Lately, I've been reading up on food photography, checking out a bunch of the food porn sites for trends, and then putting that knowledge into practice. There are a few tips and tricks to getting somewhat decent photos that will get you featured on FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Photograzing, Tasteology, etc., and these same tips and tricks can improve your blog or Instructables if you photograph food or drinks.
Or whatever. No promises.
But first off before getting into the fun stuff in this Instructable, it's important to go over these important things...
Hopefully, you know a few things about camera settings, but in case you don't...
Aperature: This is the eye inside your lens measured in f-stops. The more wide open the eye, the smaller the f-stop number. The more closed the eye, the bigger the f-stop number. The smaller the f-stop number, the shallower the depth of field (i.e., only a bit in focus and a lot blurred). The bigger the f-stop number, the deeper the depth of field (i.e., lots in focus and very little blurred).
Shutter Speed: This is how quickly that eye opens and closes measured in seconds or fractions of a second. If you want to "freeze" movement, the eye has to open and close quicker than the movement. If you want to "blur" the movement, the eye has to open and close slower than the movement. As a general rule of thumb, you don't want to be holding a camera with a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second because it will catch your movement as the photographer in the image. To be on the safe side, I try not to go slower than 1/80 with hand-held.
ISO: This is how sensitive the eye is and determines how grainy the image will be be. An ISO of 100 isn't sensitive to light and requires lots of it in either "volume" or exposure time, and it produces the clearest images. An ISO of 3200 is very sensitive to light and doesn't require much of it, but it produces more grain than an ISO of 100.
Each one of these interacts with one another for correct exposure (i.e., the right amount of light and dark). If you change one, you'll have to change another, and you'll need to prioritize what's more important.
Now that's out of the way, I've read and seen a lot of food photographers using very large apertures (i.e., small f-stops) for interest, but I prefer a small aperture because I like to keep as much in focus as possible and generally work with still life setups using a tripod and remote shutter release which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to do this. The gear is quite cheap for the beginner stuff. And outside of aperture, eh, there's not much else discussed because it's a matter of freezing motion (if any) and deciding on graininess.
Once you've decided on the right camera settings, you have to then consider your audience. Is it for yourself, Instructables, one of the food porn sites, or other photographers? This is going to greatly affect how you style, photograph, and edit, but if you're doing this for something other than yourself, you should probably make sure you have one shot that makes for a nice square thumbnail. It doesn't have to be the "wow" shot - it just has to be A shot.
And generally for the food porn sites, you want bright, crisp, clear photos with a lot of the subject in the frame. This isn't the rule, but it's the safest route in my experience. Think "Real Simple" rather than "Cigar Aficionado".