The best affordable lens to start in food photography

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I met my husband in Thailand when we were 2 expats working as scuba diver instructors. We lived there for 7 years, and when we decided to leave, we had no savings and left with 8 boxes, 2 suitcases, 2 dive bags and 2 cats (yes, you read that right). A couple of years later, we had settled down in Virginia. I was working part time and my husband was working for a startup, with all that it entails (and by that I mean that there were months where my salary was our sole income).

So when I started my photography business, I didn’t have a lot of cash to spend and I had to be really clever about my spendings. I did a lot of research about cameras and lenses, and while I was dreaming of getting my hands on a Canon 5D mark iii, I had to settle for a Canon T4i. But the one thing I knew, was that if I was going to work with that camera, then the kit lens was not going to cut it. So I invested $125, which was a lot of money for us back then, and bought a Canon 50mm f1.8. To this day, this is still one of my favorite lens and her are 3 reasons why you should consider buying this work horse as your first lens.

You just can’t beat the price 

I mean, even though I thought $125 was a lot of money back then, when it comes to photography equipment, it actually is peanuts. Photography is an expensive hobby, and when you get into the professional realm, it easily gets into the thousands of dollars. I have had this lens for 7 years now and it has been to every single one of my shoots on location as well as all my trips. It fell a few times, got glued back together once, and it still works beautifully. Best $125 I ever spent. If you are a Nikon user, don’t fret, Nikon has a similar lens, albeit slightly more expensive, at $215.

Best affordable lens for food photography - Frenchly Photography by Fanette Rickert

Wide aperture, fast lens

With an aperture of f1.8, you can get a really nice shallow depth of field, and a beautiful bokeh. Before I bought it, I really wanted to wait and save money to buy a Canon 50mm f1.4 (which is an additional $225), but the truth is, if you are just getting started with photography, you are not going to nail your focus every time and you really shouldn’t use such a shallow depth of field anyway. The f1.8 is a great aperture that allows you to get a very soft focus and makes it a fast lens, easy to use in most situations, even in low light, like a restaurant.

Perfect for overhead shots

Overhead shots are definitely a trend in food photography right now and for a good reason: they make for beautiful tablescapes and process shots. But if you don’t want to have to climb on a 10 steps ladder to get the perfect shot, then a 50mm is your best friend. Its focal length is wide enough that you will be able to set up on the floor and shoot from a 3 step ladder or an overhead tripod without any issue, and it won’t create as much distortion as a wide angle would. If you want to learn more about how to shoot the perfect overhead shot, check out my previous post here.

Overall, the 50mm, or ‘nifty fifty’ is a great lens, with nice medium focal lens, that you can use a 50mm for a variety of different subjects. Even though it is not a wide angle, you can still capture some nice landscapes, and if you move in closer you can get some nice portraits or candids and, obviously some great food shots. It is also a remarkably light and compact lens that will easily follow you on your foodie adventures. So if you are just starting in food photography and want a good quality lens for an affordable price, that is the lens for you.

I hope this post will help you choose your first lens, if you want to learn more about food photography, check out my 30+ food styling tips, and my favorite online resources for food photography.

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