I use a Nikon D300. Nikon no longer makes this model, but I’m sure I’ll have it for years. I love it.
I am a Nikon girl, through and through, but I also know how amazing Canon cameras are. Get what you are comfortable with. My personal opinion is that they are both fantastic, no one company makes better products than the other, overall. I do, however, feel that Canon has a slight edge on the camera body, and Nikon has a slight edge on the lenses.
If you are in the market for a DSLR, and you want to learn for real (as in find a way to learn all the settings and get out of Auto Mode) I would recommend buying a Big Girl camera right away. Instead of wasting money on a camera that you will outgrow in a few months.
I also recommend (strongly) that you buy the body only and a lens separately. DSLR camera bodys come in two options, Body Only and Body Kit (body with a sub par lens). Body only is significantly cheaper and you can save that $200 you would have spent on a low quality lens and get one more specific to what you want. If you buy a body only, you HAVE to buy a lens or you will not be able to use the camera.
As far as a Camera Body, I recommend:
Nikon D90, great camera for a beginer, but you won’t outgrow it anytime soon.
Nikon D7000, a step up from the D90, more of a pro camera.
Nikon D700, this is the Big Girl camera that I want. A pro camera.
As for a lens, these are the two best for the price:
50mm 1.8 or 50mm 1.4, These are the most popular lenses with food bloggers. Plus, they are awesome for portraits so they will double as a great lens for shots of your kids. The price difference between the two is pretty big. The shooting difference is that last number, 1.8 or 1.4, this is the widest aperture the lens will allow. Basically, that fun creamy, blur you get in the background with a nice crisply in-focus subject (called Bokeh): that is what that number controls. The lower the number the bigger the background blur. If you can’t afford a 1.4 then a 1.8 will get the job done just fine. This is a prime lens, which means it does not zoom. At all.
40mm Macro (micro), This is the lens I use the most. It gets that clear crispy focused details that I can’t get as easily with the 50mm. I LOVE this lens, and for the price it is an amazing piece of glass. A side note, Nikon calls their Macro lenses “Micro” for God knows what reason, but everyone else calls them Macro.
Plate to Pixel, an absolute must read if you want to get into food photography.
Lowel Ego Lights, Natural light is best, make no mistake about that. Which is why I sometimes get up at 5am to finish a dish so that I can shoot it in natural light before I go to work. BUT There are times when natural light just can’t be waited for, and artificial light is necessary. These are the most commonly used lights by food bloggers.
Lightroom, This is what I use most often to edit photos, I love it.
Photoshop Elements, I also use this when I find things that can’t be done with Lightroom.
CS5, another Photoshop program. It is amazing, and amazingly expensive. That last part is why I don’t own it, but a lot of food photographers use it and love it.
Coffee Shop Blog, has a lot of free actions and tutorials.
YouTube, just about any how-to you want on how to use photoshop, install actions, or use your camera.
Ken Rockwell, I’m pretty sure that this guy has used every camera ever invented. Plus, he writes these great manuals about how to use them in real human language (i.e. that setting sucks, don’t use it. Or, If you do this it will jack up your camera). Although his site isn’t super easy to navigate (I ended up just goggling ”Ken Rockwell Manual D300″) he has great advice on lenses and cameras. Also, he gives you his manuals for free, but asked that you send him $5 Paypal, if you are so inclined. I did, the best $5 I ever spent. His manual helped me learn things about my camera I didn’t even know that I NEEDED to k now. I highly recommend for all Canon and Nikon users.