Food Videography: My Gear and Equipment
As a food blogger and YouTuber I’ve filmed tons of recipe videos and cooking videos. I also get asked all the time about the food videography gear and equipment I use. So today I thought I’d share a little insight into my gear and filming process.
Every week I receive questions from food bloggers or aspiring YouTuber’s about the camera gear I use to shoot my weekly cooking videos. And tomorrow I’m speaking at TechMunch (a food blogger conference) about producing mouthwatering food videos.
So today, I thought I’d put together a handy list of all the camera gear and equipment I use. I’ve been shooting food videos on my YouTube channel for a little over a year now and while I still have much to learn, I feel like I’ve finally gotten into a video groove.
I shoot hosted, cooking-style videos in my kitchen and not the overhead, Tasty-style videos. I did this purposefully from the get-go because while the overhead videos are great for social sharing, my number one goal was to build a community. And it’s hard to build a community of healthy food lovers when there’s not an actual person in the video – someone the audience can identify and relate to.
My style of food videography definitely takes a bit more work as I’m a one-woman-show who films, edits and is the on-camera talent – but if I can do it, so can you!
Here’s what’s inside my camera bag (and my kitchen).
I started filming videos on my Canon Mark III in my parent’s basement with a makeshift studio backdrop. If you watch my older videos and see herbs on the back wall, these videos were all shot on my Canon Mark III.
The Canon Mark III is an awesome, full-frame camera but I had two challenges with it:
- It doesn’t have a flip screen so that I can see what’s in the frame when I’m in front of the camera
- It doesn’t have touch auto-focus and facial tracking as the newer cameras do.
So while I’m coveting the Canon Mark IV for my food photography, it still doesn’t have a flip screen for videography. Therefore, I recently purchased the Canon 80D which ticks both boxes. The Canon 80D is also one of the most popular YouTuber cameras.
I’ve now been shooting solely with that camera for a couple of months and love it. But it did take me a while to dial in the settings and get used to the fact that it’s not full-frame, so my shots are tighter.
From the beginning I’ve shot with my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. It’s an “L” series lens which means it’s a top-of-the-line professional lens with great glass. I prefer this lens over my prime lenses because I can zoom in and out on the food if necessary, rather than move my tripod. I also find there’s also a softness to the lens, which makes you (the on-air talent) look even better.
Now, if I had video assistants or others behind the camera doing all the work and focusing, I may opt for prime lenses…but right now my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 gets it done.
My Video Head
I use a ball head when shooting food photography, but it’s worth the investment to buy a separate video head for filming videos. The benefit of a video head is the pan fluid drag and built in counterbalance, for super smooth shots. The video head I use is the Manfrotto 502 Video Head.
I use a Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 aluminum tripod. This tripod has a center column that you can raise and flip horizontal, though I never actually flip it out for my food videography as I shoot everything straight on. It’s a fairly cheap tripod compared to many other options and it’s hefty and stable enough to hold all my gear.
This is a nifty little contraption that’s fairly new and I bought it after seeing some awesome panning shots on fellow YouTuber videos. I bought mine from my local Samy’s Camera, but it’s very similar to this Newer Camera Track Slider.
A slider gives you those really smooth, gliding shots and you can see this in action on my White Sangria recipe video and my Pantry Organization video. The slider is a fun-to-have rather than a necessary-to-have piece of equipment.
When I started shooting last year in my parent’s basement, my filming spot was right next to a large window and I had quite a bit of natural light. And as most food photographers know, naturally light is always preferred.
In my current kitchen, it may look light and bright on video but there are actually no windows or naturally light. And I don’t use any overhead kitchen lights (even with daylight bulbs) as they create shadows down your face.
So I use this StudioFX 2400 Watt set of soft box lights. Right now I’m only using two of the lights – and I keep one directly in front of me and one off to the side at about a 45 degree angle. They’re reasonably cheap and I may upgrade to these LED lights in the future, but right now they get the job done.
My Microphone and Recorder
This is one of the most important pieces of equipment for hosted, talking videos. Because if the sound is echo-y or bad you’ll lose your audience immediately (and if you don’t already know, the sound that comes straight out of your camera is horrible).
So invest in a microphone and recorder. I use a cheap Audio Technica ATR3350 Lavalier Mic and record the sound into a Zoom H1 Recorder. Then, it’s simple to replace the camera audio track with the recorded audio track in post production.
Pro tip: If you watch my earlier videos you’ll see the microphone pinned to my top, but I never really liked the looks of that. Now, I just tape the microphone to my chest under my top so you don’t see it.
Food Videography Tips & FAQ’s
What do you use to edit? Adobe Premier Pro
What are your camera settings? These change based on a variety of factors (including the time of day I’m shooting), but right now my intro is usually shot at f/2.8 (as the camera is further away) and the actual cooking at f/3.5. My ISO fluctuates between 320-500. And my shutter speed is always at 1/50 and my fps at 23.98 (for that movie-like quality).
How do you get all those different camera angles? I move around – a lot. Seriously. I’m constantly moving the camera in between shots. I keep thinking I should shoot a behind-the-scenes of my food videos because I’m sure I look like a mad woman behind the scenes!
Do you color grade your videos? No, not in terms of using additional software. I just do basic tweaks in Adobe Premier Pro, like adjust exposure, shadows, sharpness, vibrance, etc. I also shoot using a neutral picture style (with a tweak or two), which means it’s pretty flat. That’s just my personal style as I don’t like the overly-saturated look.
Do you shoot overhead videos at all? At this time, no. But after filming my full-length cooking video for YouTube, I’ll do a second edit of the same footage to create a 45-60 second Facebook video that I crop square.
What type of SD card do you use? This is actually really important as videos can take up quite a bit of space. I use a SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB card.
Any other tips? Make sure you always have extra batteries – for both your camera and microphone. There have been several instances when my batteries have died (video uses up camera batteries fast), so I always have backups now. For music, I highly recommend Epidemic Sound – it’s the best for YouTubers with an easy monthly subscription plan. I also recommend VidIQ for helping to manage your YouTube channel. Lastly, have fun! Remember that you’ll get better over time and with practice.
To see all of my videos (and not miss future videos), make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel.