MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY

Getting up close with food photography

Discover and capture tiny hidden worlds in everyday objects with the stunning clarity of Canon macro lenses.
A macro close-up of two fruit pastilles, with a large piece of sugar forming a teardrop shape overlapping the two sweets, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

When you're thinking about macro photography, food can often be left out of the conversation in favour of more traditional subjects such as insects and flowers. However, food photography is incredibly accessible, with an array of potential subjects within easy reach in your own home. Plus, you don't need to rely on good weather or your subject staying still to get great results.

But that's not to say it's always easy to get something that elevates your imagery from a snap of your lunch. One way to approach food photography differently is by using a macro lens to get in super close, creating stunning abstracts that have the power to fascinate the viewer. You can also try techniques such as focus stacking – now easier than ever thanks to innovative features found within some of Canon's latest cameras, such as the Canon EOS R10.

We challenged macro photographer Matt Doogue to give food photography a go. He's more accustomed to shooting macro out in the field, specialising in insects, plants and fungi, so staying indoors and shooting subjects in his kitchen turned out to be an exciting experience that has made him look at macro photography in a completely different way.

Here, he shares some of the things he discovered.

1. Look for textures, shapes, colour and patterns

A macro close-up of the edge of a sage leaf, showing all the details of the veins, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

Through photographing food up close, Matt was able to capture all the details of a sage leaf's veins. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/60 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 400. © Matt Doogue

A colourful macro photograph of an astro belt fizzy sweet, shot at 1:1 magnification on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

Matt hadn't previously considered photographing food in close-up."I'm always looking for a new challenge to inspire my photography," he says. "I find a lot of inspiration from shooting other macro subjects, so I thought, 'Why not give food a go?'"

Food that works particularly well for super-close macro shots is anything with an interesting texture, pattern, colour or shape. "Anything that's coated in sugar looks amazing because the sugar crystals look like diamonds when you photograph them up close," says Matt. "Most sweets will have textures, bumps and shapes that work well, plus you'll find that sweets often have vibrant colours – reds, yellows, pinks and greens.

"Beyond that, vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and even onions have an interesting structure. The more natural the product, the better symmetry you have, whereas manufactured products such as sweets might yield better abstract results."

2. Consider your lighting

A macro close-up of a sugar dummy sweet, lit to show the hole in the middle as black, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.
A macro close-up of a sugar dummy sweet, lit to show the crystals on the side of the hole, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

Lit from above

Lit from the side

For Matt, lighting often plays a big role in his macro work, but food is very different from his usual subjects. "I didn't need to diffuse light anywhere near as much as I would for something shiny, such as a beetle," he says.

For this project, Matt purchased an inexpensive small softbox studio, although you could always have a go at making your own. He also used LED lights to bring out elements of the subject.

"You can also create a series, where each image looks completely different," Matt adds. "For example, with the sugar dummy images, it's a round circle with a black hole, but if I light it from different angles each time it can look completely different, even though the camera and the lens might be the same."

If you don't have any lighting available, you can also work with natural light – particularly if you can shoot food near a window and work with daylight. Using a reflector, even a homemade one constructed from kitchen foil, can help to throw light onto your subject too.

3. Choose the right macro lens for food photography

A macro close-up of a raspberry, showing the tiny stalks on each drupelet, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

A close-up of a fresh raspberry shot at full magnification, lit from top right and slightly behind to add shadow and shape. This was the first time Matt was shooting with the Canon EOS R10, and he was very impressed with its capabilities. "The image quality is superb for a camera coming in at such a low price point," says Matt. "It's incredible." Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/60 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 1250. © Matt Doogue

Although you can shoot food with lots of different types of lenses, for the best, most detailed results, you'll want to look for a lens bearing the "macro" designation.

There are options to suit a range of budgets and shooting styles. The Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens is a fantastic option, being lightweight with a close focusing distance. The magnification ratio is 0.5x, but you can still create detailed shots, as well as pull back just a little to show more context if you'd like to. For those with a bigger budget who want to get as close as possible, the RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM is a superb choice, offering 1.4x magnification for those abstract otherworldly shots.

See our guides to the best beginner kit for macro photography and best Canon lenses for food photography for more advice. You can also use Canon's handy lens finder tool which tailors recommendations based on your camera, the genre you want to shoot, and which features you value most.

4. Give focus stacking a go

A macro close-up of honeycomb, showing the consistency of the air bubbles, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

A piece of a honeycomb chocolate bar shot at full magnification, lit top right and slightly behind to add shadow and contrast, and shot using a tripod and the in-camera focus stacking to ensure that every part of the image is in focus. "Food is great for practising focus stacking," says Matt. "At home, you can experiment to see how many stacks (images) you need for the desired depth of field." Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/60 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 1250. © Matt Doogue

A macro close-up of honeycomb lit from behind, giving a glowing embers effect through the air bubbles, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

Another piece of honeycomb, this time lit from behind to give an impression of glowing fire, and once again using the in-camera focus stacking. "Focus stacking with the EOS R10 made it so much easier," enthuses Matt. "Usually I stack manually, but with the EOS R10, it was a breeze. I can do in a minute what would normally take me hours." Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/50 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 250. © Matt Doogue

Focus stacking is a technique where images that have been shot with different focus points are merged together. You can do this manually using tools such as the Depth Compositing tool in Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software, but models such as the Canon EOS R10 and the EOS R7 enable you to do it all in-camera.

"That's going to save me so much time," says Matt. "With the EOS R10, I was able to take a 100-image focus stack in a minute, and the image was then quickly processed for me in-camera. When I've tried this technique before, I've had to buy a whole new high-end computer to deal with the image files and merge them together in image editing software. Now I can get the EOS R10 to create a composite and work quickly with a single image file, it has really inspired me to try this technique more often.

"Not only that, but the camera also gives you the individual images. That's great in case you later decide you didn't want a 'full stack' – for example, if you want more softness in the foreground. By giving you all the files you have the freedom or creativity to adjust things exactly as you want them."

All EOS R System cameras also feature a manual focus peaking display option, which uses bright colours to highlight the areas of your image that are in focus.

5. Explore different subjects

A macro close-up of the sugar crystals on the surface of a fruit pastille, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

Looking at a subject through a macro lens enabled Matt to appreciate the beauty of its structure. At full magnification, the surface of this fruit pastille is entirely unrecognisable. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/60 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 250. © Matt Doogue

A macro close-up of three fruit pastille sweets, with the middle one lit from behind to look like it is glowing, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens.

This shot was created with three fruit pastilles, the two at the sides overlapping the backlit pastille below. "Try macro photography on inanimate objects first," Matt advises. "Get used to the lighting and how the camera operates. Trying food photography at home is perfect." Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/60 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 250. © Matt Doogue

If you're new to food photography, you might find slowing down and working in a more considered way is a challenge. But it can also open your eyes to new ways of seeing your subject, acting as an opportunity to create new imagery and explore a more mindful side to your photography.

"I was blown away by the experience, particularly of shooting fruit pastille sweets," says Matt. "I got lost in the world of food. All these little things that you just pick up in a supermarket – you get them, you put them in your basket, you eat them; you don't actually look at them and appreciate the complexity and the design, especially of natural products. A lot of art is inspired by nature and you can see why when you photograph up close and you see these amazing designs and structures that nature itself has created."

6. Create intriguing images

A macro close-up of a red cabbage slice, shot on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens.

"I never thought of food as a macro photography subject, but I definitely will now," says Matt. "It completely blew my mind, some of the patterns, textures and abstract art that you can create." Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/60 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 250. © Matt Doogue

Creating close-up abstracts gives you a superpower – the ability to captivate and intrigue with your photos. You can even create your own game of "food guessing" with your friends, family or social media following.

"I sent the picture of a fruit pastille [header image] to two geologists," says Matt. "I asked them to tell me what rock they thought it was. I was getting guesses of rose quartz and other things. They even broke into a bit of a debate about which it was!

"When I photographed cabbage, someone in my family said they never wanted to eat it again because of the details revealed in the close-up."

As with any art, photography is about making the viewer feel something, whether that's surprise, hunger, or, in this case, disgust. If it makes you feel strong emotions, it means it has served its purpose.

Giving food photography a go has opened Matt's eyes to the creative possibilities. "I definitely want to include more of the natural elements and more symmetry of plants, leaves and flowers in my photography," he says. "I'm also going to take a closer look at mushrooms and lichens, as well as patterns on trees and bark. If I can make a fruit pastille look like a crystalline painting, then I'm sure I can do something amazing with my typical subjects too."

Matt also hosts workshops and classes, and tackling this challenge has given him new ideas. "I always used to advise buying flowers to practise at home, but now I'll definitely be recommending food because I was just amazed by the things I could see."

Written by Astrid Pitman

Related Products

Related articles

  • A close-up of a dragonfly sitting on a blade of grass, captured with a Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens.

    MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY

    Best starter kit for macro

    Choosing cameras, lenses and accessories for detailed macro photography.

  • A black and white close-up shot of a mother kissing a sleeping baby she is holding to her shoulder.

    MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY

    Get lost in the details with macro

    Four inventive tips for making a start in macro, using ordinary items to create extraordinary pics.

  • A fully processed stack of 100 frames showing a peacock feather in close-up, taken by Matt Doogue using the Canon EOS R10's in-camera focus bracketing depth compositing function.

    PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS

    Focus stacking for beginners

    Photographer Matt Doogue explains how Canon's focus stacking tools can you help you capture macro shots and landscapes with front-to-back sharpness.

  • VIDEO

    How to shoot high-quality food videos like a pro

    Jessie Bakes Cakes has amassed more than 100k followers with her jaw-dropping food videos. Here she explains how to master food videography.