So, you’ve discovered an interest in food photography. You did your research, and now you’re ready to go with your essential equipment – DSLR, macro lens, portable lighting solutions, and tripod.
Is that really all you need?
You may have done your extensive photo gear research, but have you considered building a food photography kit for on-shoot emergencies?
Last week, Kevin O’Connor shared the essentials of a wedding photography kit, and day-saving items you should take along the shoot to score you some extra brownie points.
This week, Kevin finishes up his 3 part series on “Photography Kit Essentials” by sharing what he carries in his food photography and real estate photography kits.
There’s no need for you to go through another long process of finding the items you’ll need. We have it all down here.
Heads up before we get started: We’ve put together a printable compilation of all 3 parts of “Photography Kit Essentials.” Download it here.
Food Photography Kit
Most food photographers travel with a kit of tools, just in case. Skilled commercial photographer William Faulkner does a lot of food work, and his tool set looks like this:
Olive Oil: Brushing in a touch of oil to give a nice sheen is quick, easy and effective. We used to use glycerin, but oil is edible, and it’s a more natural look.
Small Syringe With Curved Pointed End: This is most commonly known as a dental irrigator. The small opening lets you place a drop of oil or other accent right where you need it.
Dental Floss: Multiple uses include tying food together subtly to make it stand upright.
Basting Brushes: When applying oil to a larger object, a basting brush is faster than a swab. Use swabs to touch up just before shooting.
Dusting Brushes: I buy big paint brushes, keep them in a Ziploc bag to keep them clean, and dust all sorts of things with different sizes.
Very Small Reflectors: Some people make these ahead of time, some people use aluminum foil and small pieces of cardboard to make them on site.
Skewers and Toothpicks: Both short and long are useful to have.
Chopsticks: These are very versatile; you can pick things up, but also nudge items into place in the shots.
Napkins: As a prop, as a tool, as a burst of color—having several in different colors to use when needed can save a shot.
Scissors: A pair of kitchen scissors isn’t always handy when doing food shots, but is sure useful when needed. Cutting food with the scissors in a Swiss Army Knife is a tragic misuse of time.
Kitchen Knives: A small paring knife, a serrated bread knife and a 6” chef’s knife are good core set of knives to bring.
Cutting Board/Sheet: Bringing knives without a way to protect the counter underneath is a bad idea. IKEA or Dollar Store both have thin, inexpensive cutting sheets which take up little room but work well.
Small Blocks: Use these to raise various objects in the shot slightly for better composition.
Clear Marbles: Put these into a bowl for soup, and then pour the soup in. The marbles help raise various components of the soup or stew up to be better seen in the photo.
Forceps or Forceps Tweezers: Another tool for grabbing objects to put them precisely where they’re needed, especially for the chopstick-impaired among us.
Small Plastic Cups: Small cups are great for uses such as pouring small amount of olive oil for brushing onto food, holding chopped parsley for garnish, etc. Recycled gelato dishes work well also.
Spatula: Some people carry more than one of these, in different shapes and sizes.
Snap-Off Cutting Knife: These are small, and tremendous. The snap-off blade design helps keep a sharp edge on the knife when you dull the previous blade.
Cotton Pads: Use for clean up, removing excess olive oil, cleaning a plate edge, and more.
Candle, Cigarette Lighter, and/or Matches: More than one shot has been delayed while the nonsmokers looked for a way to light the candles in the scene.
Real Estate On Location Kit
Glass Cleaner and Cloths: You can never assume the windows will be clean enough when you arrive. You can never have too many rags.
Sharpies: Use to black out scratches. Sometimes it’s good to have a brown one as well as a black one, for furniture, to blend better. Some people carry a furniture scratch repair kit, which blends better and offers a wider color range.
Broom and Dustpan: These can be scarce when photographing vacant homes.
409 and Shop Cloths: A variety of spills and smears may need to be cleaned up.
Furniture Polish: For obvious reasons.
Other types of photography might require different kits from the ones shown here.
Best advice for customizing your own? Start with the core kit list and keep notes as you’re shooting on location, noting the items you reach for and don’t have.
Those are the first items to add to your list. These will evolve over time, and you’ll find you have everything you need to respond to most urgencies, emergencies and catastrophes quickly, professionally and impressively.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our tool tips tour. Building a core kit for all types of shooting is a first step.
Augmenting the core kit with dedicated auxiliary kits, on the shelf and ready to go, will help you be prepared for most surprises thrown at you in the course of a shoot.
Here’s to happy shooting, without deluges.
Kevin O’Connor helps design and test software, is a graphic designer and photographer for multiple clients and companies, and fixes people’s (and companies’) color.
He has consulted to multiple companies, including Apple, Sony, Fujifilm USA, and X-Rite. He loves teaching good color practices to enthusiastic learners.
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