Photography Equipment

January 30, 2008


I have been spending a lot of time of late looking at www.cookandeat.com a food photography blog set up by a local Seattle lass called Lara. She did an article a while back now about photography equipment for shooting food, and it got me thinking. Lara and I got chatting, and she recommended some changes to my setup.

First off, I have been shooting using my 20mm prime, which is something I bought ages ago for the work that Danika and I did on www.mattikaarts.com . Sure, this lens is great for architecture, but rather pants for food photography. She isn’t the only one to recommend the 50mm 1.4F prime Canon lens, in fact it seems there is a general consensus in the photography world that this is really the first lens you should buy (or the 50mm 1.8F which is a fair bit cheaper).

The second problem I have always been plagued with is lighting. The new kitchen helps, it is generally much brighter, however it is still overhead lights, halogen or otherwise. Lara recommended the Totopak light system on her article mentioned above, for shooting when daylight is not an option. I have to agree with Lara, whenever you can use natural light, you really should. The results look far more, er, natural. However, with Seattle in the winter, that is often impossible – especially since I do most of my cooking in the evening.

So, I broke down and got the 50mm 1.4F prime, and the toto light system. I tested out the lens at a kids party a month ago (a friend was gracious enough to lend it to me for the weekend), and I was hooked. The DoF was awesome, the bokeh perfect. I was hooked. I spent a month convincing myself that this lens and light would be a tax right off this year (if the cookbook gets published..). So screw it I thought.  An amazon gift card for Christmas also made this decision easier!

I can be rather impatient at times, especially with delivery. However, this kit was expensive enough, so I wasn’t about to blow more cash on next day delivery. To cut a ridiculously long story short, the gear arrived today.

Yes, I wanted to wag off work early, and play with camera equipment all day. A day of meetings pretty much got rid of that idea rather fast though. 

So we rushed home (Danika had an art class tonight – perfect!!!! I can play with camera gear :D), I fed Drake, and got him to bed in record time (good lad), and started to setup the new kit.

Just the lens and this light are going to help my photography a ton. I still have to get used to a new lens, and using a light setup that is a bit alien to me, but the early results (above) are promising. Yay for Lara from CookandEat.

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  • Rhiannon January 30, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Great! I’m looking forwards to seeing some shots! I just use a dodgy digital camera – but I make sure to take the picts during the daytime (we have a fluro light overhead… sickly sickly looking food…)

  • Louise (Gato Azul) February 2, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    I’m up in Quebec and only in the past few days has it been daylight until 4:30 pm. I cringe to publish pictures taken at night so this info is very welcome indeed! A solution has to be found, I’m tired of eating dinner at 2 pm! 😉

  • mattwright February 3, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I have just done the Bouillabaisse recipe, and really like this light setup. Whilst it is certainly no match for decent diffused natural light, it does a good job when cooking in the evening.

    I also used a couple of large sheets of styrafoam to act as white bounce lights too, which helps to gently illuminate shadow areas. I was lucky, we have a bunch of styrafoam from the packaging materials for our new appliances.

    The light works really well – decent and bright. The only bugger is that it comes with a silver umbrella, which I think would cast a stronger light than a white one. I think I might pickup a white umbrella in the future – it should diffuse the light a bit more. Here is a link to the light http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/B0009BZ190/102-5816893-5742525?SubscriptionId=02ZH6J1W0649DTNS6002

  • mycookinghut August 15, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I read Lara’s recommendations too! And she has given good advices on food photography!

  • Kita October 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Howdy, I realize you wrote this post a while ago but can you tell me more about the Totopak light system? I am not finding any info on it on the internet with some quick searches. Are you still using it? Has it been good for the photography. I have seen some other light sets but the recommendations are few are far between.


  • mattwright October 3, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Here is a link to it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lowel-Tota-Pak-Light-Tota-light-Tota-brella/dp/B0009BZ190

    It is a bright light on a stand, with an umbrella attachment to diffuse the light. I absolutely love the thing for food photography, and some location stuff too. The recent video I posted on my blog – of me showing how to make a certain cured meat was lit using it (and some natural light too).

    It is pretty great. You can get small softbox lights for much less cash, but they only cast light on a very small area – I want something that gives off a ton of light, and is adaptable.

  • Kita October 4, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for the response. I noticed you said location things as well, that is actually really helpful. Im sorry for not seeing the link in the reply in front of my post. >.< As a beginner to the food photography thing would you recommend this Tota-pek or the smaller area lights like, http://www.amazon.com/Lowell-E1-92-Ego-Two-Light/dp/B000GWKYO4/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I3JNZQWF0ZN032&colid=3SWRXNZ0HNU7P ?

    The meat curing video was beautiful.

  • mattwright October 5, 2010 at 4:31 am

    I personally do not like Ego lights that much – they are small, and only give enough light for a small place setting. The umbrella light casts way more light, and is more adaptable.

  • Kita October 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you so much for the helpful information and as its been raining here for two weeks, helping me to make a big decision. I really appreciate it 🙂