Recently I have been trying to contribute to a food blog. Food photography is something that can be tricky to learn let alone master. Like most people my first attempt was not as impressive as I thought it would be. Getting to know the tricks behind lighting, timing and presentation was something new to me. The pressure is higher when it is in live time and things cannot be slowed down. Food that is hot won't give you much time to capture those steam streams that come out of it. You have to be more creative and flexible.
Some lessons that I learned the hard way:
1) Kitchens are dark places. There is little you can do sometimes about the location where food is prepared. Home kitchens are not always the most fancy open spaces possible with the plenty of natural light one expects. In fact most times it is hard to get enough light in the kitchen. Restaurants usually have kitchens in the back of the restaurant or sometimes even at basement level. The light they have comes mostly from fluorescent lighting on the ceiling. You have to calibrate your white balance, use a diffuser for fluorescent lighting for your flash and at the same time find the right surface or background that will not reflect too much of the light back.
2) How your food looks in the plate is the only way to convey how great it will taste to the readers. Decorating your plate is important but there is also a thing as too much decorating. Start off simple and build up. Start with a clean plate and place just the food that is cooked in it. Most times that is enough. Sometimes a little garnish might be desirable. Work with the colors and find complementary tones.
3) Food will not stay steaming hot for too long. Work fast and know if possible in advance when the food is coming out on the plate.
As for equipment, I use mostly my 90mm macro lens and as a backup my 18-50mm lens. I also use my 50mm prime lens from time to time. Finally if you can use a tripod then do. Makes all the difference when in low light or when you need a sequence of pictures from the same setting. Finally just practice at home with your own food. Try some different plates and angles and judge for yourself.