People often me ask how do I photograph food. Point is, most restaurants don’t exactly offer ideal lighting conditions and flash photography is aesthetically and socially inappropriate. The trick is a good camera and steady hands.
Most photographs on this site were taken with Nikon Digital SLR cameras. Before November 08, with a D70 and, most recently, with a D90–that even though is a great camera, brought me even greater disappointment*.
If you are not familiar with an SLR, those are the large cameras with interchangeable lenses that are anything but discreet. But they offer the photographer much better control, speed and image quality than a compact point-and-shoot. Taking an SLR for dinner comes with some consequences though.
Beyond the additional weight, it will inevitably cause some head turning and the embarrassment of your table companions. While dining at the quiet COI, in San Francisco, the Maître d’ whispered politely as he poured the wine, “Sir, you just won the prize for largest camera in the dining room”.
While people and architecture subjects are shot with an 18-105mm zoom lens, all food photography is taken with a 60mm Micro f/2.8. This is an amazing lens because it allows you to get very close to the dish and produce a beautiful, shallow dept of field. More recently, I've been using a 17-55mm f/2.8 which allows me to shoot both architecture and food without the sometimes unpractical interchanging of lenses, killing 2 birds with one stone. A pretty heavy stone nonetheless.
In some dining rooms the dim light creates very challenging conditions for good photography imposing high ISO settings and low shutter speeds. The result is images with less depth, grainy and often blurred. When the light is simply insufficient or the restaurant won’t allow cameras inside, reviews are illustrated only by memory.
*A few months ago I bought the brand new D90. After being a loyal Nikon customer for over 20 years and having had recommended the brand over Canon to many, many people, I found myself extremely disappointed with what I got (read the full story here). So for this reason, I can’t really say you should buy a Nikon camera anymore, the headache is simply not worth it.