Since my food photos rarely go beyond the typical bird’s-eye shot, I reached out to Edible San Diego food photographer, Olivia Hayo, to find out how to perfect that tantalizing stream of juicy peaches, perfectly frothed lattes, and drizzles of syrup cascading down stacks pancakes.

Hayo agreed to give me some hands on training at my go-to Leucadia lunch spot, Nectarine Grove. Hayo has been shooting beautiful food inside + out since graduating from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, and with an instagram feed of nothing but gorgeous food photos, I knew I was in good hands.

Look For Light

Before you even think about ordering, or if you know you’re at a restaurant worthy of a food photo op, look for your table first. Natural lighting is best, so sit outside or near a window for optimal food-friendly light.

Clean Your Lens

Front and back. This is one of the main reasons so many photos fall flat or look fuzzy. A simple swipe on your shirt will do wonders for your shot.

Play With Angles

An easy go-to is the bird’s-eye view, and while some photos actually do look best at this angle, it’s nice to change up a feed with photos shot at the natural position in which we see our food, 30–45°.

Move your dish around, play with shooting close and cropped or at a distance. You will notice as you move the angle of your camera, your food will take a variety of forms.

Some angles accurately capture  to what you are seeing, while other angles will distort the moment you’re trying to capture.  

Let it Breathe

Negative space is a food photographer’s BFF. Although your dish or dishes may have endless elements of beauty you’re dying to capture, most times, less is more.

It’s ok to crop a portion of your plate, using more of your surroundings than the food itself.

This technique adds intrigue, leaving the remainder of your mouth-watering meal to the imagination of the viewer.

Use a Mental Filter

As much as we would love to capture every (or what we think is) insta-worthy meal moment, sometimes it’s best to be present and simply enjoy the warm plate of food that sits before you.

Just as you’d rather not see yet another photo of that dog or baby (guilty!) on your friend’s account, filter your feed with a discerning eye and only use the stellar shots that will leave your instagram friends salivating for more.

While I admit, at times it can be a bit embarrassing to be “that person” who analyzes and rotates dishes, or even swaps tables for better lighting, when you get the shot, it’s worth all the eye rolls and elbow nudging judgment.

Images by Olivia Hayo and Joni Hargrave.

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