It Lies in the Lens

Oh, boy – work kept me busy, busy today! And a good thing, too. If I’d had a repeat of Monday I’m not sure if I would have been able to stay. Yikes!

I’ve been getting a lot of camera questions lately (they seem to come in waves!) and thought I’d knock out a few answers today.

The answer to the number one question? No, the camera I use for my food shots is not a really nice camera.

Which one looks like the better camera to you?

Well, in all fairness – it’s not a bad camera. I can’t say enough good things about it given all its’ been through and the fact it’s only a 6 megapixel camera. It’s an old been-through-hell-and-back Nikon D40, that I bought…four years ago?

But, you know what matters more than the camera itself?

Your lens.

So, today I finally took some comparison pictures.

Nikon d40 on left, d90 on right.

Admittedly, in the first demonstration, my exposure is off in the first (too hot/overexposed – basically, too bright) in the granola area, and my focus is off in the second. But besides those driver errors, isn’t the first photo much more visually appealing? Sure – it’s got a lot to do with personal preference, but when it comes to food photos, I much prefer a shallow depth of field.


In your camera, you control your exposure by using aperture (or f-stop) and shutter speed. Imagine the aperture as your iris – the wider it is, the more light there is being let in, and in turn, less depth of field. Depth of field, of course, referring to how much depth is photographed, how far in the distance you can see. You’re probably all more familiar with shutter speed – but that’s the garage door. A fast shutter speed lets less light in but captures fast action…and a slow shutter speed allows for a lot of light to be let in, ideal for night-time but not sports or the like.


A brief review?

  • Wide aperture (a small f-number, like f/2, which is where it can get confusing)= shallow depth of field, ideal for close-ups, lots of light let in.
  • Small aperture (a large f-number, like f/16)=lots of depth (ideal for landscapes), little light let in.
  • Fast shutter speeds are ideal for situations with lots of light and fast action.
  • Slow shutter speeds are ideal for still objects in low-light situations, or for use with a small aperture to photograph a landscape. Additionally, slow shutter speeds are tons of fun to play with when it comes to light graffiti!

Not the best example, but I wanted to use one of my own.

So, what’s all this have to do with anything?

Well, the only reason the photos from my hinky-dink d40 look better than the photos from my d90 are because of the lenses.

Yep – the camera body can only do so much. You’re better off getting a middle-of-the-road dSLR and investing in some quality glass, than shooting with a top-of-the-line dSLR and shooting with a kit lens. Don’t get me wrong – the sensor is still very much important! But my point is, don’t skimp on the lens. The d90 is far from top-of-the-line. But, I do plan on investing in some nice lenses to outfit it with.h


My d40 is outfitted with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens. Hardly the best lens out there – but they don’t call it a nifty fifty for anything. Shooting with your aperture wide open is often not your best bet to get a really sharp image, however – and so I’m often shooting at f/2.2.

The d90, however? Just shot with a kit-lens…an 18-105mm f/5.6. I like the lens for horsey-stuff…but really guys…

50mm lenses are so much fun. Portraiture, fine art…it can do it all!

So, that’s enough for one night. We’ll pick up on this again soon πŸ™‚

What else did I do today?!

Why, carried on a new tradition, of course!

Roasted broc & red pepper, feta, hummus, tomato paste

I definitely missed my seitan (guess what’s going down tomorrow?) but I can’t get over this combo. And I love tomato paste on sammiches.

Oikos and a pluot. Or a plum. I'm still not sure.

I tried another Oikos flavored greek yogurt with my last coupon from Stonyfield. I tried honey last time and really liked it – but also realized that that’s something I could do myself. Which is ironic, because considering the amount of strawberries we’ve had (and I just finished) I could make strawberry greek yogurt, too.

Even more ironic is the fact that I tend to hate strawberry flavored things, but always forget this since I like actual strawberries so much.

Luckily, this Strawberry Oikos was not a part of that group – it was great! Likely because it’s all real, and nothing artificial. Strawberry is like banana in that it can easily taste too fake. But, Oikos uses all natural and organic ingredients, which lent itself to a great strawberry experience πŸ˜‰ I don’t know why I don’t have yogurt with lunch more often.

Probably because of my pretzel addiction.

Such is life.

A homemade granola bar was also snacked on, and an unpictured banana too.

I figured by now, you know what bananas look like. although I know I never get sick of them πŸ˜‰

I also came home to my new coffee shipment, and was really excited to try iced coffee.

Green mountain, you sort of let me down, but I can’t say I blame you.

Don’t get me wrong – the coffee’s the same Green Mountain I know and love – but I was expecting some sort of unrealistic miracle that a hot coffee brewer would somehow produce an ice cold french vanilla cofffee.

No dice.

Rather, they encourage you to brew it at a smaller setting over ice. So, you’re basically melting half the ice, but it’s okay since you’re brewing at a smaller setting.

At least they know how to market to people, because I was sold. Still, it’s not bad – but it’s the same K-cups with different directions. No grudges, and I still love you.

I was glad to be able to come home to a nearly-prepared dinner tonight, as I was hangry! A black bean cutlet was nuked real quick, as well as a sweet potato. I mixed together some maple dijon and apple BBQ sauce for dippage, as well as some apple rum walnut conserve and nuts.

So, doesΒ anyoneΒ have any specific camera questions? I’d love to talk more! I’ve hardly scraped the surface with this post πŸ™‚


Filed under breakfast, cooking, dinner, foodblog, health, health food, healthy living, lunch, oatmeal, recipe

24 responses to “It Lies in the Lens

  1. Perfect timing on this post! I just got a 50mm f/1.8 lens yesterday! I had been pining over it for so long and finally I broke down and bought it!

  2. Wow Jess, you are so knowledgable! I’m kind of jealous πŸ˜› Photography truly is one of your passions, and I think that’s fantastic πŸ™‚

    … MMmm. Your dinner looks divine!
    ❀ Tat

  3. Dee

    I totally, totally agree! Love the pics! And oh my dear word that sweet potato looks divine!

    ps. love the background of your oikos and plum! πŸ˜‰

  4. I can see why you get camera questions by the swarm! You have AMAZING pictures. I wish I had a dslr…it makes such a difference. I don’t understand any of the terminology you used, but I’m gonna read this more carefully…and hopefully get my own DSLR soon! πŸ™‚

    Would you recommend a Nikon or a Canon?

  5. Crap woman! I have so many questions that I don’t know where to begin! Please don’t ever look at my pictures! I could never compare to you! I appreciate the information, so now I can go and play with my camera. I have no aspirations to be a photographer, but I want to make food look good!

    I need to try the tomato paste on a sandwich. I am sure I would like that!

    I figured the KCups would be like that. My sister actually has a Keurig that brews cold drinks. Guess that is why they came out with this line.

  6. Thanks for this post! You always have the best photos – You shouldn’t have given away your secrets!

    LOL I can’t believe they sell “iced coffee.” I just brew really strong coffee, refrigerate it, and put it over ice!

  7. What a great post – i love the lesson on photo lenses – i have just started getting into photography so i definately will have alot of questions – this was great – very informative. Your pictures really are amazing!!!
    I love Green Mountain coffee – i use it in my Keurig every day but never knew they sold “iced” coffee –
    By the way – how is Teddie doing??? Miss seeing pictures of him!! Have a great Thursday!!! xoxo aimee

  8. Wow Jess, I am IMPRESSED. I just have a simple point and shoot that is on the verge of dying 😦 I’m praying it lasts on me, I can’t afford another camera.
    I haven’t seen that “iced coffee” yet but I love Green Mountain. I love my coffee πŸ™‚ But I don’t really make iced coffee at home.
    Love you girl!

  9. Thanks so much for this article. I have been debating on whether or not to get a 50 mm f 1.4 or just fork up the money and go with the f 1.8. I have a Canon Rebel XS body…

    Think it’s worth it to get the 1.4?

    As usual… love your pics… and your food… so inspiring! πŸ™‚

  10. Thank you for all this information. While I love writing, I hate taking pictures (because I don’t know what I’m doing!).

  11. yea mine is just a regular joe type of diji cam. nothing hi-tech. point shoot and load. i definitely appreciate the higher quality SLR’s because u can see the clarity in pictures and the focus is precise. the point and shoots can be quite a nuisance to use! and can easily get blurry if u shake just a little!

    xoxo ❀

  12. Your photos are beautiful no matter what you use because you yourself are. I use a cute little pink cannon. Obviously food photography was not what I had in mind when I first bought it. However, I still love it. On the topic of photography, I love the picture of the plum and greek yogurt. It really draws me to it. I love black bean cutlets just like you. Playing around with the spices is half the fun.

    Have a lovely day!

  13. I have a Nikon D40 and a Canon Rebel xsi and I’ve come to the same conclusion: it’s all in the lens (and the lighting). I don’t consider myself my photography buff, I basically just want my food pictures to be presentable, lol. I do appreciate learning all about it, though. It comes in handy, especially when you put it to use! πŸ™‚


  14. Good post! I’m going to keep re-reading it over and over til I properly understand all this lens stuff πŸ™‚ I’m quite literally retarded when it comes to things like this πŸ˜›
    And I have a trillion and 1 questions..I literally wouldn’t know where to begin! :s maybe I’ll wait and see what other people ask πŸ˜›

  15. Angela

    I dusted off my parents’ Nikon FE (over 20 years old!) a little while ago and have been taking black and white photos, processing the film and making prints in the darkroom myself. I have really enjoyed learning this process, but am looking into purchasing a digital SLR because the film, paper, and supplies are quite expensive, not to mention it takes many hours to get to a final print (the quality of the photo is totally worth the time though) Any suggestions for a first camera? Also, how easy is it to transfer images from the camera to a computer/laptop? I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit technologically challenged, so that kind of stuff is always a concern πŸ™‚ Any printers you recommend?

  16. This is such an interesting post, thanks for all the explanations! My little point and shoot is wearing out, and I’m thinking I’m going to invest in a DSLR and use an old crappy camera on the go. I might be emailing you with questions very soon!

  17. I’ve always been told its the lens that makes the difference too. And I love the comparison shots…you can really see a difference.

    Oh, and thanks for all the info on apertures and f stops and all that stuff. You made it make sense. πŸ˜€

  18. I just use my crappy $100 digital camera that I haven’t even read the manual for. I just point and shoot. πŸ˜› I’d love to get a better camera and learn about photography someday though! I’ll have to come back and read this post again when I do.

  19. Brandi

    I agree! Lenses are so important and totally make the pictures!

    I also know that photoshop is really useful, but I NEVER use it. I actually don’t even have it on my computer! I’ve used it before, but I don’t have the time or desire to edit all my pictures. I like randomly taking awesome pictures, just naturally πŸ™‚

  20. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!! Even though I have a pretty good camera (it was my husband’s), I know nothing about using it. I didn’t even realize how important the lens is. Thanks for enlightening me! πŸ™‚

  21. Love this post lady…as you know…we are planning on investing in a camera soon but it seems like upgrading apartments and starting a new film means that I am spending more and working too much to play/learn! I can’t wait to get a dSLR though and the lens of course! Your photos are always beautiful no matter which camera…you have quite the eye. I need some bean cutlets in my life too!

  22. so glad you posted this bc i almost went out and bought a really expensive camera just bc i thought it would work better. i just need to learn how to use the one i have!! post more stuff for us!!

  23. I love the camera class, I think you should do a whole series of these posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s