I’ve been working as a food photographer & blogger for a few years now, and I get a lot of questions about what kind of photography gear, blogging tools, and editing programs/software I use. So here's a post detailing all of the key tools I use to help run my business!
*Post updated 11/18/2021*
Table of Contents
- Just A Friendly Reminder
- Photography/Video Gear
- Blogging/Business Tools
- Blog/WordPress Hosting
- Google Analytics
- Image Delivery & Storage
- Apple MacBook Pro
- Editing Programs
- Backdrops & Props
- Online Courses
- Bookkeeping/Account Software
- Google Trends
Just A Friendly Reminder
Everyone thinks that to be good at photography or blogging, you have to have the most expensive gear, but that isn’t true. I started getting serious about food photography in 2016 when I upgraded my first camera. It wasn’t the best that money could buy, but it didn’t have to be. In fact, I still use some of my first photography gear, including that camera, today.
Now, when you’re reading through this list, please understand that I’m a working professional. I own a lot of gear and use a lot of tools these days—much more than I first started with. And at the end of the day, it's not the gear and tools but the person operating them that determines how successful you'll be as a photographer or blogger.
This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn compensation when you click on the links in this post at no cost to you. For more information, see my Disclosure page. All opinions are my own.
I love this camera. Its body is lightweight compared to most DSLR bodies, and I also love that it has a user-friendly menu. The cherry on top? It has built-in WiFi/Bluetooth making it easy to both turn your smartphone into a remote for hands-free shooting and to transfer photos directly to your phone. It also has a rotating touch screen which comes in handy for recording videos and those tricky overhead shots; you can use it to select your focus point, and even set it to “touch to shoot.”
This camera is a beast. It has dual card slots – one for SD and one for CF, and has a more expansive autofocus system, better image quality, and faster maximum shutter speed than the 6D Mark II. While the 5D Mark IV doesn't have an articulating screen, it does shoot 4K video, which is a huge redeeming quality (in my opinion)!
This was the camera I bought when I decided I was done using my iPhone as my primary camera. It's a great little mirrorless camera and is a good option for those not ready to bite the bullet and buy a DSLR just yet!
The 50mm f/1.8 lens, often called the “nifty fifty,” was my first lens purchase. This super sharp prime lens has great bokeh (blurriness of the background) because of the f/1.8 aperture. Its small size and quality build make it a great lens to carry around and take pictures of your food, friends, and family. (This is my absolute favorite lens for taking portraits.)
The 50 mm f/1.8 is a perfect lens for an upgrade from the kit lens that comes with most camera bodies. It’s very affordable, and if you’re looking for your first lens upgrade, this is definitely what I recommend. *You can find the Sony version of this lens here.
Most folks I know use a 24-70mm as their go-to photography gear, and it’s not hard to see why! The Canon 24-70mm is a great all-around lens. The 2.8 aperture also creates beautiful bokeh, which I love. You can also opt for the Canon 24-70mm f/4 if you want a great lens at a lower cost; it’ll weigh less too. *You can find the Sony version of this lens here.
The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 is my favorite and most used lens. It's a high-quality macro lens with some good features (optical stabilization, focus limiter, and extremely fast focus speed). It does have somewhat of a noisy mechanism, but the overall optical quality and its affordable price more than make up for it, in my opinion. If you're after a sharp, all-around macro lens, then go with the Sigma!
Additional Camera Gear
Manfrotto Tripod & Attachments
I have two Manfrotto 190XPRO tripods; one I use as a traditional tripod, and the other has a Manfrotto Lateral Arm attached which I use for filming all of my recipe video content. When recording videos on my iPhone instead of my camera, I just add the Manfrotto Smartphone Clamp to my lateral arm. Manfrotto's tripods are sturdy, flexible, and easy to use; I highly recommend them!
SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro SD Cards
SD cards are essential to photography. You can’t take photos (or videos) without one! I have used these 128GB SanDisk cards for the past couple of years now. I find that they write extremely fast for both photos and videos (write = images are captured and processed). You can also grab the SanDisk 64GB cards if you don’t think you’ll need as much storage.
I currently use MountDog's Continuous Softbox Lighting for videos; it's super inexpensive and gets the job done! The kit comes with the light stand, softbox modifier, and 2 bulbs... you'll just need an outlet to plug the light into. I have been researching other continuous light setups, however, so I'll update this as I try new things!
I started my blog on Squarespace, as they were very user-friendly... but if you plan on getting serious about blogging, I recommend starting out with a self-hosted WordPress site and saving yourself the headache of migrating. (Trust me!)
When I transitioned to using WordPress for my blog, I used Siteground to host my site. I loved it for a while; when I initially switched I saw an instant increase in site speed resulting in more organic traffic from Google. However, I eventually outgrew their largest shared hosting plan and couldn't justify the cost of their cloud-based plans so I now host my site with Big Scoots and haven't looked back since.
Big Scoots plans aren't shared hosting (meaning I don't have to share my resources or worry about resource caps which lead to potential website downtime), their pricing is more reasonable, AND they're fully managed. They even handled my entire website migration and ran tests to ensure my links and website plugins were operating correctly. Talk about a win-win!
The Genesis Framework is a robust WordPress theme that acts as a platform on which your WordPress website can be created. The Genesis Framework integrates all of the SEO, security, and performance features needed to help you have the best site possible (it's what is currently running on Mike Bakes NYC). With Genesis, you’re going to want to purchase the Framework ($59.95) along with a child theme (prices vary). It’s also possible to get a Genesis child theme custom-designed, but note that it's extremely expensive.
Google Analytics is my main method of monitoring my blog traffic, growth, content performance, and engagement. I review my data regularly and always try and pull out conclusions and actions to help improve my blog in the long run. I also frequently check the app on my mobile to keep on top of any progress throughout the day.
Image Delivery & Storage
I use Dropbox to deliver image files to my clients and then also to archive all of the RAW files.
Apple MacBook Pro
I LOVE my Mac and it's become a staple part of my photography gear. I was previously a PC user (I mean... technically, I still am...) but I switched over everything business/photography related to my MacBook because they're faster and have more capabilities when it comes to what we creative folks need. The 16-inch retina display also assures that I'm viewing my images at the highest quality, allowing me to make the best edits possible. If you need something a bit smaller, you can go for a 13-inch Macbook, which fits in most travel bags.
I would be lying if I didn’t say how important good old stationary is to me. I use my iPhone notes all the time for capturing ideas and recording my to-do list, but I also have a whole variety of stationary which I also use on a daily basis to manage my blog schedule and blog ideas… a note pad on my desk and a yearly planner which I use to plan my blog content. It’s not all about high-tech and clever gadgets, sometimes all you need is pen and paper, and for me, a good old notepad is essential for managing my blog schedule & content plans.
To edit all of my photos, I use a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Lightroom is great for your “basic” edits; that includes tones, colors, sharpness, and more. Photoshop is a much more powerful tool that can be used for a whole slew of things, but I use Photoshop to clean up an image and remove distracting objects. You can get both programs with Adobe’s Photography Suite.
I edit videos taken with my camera on Final Cut Pro. Any videos taken with my iPhone are edited on a free app (with an optional paid subscription) called InShot.
Backdrops & Props
I get almost all of my backdrops from Woodville Workshop; they're my all-time favorite. The boards are lightweight yet sturdy, and they have SO many different sizes and styles. I have 18 surfaces from them total and use them for all of my photos and videos! Woodville also recently launched a beautiful ceramics line that is worth checking out!
If you're in the market for vinyl backdrops then I would recommend checking out CBL Backdrops! I've been doing a bit of traveling while writing/shooting my second cookbook and needed something easier to transport than my giant Woodville boards and these really fit the bill and photograph SO nicely. What I love most is that these aren’t just textures generated in photoshop; they’re real textures that Lucy found in various environments during her travels. I'm seriously impressed with the quality, and as an added bonus, they're much easier to clean up after messy shoots than wooden backdrops!
My go-to shop for all things ceramic. Pretty much all of the plates and pinch pots I use in my photos come from Facture Goods; Aron's designs just speak to me!
Etsy and eBay are where I find the rest of my props, especially vintage bakeware. I like to keep my photos pretty minimally styled, so my prop collection isn't that large!
The following is a list of various online courses that I've taken and truly believe helped me and my business in significant ways.
Foodtography School is an online food photography course started by my dear friend, Sarah. It's aimed at turning your passion for food photography into a business and teaches you the relevant skills and principles to transform your food photography. It also guides you through the social media and marketing skills needed to successfully create your own business.
A question I get asked all the time is whether I think Foodtography School is worth it for people who just do food photography as a hobby or side hustle; and my answer is always: if you're willing to make the investment, then ABSOLUTELY. I took Foodtography School while I was finishing up law school and studying for the bar exam; I had no intentions on turning Mike Bakes NYC into a business... I just really wanted to be able to take photos like the ones featured on the @foodtographyschool Instagram account. A few years later and I've stopped practicing law and do this full time (& yes, I'm SO much happier). Be sure to check out my in-depth review on Foodtography School!
Get 15% off anything on the Foodtography School website with code: MIKE
Artificial Academy is a course offered by my friend, Joanie. It's the perfect course for the food photographer ready to learn to shoot with artificial light, as fast and painlessly as possible! Joanie's teaching style is SO engaging, and she explains information in an easy-to-follow manner.
Artificial Academy took me from clueless to confidently shooting in artificial light in a matter of hours, which I think speaks for itself.
Fulltime Framework is another course offered by Joanie. The course focuses on the framework needed to turn your love of photography into a full-time business with streamlined, productive, and profitable systems. It focuses on things needed to set up your business, marketing, pricing, contracts, proposals, etc.
Fulltime Framework is the perfect course for the photographer looking to make the jump to freelancing full time (read: it's not specifically unique to food blogging). The course isn't always open for enrollment, however, so you'll want to join the waitlist to be notified of when you can enroll next!
Using accounting software is crucial for bloggers, especially if you are like me and have multiple aspects to your business such as selling your own products, advertising, selling services, and affiliate income. Come tax time, you don’t want to be scrambling trying to figure out how much you spent on business expenses, or how much you earned from client work.
Good accounting software will allow you to keep track of everything you need in an easy, intuitive way. There is a lot of accounting software on the market, but the one I recommend most for bloggers is Freshbooks.
Freshbooks is simple and easy to use, and it’s specifically designed for self-employed individuals and small businesses, making it a great choice for bloggers. It allows you to create and send invoices in minutes, track your blogging expenses, set up online payments/accept credit card payments, and manage your accounting from your phone with the Freshbooks apps.
Grammarly is an app/service that makes you a better writer by spotting grammatical errors and offering synonym suggestions. It’s like having a virtual editor basically. With Grammarly, I've managed to eliminate almost every type of mistake that could potentially sneak its way through in both my blog writing process as well as everyday emails.
Google Trends shows you the most searched phrases or terms on Google over a given period of time. As a blogger, it can be a useful source for comparative keyword research and to find out about event-triggered spikes in keyword search volume. The tool shows you trending keywords from top to down. You can even enter a specific search term that you’re curious about, and it’ll show you how search volume has varied for that term over time and in different locations.