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What Is the Best Tripod for Food Photography? (2020 Guide)

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A tripod is an indispensable tool for every food photographer. It is important to choose the one that best fits your needs.

We have compiled a list of the best food photography tripods and accessories to help you choose the perfect option!

Diptych food photography of kale on a blue background

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Why You Need a Tripod for Food Photography

There are three main reasons every food photographer must have a tripod:

Sharper Images – Using a tripod allows you to keep your ISO low and use slow shutter speed. It stabilises your camera, which creates sharper images even when doing long exposures. It also eliminates blurry images caused by trembling hands.

Styling and Composition – Great styling and composition are key when shooting photography for food. When you are building your set, It’s quite tedious to have to keep putting down and picking up your camera. Using a tripod gives you more time on styling and making your composition better.

Consistent Images – Consistency and precision are crucial in commercial food photography. A good trick is to mark the placement of your tripod on the ground with electrician’s tape. That way, you can always get the shot from the same position. It is very difficult to achieve consistent positioning without a tripod.

Diptych of a fruity dessert on light background

What to Consider When Buying a Tripod

What a food photographer needs in a tripod is different than what a landscape or portrait photographer does.

The most crucial requirement is stability. You need a tripod that can handle the weight of your camera, lens, and any other additions such as a bracket or extension arm.

You should forego the cheaper, lightweight tripods for something more substantial. It does you no good to save money on a tripod, only to have it topple over and break your camera, which it can do. Very easily.

When shopping for a tripod, look for one with both adjustable height and orientation. That means it needs to have a centre column you can move.

Also, make sure that it has rubber feet to avoid slippage and that it has a high payload. Payload refers to the amount of weight the tripod can withstand. Your tripod must be heavier than any combination of camera and lens that you put on it.

A decent tripod starts at around the $300.00 mark and goes way up. Any tripod that costs less than that is not likely to be a good investment. On the plus side, once you invest in a good, sturdy tripod, it will last you decades.

Lemon meringue tart on a cake stand

Parts of a Tripod

There are three parts to a tripod, with many options for each section:

The Centre Column

The column is the middle part that you rise up and down according to the height you need.

There are three types of columns that you can choose from:

A quick-release column can move up and down by loosening a single knob. The quick-release is usually the cheapest option. It’s better for photographers who are out in the field, rather than studio photographers.

The better ones have a cushioned release. It prevents your camera from jostling about when you move the column.

The most popular type of column for food photography is a geared centre column. It allows you to move your camera up and down to a precise height. It’s a particularly handy feature to have if your camera and lens combination is quite heavy.

The Head

The head is the part where you attach your camera. For most professional tripods, you should buy this separately.

For food photography, there are two types of tripod heads that you should be looking at:

The first type is the ball head, which comes in all varieties of design. But they all are meant to stabilise the camera. They provide faster, more accurate rotation for the photographer. A ball lock is an essential adjustment on this type of head. Make sure yours has a single twist knob and that your camera doesn’t droop or slip.

The other type is the pan-tilt head. This type of head allows you to turn/rotate your camera left and right, and up and down. You can also tilt your camera’s horizontal line. It helps gets your camera’s horizontal line straight it just a fraction of a second.

The pan-tilt head is the type of head I most recommend if you have the budget for it. It’s not as speedy to use as a ball head, but that’s not usually a concern for still life photography.

The Legs

The legs keep your whole set-up sturdy. How far the legs can splay out depends on the tripod. Tripod legs are telescopic. In other words, they extend out like an old telescope. Most are aluminium, but the best ones are typically carbon fibre.

The height of tripod legs often varies a lot. They could be as short as 3ft, but some could extend up to 5ft or even more. Look for the tallest option you could find. That way, you can take overhead shots on tabletops without any issues.

Tripod legs also have different locking mechanisms. Most of them have flip locks with tabs for securing sections into place, while others have twist locks that you need to tighten after adjusting the height.

The best locks are flip locks since they take only a second to tighten.

Food photography shot using a tripod for stability

Best Tripods for Food Photography

There are plenty of tripod brands out there. But the most popular ones include Manfrotto, Gitzo, Vanguard, and Peak Design.

These are the models that I’m familiar with and would recommend:

7. Manfrotto MK055XPRO3-3W

It features a three-way head for one price point. It’s an excellent tripod to start with for that reason alone. It also includes an overhead mount camera without the need to add accessories.

It’s a good, stable entry-level tripod for food photography.

Manfrotto MK055XPRO3-3W tripod for food photography

6. Manfrotto MT190XPRO4

This is a good, compact tripod. It’s easy to take on restaurant shoots, or you can use it in a studio.

I have this tripod and use it with an extension arm to shoot overhead. It is stable enough to hold my camera and heavy 24-70mm lens with a counterweight as long as I don’t extend it to its full height.

Manfrotto MT190XPRO4 tripod for food photography

5. Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055

This model has a load capacity of 19.8 pounds. Like all the other Manfrotto options, this one is an overhead tripod. It has a 90-degree centre column. That way, it extends vertically and horizontally, which you can do with the camera attached.

Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 tripod

4. Manfrotto 058B Triaut Camera Tripod

This is the best tripod overhead on the market. It has a considerable height, which is excellent when it comes to those flat lay shots.

My back gets very sore from constant bending down to the floor to compose overhead shots. A tripod like this is perfect if you want to work at a table-level.

Manfrotto 058B Triaut Camera Tripod

3. Gitzo GT2542 Mountaineer Tripod Series 2

This is the most expensive but most heavy-duty tripod that I recommend. It supports up to 39 pounds of weight, which is phenomenal!

It’s a serious pro tripod with the price to match. But it will last forever. It has a carbon fibre body, which makes it not only light but also extremely durable. It was designed to stand rough use in landscape photography. So that means it can withstand the safe confines of your studio.

Gitzo GT2542 Mountaineer Tripod Series 2

2. Peak Design Travel Tripod

This tripod may have been designed for travel, but it’s also perfect for food photography. It has the sleekest look among the options on this list. And it performs just as well if not better.

So what makes Peak design a great choice? First, it’s light and compact. That means you can use it for on-location shoots without any issues. Its robust design also means it will last for years, especially if you keep it in a studio environment.

Peak Design Travel Tripod

1. Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP

So far, we featured tripods that are at least 300USD in 2020. But are there any budget tripods that are just as good? The answer is yes, and among them is the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP.

The Alta Pro 263AP has aluminium construction, which makes it heavier than its carbon fibre counterparts. But it’s just as robust. It also has all the features only expensive options have. For under 200USD, it already comes with a tripod head and even has an overhead mount.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP

Tripod Accessories for Food Photography

Overhead Lateral Arm

You attach a lateral arm directly to your tripod for overhead shots. Some tripods have a centre column that will flip out and allow you to do this. But most of the time, you will need to purchase a separate arm.

L-Bracket

An L bracket allows you to change your orientation between horizontal and vertical when you are shooting overhead.

Most pros take food pictures in portrait orientation. But interactive web design demands images shot in landscape.

If you are shooting for client websites, you will likely need to do it in both orientations. An L bracket will allow you to do so.

Sandbags

Your tripod should have a high payload and be able to bear the weight of your camera. But you must still provide a counterbalance to all that weight with a sandbag. You can also use sandbags at the bottom of the legs to stabilise your tripod.

You can buy specific sandbags for photography online or at a camera store. As for the sand itself, you can buy bags used for children’s sandboxes at most hardware stores.

Potato Chips and Dip - best food photography tips

Conclusion

Go to the camera store and take a look at these tripods. Get a feel for how they look and function in real-time.

We know that some people live in an area without camera stores. If that’s your case, then do your online research diligently. Watch Youtube reviews about the products and look at the pros and cons of each.

You also don’t need to buy a new tripod. You might also be able to find a great used tripod for a much lower price, especially if the options you have are out of your price range.

Using a tripod consistently might take some getting used to. But it will help you improve your food photography so quickly that you will wonder why you didn’t rely on one sooner.

Looking for more delicious inspiration? Check out our new post about food photography examples next!

Take your food photography to the next level with our eBook – Edible Images!

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