I think that food photography is a very funny sector: colorful compositions, tasty meals... it's simply cool. But is it possible to do food photography without expensive macro lenses or an own food stylist ?
I would say yes. Maybe you'll not obtain that fantastic pictures of some cuisine magazines but nice results are surely possible.
Some months ago I began to take pictures of dishes at my home and trying everytime to improve my results despite my low budget. Below are some tips and ideas taken from my experience. I hope they can be useful.
Professional food photographers often use food-stylists and arrange dishes that are fantastic to see but also not eatable.
I follow the philosophy that everything will be eaten after the photo session. Some dish can look nice also if it is eatable.
I prepare by myself the dishes or buy a nice meal or cake. Some subjects have already thousands of pictures online. So I prefer to take photos of traditional foods, mostly sicilian or austrian dishes.
The first thing that you absolutely need is a tripod, A cheap model will do the work too. A tripod will solve you a lot of problems.
Many photography books show difficult compositions with a lot of (expensive) lamps.
Ok, it's obviously not the same but with a big window and a tripod for long exposures you can also take some nice shoot. The backside of a big white poster can be used as a reflector to lighten the shadows or also as background for isolated images.
About shadows: give a look at the "height" of your food. Remember that higher meals give bigger shadow that probably needs to be lightened.
The tripod is also useful to try different compositions. Look through your camera and change the position of the photo elements or adjust the background. Remember also to try different camera heights and try to tilt the camera to give and idea of movement.
I like pictures where the meal seems "coming to mouth".
An other great idea is shooting narrow. For food photography I mainly use the common Canon 18-55 EF-S which has a minimum focus distance of about 28 cm. So I often obtained blurred images.
How solve this problem ? A macro lens was to expensive so I bought some close-up lenses. This lenses permit to reduce the minimum focus distance. Actually I use a lot a +2 dioptre lens to take closeups of my meals.
Give also a look at the aperture.Open to have a blurred background but not to much or your meal will only have a little portion correctly focused.
With this tips I think it is possible to improve food photos with low costs. In this page are some pictures taken as described before.