• Paolo Ferraris

Camera Settings for Food Photography

Speaking of recipes, what are the main ingredients in food photography? The staples in the photographer's visual kitchen are: Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO number.

Food photography camera settings

Camera settings for food photography. DSLR settings for food photography.


This trio of ingredients has two very important influences over:

  • Exposure

  • Creativity


The right combination of Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO number give you a correct exposure, that is the right amount of light landing on the sensor in order to record an image with rich and accurate tonal and color information.



Exposure Triangle https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62043086

What camera settings should I use for food photography? What is the best aperture for food photography?


Once the camera's internal light meter has performed a reading and established the correct exposure for the scene we are photographing, the three ingredients become interconnected.


If we move one we have to adjust another or the other two in the opposite direction in order to keep the image's exposure correct. For example if we pick a faster shutter speed, we have to open up the aperture (lower F number) or increase the ISO number or do both, to get the same amount of light on the film or the digital sensor.


The three ingredients have also a strong influence on the creative process:

  • Aperture (F numbers) controls depth of field (shallow vs deep)

  • Shutter Speed controls motion (freeze vs blur)

  • ISO controls image quality (accurate/smooth vs digital noise/coarseness)


What are the three basic camera settings? The best camera settings for food photography.


These are the camera settings I recommend when shooting food.


  • Aperture: In my experience the sweet spot is between F3.2 and F4. Extremely shallow depth of field makes parts of the dish disappear (not a good thing) and focusing more finicky and problematic. Deep focus does not bring the attention of the viewer to any specific element of a dish.

  • Shutter Speed: naturally it depends on the lens you are using but as a rule of thumb for lenses with medium to long focal length (tele-lenses are the main optical tools in food photography) I would say nothing slower than 1/125 of a second, to be safe and to avoid camera motion blur. If you work with a lens that has optical stabilization you can go down to 1/90 or 1/60 of a second.

  • ISO number: shoot with the lowest you can get while still maintaining a safe shutter speed. If you have the Minimum Shutter Speed option in your camera set it to 1/125. If you don't, take a few test shots before the real photoshoot begins. If the lighting conditions give you a very slow shutter speed, bump up the ISO number until you get a safe shutter speed, which will avoid camera motion blur (again, in the 1/125 of a second ballpark.)


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