Source: I am paid to take pictures of food. All of these photos are iphone (5 and 6), edited in Snapseed, a free photo editing app that is the greatest thing in the history of the universe. None of these are staged shots, they're my actual meals I've eaten, where I've eaten them, etc.
  1. 1.
    Natural light ALWAYS. This is non-negotiable for the best photos.
  2. 2.
    The direct-overhead shot is the right choice 97% of the time
  3. 3.
    Though if something is vertically interesting (or if gravity is involved), go for a dead-on 90-degree shot
  4. 4.
    Experiment with distance from your subject. A tight shot...
  5. 5.
    ...tells a very different story than a pulled-back one...
  6. 6.
    ...or even a SUPER pulled-back one.
  7. 7.
    Think about your backgrounds. More than the subject of the photo, it's the background that tells the story.
  8. 8.
    Experiment with filling the whole frame. Use clutter and context to build mood.
    The most important thing here is how things break at the edge of the frame. Make sure you're being thoughtful about where shapes and objects are being cut off.
  9. 9.
    Emptiness can be a powerful tool.
    But it requires either flawless symmetry, or extreme asymmetry. The empty space has to feel intentional.
  10. 10.
    You may have noticed by now that these photos are all full of circles.
    The secret to food photography is circles, especially in terms of how they relate to each other, and how they break (either by overlapping each other or by breaking at the edge of the frame). (Hi @roseveleth!)
  11. 11.
    You have to be okay with the fact that a good photo takes work.
    Occasionally you might get a perfect plate on a perfect surface with perfect light, and all you have to do is hit a button and it's Instagram gold. But the illusion of effortlessness is usually just an illusion. Even spending 60 seconds thinking about the background, the angle, and the light will up your food photo game by 10000%. I've started going out to breakfast more mostly because the light is better. No shame.
  12. 12.
    Don't show hands that have chipped nail polish on them
    It's incredibly unappetizing. Just, no.
  13. 13.
    PS. Drinks are not food, they photograph differently
    Food is irregular and messy and textured. When you think you're shooting a drink, usually what you're really shooting is a glass. It's REALLY HARD to take good drinks photos. That's for a later list.
  14. 14.
    If you take awesome food instas, I want to see them! Tag me! I'm <helenr> on Instagram.