I once visited what I thought was an industrial machine shop, but turned out be a professional food photographer. He employed metal supports, chemicals like lacquer and linseed oil, compressed air, and scaled down stage foggers.
You probably won’t want to go that far, but food photography is suddenly in vogue. From Flickr groups like I Ate This with over 240,000 pictures from 24,000 members and so called food porn sites like Tastespotting and Foodgawker, photographing your food is no longer reserved for professionals, we’re all becoming food paparazzi now. If you’re going to do it, do it right.
1) Take a camera. While many people are buying the latest iPhone just for food pictures, even a low end digital camera will do a better job. Cameras like the Nikon Coolpix P7100 are popular for ease of concealment and their fast start up time. Some users have upgraded to cameras like the Nikon D90 because they want better pictures of their food.
2) Be fast. Cold food isn’t going to look good, so try to shoot while it’s still steaming and before anything melts, wilts or changes color.
3) Use natural light when possible. Side lighting from a booth window is going to be better than a pop up flash. If you’re buying an SLR for food pictures, then take the next step and get a diffuser for the pop up flash for those times you can’t avoid using the camera flash.
4) Use a low angle. The big mistake a lot of food photographers make is shooting from too high of an angle. Most people don’t view their food from straight down, so don’t shoot it from that angle. Get down as low as you can without drawing too much attention to yourself.
5) Get close, go macro. Getting a shallow depth of field on macro settings will put the focus on the food and blur out the table in the background.
6) Style it. Many chefs spend an entire year in school just on presentation. Most local restaurants will not have that training, so don’t be afraid to dress up your food a little. If you get lettuce on the side it won’t wilt by the time it gets to the table.