Wondering why your barista spent three minutes perfecting the foam art masterpiece on your mocha latte this morning? Hint: it wasn’t to make you late.

These days, food is intentionally packaged, brewed, and arranged to be Instagram ready. That’s right. If you love food photography, there’s no better time to be alive. But since snapping stunning shots of fresh berries sprinkled over malt pavlova, lemon curd, and buttermilk ice isn’t always as easy as it looks, here are some essential food styling tips for snapping drool-worthy shots every time.

1 USE TRADITIONAL & NON- TRADITIONAL FRAMING

Take a moment to play around with basic photo framing: the rule of thirds, S curves, leading lines, diagonal lines, and symmetry versus asymmetry. Certain foods may look beautiful when arranged on a simple plate, while other foods take on a new form if you fill your frame with an extreme close-up. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you don’t have to fit everything in your photo every time. Let your viewer’s imagination run wild by choosing to share just a part of your seven-course spread.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Mayra Galicia | OM-D E-M10 | Zuiko 50MM F1.8

2 KEEP IT SIMPLE

Let the food shine by focusing on the details of the dish. Think about how many textures and colors there are: the rough sheen of sashimi flesh, the lumpy skin of mini pumpkins, the red shell of Cajun crawfish in the boiling pot. Once you have your staring subject (above it’s the smoothie), play around with the depth. Using a lens with a fast aperture (an f/2.0 lens, for example) allows you capture an image with shallow depth of field. This creates a blurred background effect, which better emphasizes your subject.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Ellee Koss | Shot on an Olympus OM-D

3 SELECT THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS

A perfect image is all in the prep. This could mean work-in-progress shots of diced vegetables on a wooden board or fruit sitting in a harvest basket waiting to be baked. Use ingredients to add character and texture by creating imperfections like overflowing sauces, dollops of cream, herbs, crumbs, and grains of sea salt. Again, think about the depth of your photo and focus on various ingredients to see what yields the best shot.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Ariane Gagner | Shot on an Olympus OM-D

4 SEEK OUT INTERESTING PLATING

When you’re out to dinner, order dishes that arrive to your table on something other than a standard plate. Think pan-seared arctic char, lobster buckets, or baskets topped with crab legs. They instantly add dimension and texture.

At home, marble countertops and bucolic wooden tables naturally create a photogenic contrast between subject and background. Cake stands go the distance when photographing cupcakes, pastries, and cakes. Always be on the lookout for interesting bowls, plates, and artisanal cutting boards when visiting your local flea market.

5 SKIP THE TRIPOD

Most people are reluctant to bring a full tripod set-up into a restaurant, and rightfully so. That’s why food critics and photographers often use a discreet, lightweight camera. Opt for a camera with built-in image stabilization to counteract inevitable shaky hands. This ensures the photos you take of the crème brûlée you’re about to devour are as crisp as it’s perfectly burnt crust, sans tripod.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Yanna Ye | Shot on an Olympus OM-D

6 FIND OPTIMAL LIGHTING

Natural lighting is good, but natural lighting with a hazy filter is even better. Always aim to shoot outdoors during golden hour or use translucent curtains to filter intense light through windows. Also, don’t be afraid of shooting at a high ISO (400 – 1600) to get an artfully grainy shot. If neither of these options are available, use a camera with manual settings to adjust exposure or a lens with a fast aperture that captures more light when shooting delectable dishes in low light areas. Just leave the flash off.

For an added boost, use editing apps like Snapseed, Afterlight, VSCO, or Olympus OI.Share to adjust brightness, warmth, and color saturation on your phone to make your pictures pop.

Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Shari Canete | OM-D E-M10 Mark II | M.Zuiko 25MM F1.8

Making food look as good in pictures as it smells in person isn’t as easy as it looks, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science either. These six tips will help you shoot like a pro next time you find yourself in the presence of a life-sized slice of pizza or a perfectly colorful display at your favorite cupcake shop.

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