I took the photo above of a penne carbonara dish[?] at Trattoria Monti in Rome with my friend’s Canon EOS 10D and a 50mm/f1.8 lens. I love food; food is a critical part of any cultural experience. Documenting my meals is extremely important to me, not only when I’m traveling but also when I’m trying out a new restaurant in my hometown.
The problem is that food photos you see in magazines, like Bon Appetit, are usually staged (see The Dirty Tricks of Food Photographers). Unfortunately, when eating at a restaurant, most people don’t have the luxury of ‘preparing’ the food for photos. Mood lighting at many restaurants is awful for photographs, for example, unlike in a studio where many food photographs for magazines are taken. It’s also important to be considerate of the other diners, especially at higher end restaurants; that means not using flash or walking around with your camera. Most of the time, I’m so hungry I often forget to even take pictures.
Compact cameras are capable of taking decent food photographs. The photographs of the green beans and berry tart from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Restaurant in Napa Valley were taken with my girlfriend’s Canon SD790 IS. But a digital SLR (DSLR) with a fast lens can really stand out, especially under poor lighting conditions. Unfortunately, there’s not much else you can do sometimes.
Digital Photography School and O’Reilly Digital Media have great tips on improving your food photography. For some really beautiful sites about food and photography, check out Honey & Jam, Still Life With and La Tartine Gourmande. If you want some serious food porn, visit TasteSpotting.com.
Update: Here are some good food photography tips from Beyond Megapixels.