You don’t have to break the bank on haute cuisine to take a mouthwatering photo. In fact, two basic elements will help you savor your plate long past dinnertime: mood and detail. Here’s how to choose the right props and camera settings for winning breakfast, lunch, and dinner shots.

MORNING MAGIC

You’re meeting your friends for coffee, and you’ve chosen a bright restaurant with a rise-and-shine atmosphere. To play on the airy tones of your foamy cappuccino, find a seat next to the window to let natural light work its magic. While the sun rises over your brunch hour, you’ll get warmer tones for your photo, which is great for creating cozy café vibes. Just be sure to avoid direct light as that can wash out both you and your cup.

Once you have the perfect lighting, gather your props to set the stage for your shot. At a restaurant, you can incorporate everything from the texture of the table to the design of the plates.

Finally, look for details in your morning meal. Showcase the steam rising from your coffee cup or buttery flakes peeling from your pastry. With a wide aperture (f/1.8 for example), you can achieve a detailed food photo with the blurry background we all love.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Dan Louie | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera

MEALS ON THE GO

Apply the same principals for every meal time. No matter where you are, lunch hour tends to be fast paced. An outdoor eatery like a food truck or patio is a great set up, but without the right coverage, the bright afternoon sun will overexpose your perfectly prepared food photo. Grab a spot in the shade to soften the sun’s rays.

You may be on your feet, but there are still opportunities to create a “tablescape” effect for your photo. Start by finding an interesting wall or floor and use it as your background. Coupling stylish shoes with a great wall mural or cobblestone road will bring both color and texture into your meal setting. If you’re holding your food for the shot, it’s natural to expect some hand movement. Keep your shutter speed high to reduce blur and maintain the details.

To combine food photography and travel photography, try composing a #FoodWithAView shot by framing your meal with your view as a backdrop. It’s a great way to show off a destination and its specialty dish in one photo.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Genesis Noemi Carreon | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 II R Lens

EVENING OUTINGS

Dinnertime often goes one of two ways: romantic and intimate or vibrant and social. Using the tips we’ve shared for morning and midday meals, set the mood with a cool sunset, candles, or a hanging fixture. For darker dinner dates, try using a lens with a fixed focal length and a wide aperture (f/1.8 lens, for example) to allow as much light through the lens as possible. Shooting wide open at f/1.8 will give you a shallow the depth of field, keeping your subject in sharp focus while beautifully blurring the background.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Kathryn Carney | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 Lens

As you prepare, consider a mid-meal photo incorporating hands and smiling faces. Much of food photography focuses on the plate, but you can create a beautiful image that highlights both the food and your company.

The last thing you should know before flooding your feed with delicious photos is food photography etiquette. The rule of thumb is to be as discrete as possible. Use a camera with a silent electronic shutter to mute all camera sounds and take your photo quickly. Cameras with built-in image stabilization will keep your photos sharp while using slower shutter speeds. This allows more light into the lens so you can forgo the flash even in darker settings. Lastly, to avoid unwanted attention, opt for a compact and lightweight camera system.

For travel photographers, capturing the venue is almost as important as sharing the food itself. Ask the chef or your waiter if they mind you taking their photo while they prepare or serve the food.

Once you’ve added the finishing touch, it’s finally time to eat, sip, and watch the likes rack up.

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