyOnlineUniverse.
Everything listed below is owned or rented by me on a regular basis, and it only has stuff on it that I can really recommend. You may see other stuff in my videos at times, but if it’s not on the list below, there may be a good reason why I can’t recommend it. If you have any questions about one item or another before you buy, feel free to contact me.
Camera & lenses
When it comes to cameras I’m flirting right now with the new Sony A7 IV, but because it’s still not available here, I’m shooting further with my good old Canon…
Canon 5D MK III – a working horse
Canon EF 100mm f2,8L Macro IS USM (L-series)
Canon EF 100mm f2,8 Macro USM (alternatively for the lens above)
Canon Extension Tube EF 25 II (I combine this with the lenses below, it’s the cheapest way to transform nearly every lens into a macro lens, for compatibility have a look here)
Canon EF 24-105mm f4,0 L IS USM (there is a newer one to buy)
Canon EF 50mm f 1,8 STM (the nifty-fifty is the cheapest lens you can buy in the Canon universe)
Flashes & triggers
Canon Speedlight 580 EX II
2 Canon Speedlights 430 EX II
3 Yongnuo YN-622C E-TTL flash trigger/transceiver (restricted recommended, this Yongnuo stuff isn’t the best solution, but it has a highspeed sync-option, I will make a video for that)
1 Yongnuo YN-622C-TX LCD Wireless E-TTL flash controller (same as above, not the best solution, restricted recommended)
USB 3 cable 5m/10m (to shoot tethered)
Tripod & light stands
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminium Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head
4 usual photographic light stands
2 microphone stands (I use these instead of C-stands only for WD gels, it’s not so heavy and less expensive as C-stands and still doing a pretty good job)
1 Manfrotto Avenger F805 baby wall plate (there are one with 6 or 9 inch attachment, both are doing the job good)
2 Manfrotto Avenger D200B black grip heads
1 reflector 1in5 plus reflector holder
Light formers and diffusors
3 Speedlite adapters to Bowens mount
1 snoot Bowens mount with honeycomb grid
1 reflector dish diffusor with honeycomb grid 10/30/50 degree
1 softbox 40x40cm foldable
1 softbox 60x60cm foldable
1 strip box 20x90cm foldable
1 octagon softbox 120cm + 1 umbrella holder
a bunch of A-clamps
black, white, silver & golden cards in different sizes (DYI made with cardboard and printing foil)
1/4 and 1/2 white diffusion gel
1/4 and 1/2 CTO gel
1/4 and 1/2 CTB gel
some coloured effect gels
Canon EOS Utility 3 (downloadable on the Canon page for free)
Canon Digital Photo Professional 4 (downloadable on the Canon page for free, I use it as RAW Converter)
Adobe Photoshop CC (alternatively use Gimp or Darktable for free)