I get a lot of students asking what lens should they shoot food with. Generally speaking this comes down to how big of a set do you have to cover in one shot. Are you shooting one dish, 10 dishes in one shot or do you want to show off a cute little detail in something? I’d have to say for almost every image I shoot for my jobs and for my portfolio I use pretty long lenses. I have two favorite lenses for 35mm cameras. I use the 90mm tilt shift lens and also the 100mm macro lens. When I have a larger set then I might go to a 50mm lens, but I try hard not to and here’s why. The longer your lens the less depth of field you will have. This means things in the background could be very out of focus and I like that in most cases when I’m just trying to show off the food. When I need to get more of the set in focus then I will use wider lenses.
So for my two favorite lenses we have the 90mm tilt shift which is fun because you can actually tilt the plane of focus on your images and make them very selected focus OR you can also tilt it to get everything in focus. It’s totally up to you for your shot what you think looks best. Personally I love selected focus because I am then telling the viewer where I want them to look by placing a certain area in focus. With the 100mm macro lens my goal is to get the background out of focus as much as possible and most of the time when using it I’m trying to get really close on something. This lens has a longer barrel enabling you to get much closer to the food than a standard lens.
With the 90mm lens I chose to show the entire plate width in this shot. With the 100mm macro I was able to move the camera in much closer to the subject to get this detail of the spritz on the tomato.
If you have several lenses and aren’t sure what you want your shot to be first, try looking through your camera with a few different lenses and see if you like one lens more than the other for that shot. Please remember to always use a tripod then your camera isn’t moving around and you’ve eliminated one variable by locking down the camera.