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Photographer's tip: How to take great photos of food

Fries with Aioli at Cafe Belong at Evergreen Brick Works shot with shallow depth of field.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Each week, a Globe photographer shares his or her experience taking photos for the camera club assignment. This week's assignment is food.

You planned for weeks, scouring your celebrity chef cookbooks for just the right recipes. Now it's time to show off by shooting a photo for your Facebook page. It turned out great, but for some reason that iPhone shot just doesn't look as good as it did in that cookbook.

Most food photography is high production, but you don't need a team of food stylists and professional photographers to make that lamb chop look as delicious as it tasted. This week, instead of using your smartphone, grab your DSLR to make your culinary creations look like the pros.

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By no means should you ask your guests to wait around while you work out just the right shooting angle, so here are some quick tips that you can use every time.

Assuming you're using one of the many available DSLR cameras and a typical wide to telephoto zoom lens, you'll want to chose either manual exposure or the relevant aperture-priority exposure setting. This ensures you'll be shooting with a wide open aperture setting (more on that later).

Now let's talk lighting. The best light to use when shooting food is soft, natural light. This is easily achieved by using the light from a nearby window. By placing the dish as close to the window as possible, you'll be able to get the maximum amount light on the food. Another bonus of using window light is it will cast soft and natural-looking shadows that give depth and shape to your food.

A common technique used in shooting food is shallow depth-of-field, meaning only parts of the dish are in sharp focus, bringing attention to certain ingredients, colours or shapes.

Position yourself so the light source (in this case the window) is coming from behind you or off to one side. You'll need to determine a proper exposure setting, but usually once you do this it will remain pretty much the same for the entire shoot.

Since the aim is to keep that lens wide open, try different combination of ISO and shutter speed settings to get one that matches the light and still allows some steadiness (1/60th of a second or higher).

Now it's time to experiment a bit. Positioning yourself about two to four feet away from the dish, and slightly above, zoom in using your telephoto. Move closer to the food and further away. By focusing on different spots in the dish, you can change the look entirely. There's no right or wrong, but it's best to concentrate on specific ingredients near the front of the plate.

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As they say, there are many ways to shoot a duck, so this is just a start. By experimenting with different angles, plates and table accessories you can be the envy of the dinner party crowd.

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