Food photography is a rewarding way to explore close-ups with your Canon camera – and not just because you can eat the subject at the end of a session. Take the time to style the ingredients of your image, control the lighting and fine-tune your settings, and you'll find that you can produce food photos worth savouring.
There are, however, some items of equipment that can help you to get the best quality from your camera. A tripod can be useful when you're photographing food in low light or when you're shooting extreme close-ups, for example, although Canon's range of lenses with Image Stabilization (IS) technology will also really help in these situations. Adding a Speedlite flash or other form of artificial lighting to your kitbag can also give you more creative options.
Upgrading your lens can have the biggest impact on your food photography, though. Many lenses allow you to focus close enough to magnify small details, but only a true macro lens gives you a magnification of at least 1x. This means that the subject is recorded on the sensor at 1:1 or life size when the lens is set to its minimum focus.
Armed with a Canon macro lens – or the growing number of standard lenses that have a separate macro position on the zoom ring to enable close focusing – you will be able to reveal the hidden textures, intricate patterns and subtle structures of food that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Here we'll look at the best options for all types of EOS cameras.
Canon lenses with Image Stabilization make it easier to eliminate camera shake while shooting close-ups handheld.
The best Canon EF-S lenses for food photography
Best for: APS-C DSLR
Work also with: EOS M cameras (with an M adapter) and EOS R System cameras (with an R adapter)
Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM
The Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM lens features a built in LED Macro Lite. You can turn on both sides to capture detail with clarity, or just one half of the ring for enhanced shadows and textures.
The widest macro in the EF-S lens range is designed to match the proportions of APS-C sensors, and it gives a view equivalent to a 56mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera.
It's capable of delivering the same life-size reproduction as the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, but you need to be much closer to achieve this with the shorter lens. To compensate for any shadow that might be created by shooting from a shorter distance, an LED Macro Lite built into the end of the lens allows you to illuminate the subject, and gives you creative control over how the food is lit. You can activate both sides of the ring simultaneously, or use either side independently to add shadow and create depth.
Being small and light enough to easily use handheld, the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM lens is the perfect complement to compact DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 250D and Canon EOS 850D. It also features a Hybrid Image Stabilization (IS) system, which minimises the camera shake that's more common in close-up photography.
The built-in LED Macro Lite makes it possible to illuminate the smallest detail.
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
Canon's first EF-S macro lens capable of producing life-size images makes a great first choice for food photographers. It's small, light and very sharp, and features a large maximum aperture that makes it easier to position the subject between a beautifully blurred background and foreground.
With an angle of view equivalent to a 96mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera, you effectively get more 'reach' with the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, so you can take frame-filling shots from further away. Not only does this mean you're less likely to cast a shadow across the subject, it also makes it easier to isolate the tastiest-looking morsels on a plate.
The lens features a fast autofocus system, but it's also possible to manually rotate the focus ring to fine-tune the sharpness.
The best Canon EF-M lens for food photography
Do justice to slices of fruit, elaborate desserts and glossy sauces with this compact macro lens for Canon's EOS M series cameras.
Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM
As well as giving 1:1 reproduction, this compact macro lens for the equally compact EOS M mirrorless cameras can go beyond life size. By engaging its Super Macro Mode, you can achieve 1.2x magnification, allowing you to explore the texture of a crust or the fine structure of fruit in mouthwatering detail.
Super Macro Mode allows you to get within 13mm of the subject, but the converging design of the barrel helps to minimise the shadow caused by the lens. It also features the same LED Macro Lite technology as the Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM lens, giving you creative control of your lighting when you're working incredibly close.
As well as featuring UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) and aspherical lens elements to ensure high image quality, the Canon EF-M 28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM lens boasts Hybrid IS. With its full-frame equivalent focal length of approximately 45mm, it's a great 'walk-around' lens for exploring food markets and outdoor eateries, particularly when it's paired with a camera that offers excellent low-light autofocus, such as the Canon EOS M6 Mark II.
The best entry-level Canon EF lenses for food photography
Best for: full-frame DSLR
Work also with: APS-C DSLR, EOS M cameras (with an M adapter) and EOS R System cameras (with an R adapter)
The wide aperture on the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens gives you the ability to bring your subject into sharp focus.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Unlike the other food photography lenses recommended here, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM doesn't have a macro function. But it does let you focus as close as 35cm, and delivers a 'standard' angle of view on a full-frame camera that gives a natural look to pictures.
The lens's wide f/1.8 maximum aperture pulls in a lot of light, making it a great choice when you're taking pictures in dimly-lit cafés and restaurants. It also enables you to selectively focus on a small area of your food arrangement while the background melts away into a soft blur.
With its STM (Stepping Motor) autofocus, the lens brings the subject into focus quickly and silently, so it's a great choice if you want to record some video clips alongside your photos. If you prefer to manually focus your close-up shots, you can do so with precision with the aid of the magnified Live View screen on Canon DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 850D and Canon EOS 4000D.
The near-silent STM technology means the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens can focus extremely quickly.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM
This medium-telephoto macro lens might lack the Hybrid Image Stabilizer of the professional Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, but it's still capable of producing razor-sharp results.
The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens gives 1x magnification when focused at its closest distance, but the relatively long focal length of 100mm means that you don't have to get as close as you do with a shorter lens. This can make it easier to position lights, reflectors and other accessories that may be needed to bring your food setup to life.
Autofocus is fast and accurate thanks to the Ultrasonic Motor (USM), and you can improve AF speed further using the focus limiter switch on the barrel.
Optically superb, the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens is able to capture a luscious range of colours and fine detail. An eight-bladed aperture brings a beautiful quality to the out-of focus areas of an image, while Super Spectra lens coatings reduce reflections inside the lens for high contrast results.
A lens with a fast autofocus makes it possible to capture pin-sharp images.
The best entry-level Canon RF lens for food photography
Best for: EOS R System cameras
Wide-angle or close up, the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 IS STM is a great all-rounder for food photography.
Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM
A versatile macro lens designed for the full-frame mirrorless Canon EOS R System, the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is capable of capturing both a wide-angle shot of a table arrangement and a half life-size close-up – as well as everything in between.
It's small and light enough to use without a tripod, where the 5-stop Dual Sensing IS technology helps you to make the most of the lens's impressive resolving power.
Like other lenses in Canon's RF range, the Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM features a customisable control ring at the front of the barrel, to which you can assign an important camera control such as aperture, ISO or exposure compensation. This allows you to easily and precisely adjust the setting with a quick turn of the ring.
Try using this lens with the Canon EOS RP, where you can take advantage of the camera's Focus Bracketing feature to bring a new level of sharpness to your food photography.
Written by Marcus Hawkins