If you're starting out as a food photographer, one of the first things you will learn is that photography is EXPENSIVE. From camera gear to props to backdrops, the costs add up quick. If you're starting out with photography and don't have thousands of dollars to spend on equipment, this post is for you. Here are some great, cheap finds I've come across while balling on a budget as a food photographer.
For backdrops: Ink and Elm & Captured By Lucy
If you’re just starting out in photography, vinyl backdrops will be your best friend. Vinyl backdrops are considerably cheaper than hard surfaces and they can produce great results! I have bought many of my vinyl backdrops from Ink and Elm because they have a really wide selection of prints, their backdrops are super durable, and they often have sales. Captured By Lucy also has a great selection of beautiful vinyl backdrops.
Though vinyl backdrops work in many situations, they do have limitations. I would recommend investing in higher-quality backdrops if 1) you are taking macro shots or 2) you want a more detailed, textured surface such as rustic wood. A close up, crystal-clear macro shot may pick up that the background is a print, not a real surface. More textured surfaces such as wood and textured concrete tend to looks less realistic when printed on a vinyl backdrop than smoother prints like marble and tile.
This photo was taken on Capture By Lucy's "Latte Marble" backdrop ($35.16).
For Props: Goodies LA and Crate & Barrel
Here’s the thing about props: you can find cheap ones, but over time you'll probably buy a lot of them and the costs can add up very quickly. A few plates will only take you so far.
I love Goodies LA and Crate & Barrel because they have great basics. I have plenty of simple white plates and dip bowls from both shops, and I can use them in many shots before getting tired of them.
I also like that at both Crate & Barrel and Goodies LA you can buy individual bowls, plates, etc. rather than buying them in sets. Many stores force you to buy items in sets of 4+ so you get stuck with a bunch of items you don’t actually need.
The wood board in this photo is from Goodies LA ($18), and the cups are from Crate & Barrel ($4.95 each).
For education: The Bite Shot by Joanie Simon
When you first start out in photography, there’s obviously a lot of learning to do. Many professional photographers and colleges offer classes, but they can be very pricey. Well here’s some good news for you: Joanie Simon’s Youtube channel, The Bite Shot, is awesome and it’s FREE! In her videos she covers everything from lighting to composition to the business of photography. I’ve learned so much from her videos and still watch every one she puts out.
The best first lens: The Nifty Fifty
If you’re shopping for a first lens, the 50mm f/1.8 or “nifty fifty” is a great one. It’s price falls around $125 which is very cheap for a camera lens. It can take really sharp images and its mid-range angle makes it extremely versatile. A 50mm lens has a wide enough view to use for overhead shots, but it is not so wide that it creates undesired distortion in your images. It also goes to a pretty low aperture (f/1.8), so you can blur the background of your images to make the subject shine. I use mine for everything from flatlays to head-on shots.
Both of these photos were taken with my 50 mm lens.