No travel photography portfolio is complete without a few snaps of food. Apart from being delicious, foreign food is a world away from standard British fare: whether it’s a mezze breakfast in Jordan, a sushi lunch in Tokyo or a steak dinner in New York.

But good photos of food – as every travel photographer has discovered – are hard. Without a bit of thought and effort even the finest output of a Michelin-starred restaurant will look about as appetising as the output of your dog. So thank goodness for us: we’ve polled some of our top ambassadors and compiled their top tips for food photography into this delicious list.

1. Get flash(es)

You already know light’s important in photography, but when it comes to food you need to be particularly thoughtful. Try to stage your shots near a window for interesting, soft shadows and natural-looking light that will make organic food look its best. Bonus points for going a few months between window cleans, as a mucky window will diffuse and soften light nicely.

If you struggle for natural light – gotta keep those ISOs down, after all – it’s time to look at off-camera lighting. Think about getting a couple of strobes with diffusing boxes or umbrellas. Experiment with lighting your food from directly above, or lighting it unevenly from the sides to create interesting shadows.

2. Everything matters

If all you’re thinking about in your food photography is what’s on the plate, you’re already losing the battle. Not only does the plate itself matter, but so does the cutlery, the tablecloth and everything else in the frame. If your table cloth has a particularly mad pattern it might be worth getting hold of a plain white cotton topper; alternatively get hold of a bunch of fabric swatches to use as makeshift tablecloths. Plates matter as well – have a couple of options ready to go, and be ready to experiment with other materials such as bamboo cutting boards or slates. Just try not to end up on the @wewantplates Twitter feed…

3. Colouring in

When it comes to choosing props and backgrounds, have an eye on colour. We’re too busy cooking to give you a run-down of colour theory, but if you head here and choose the predominant colour of your food in the middle box, the colour wheel will suggest complementary colours to go with it. Use the suggestions to find good-looking backgrounds, table cloths and so on.

4. Stage, stage, stage

If you just plop your food on a plate and snap a picture you’re unlikely to come out with much of interest. Keep a spray bottle of water handy to keep your greens fresh-looking, and a little olive oil, applied sparingly with a brush, will give your food a healthy-looking sheen. Want to give your food that hot-from-the-oven look? A little cotton wool hidden behind your plate and soaked in very hot (careful!) water will make your food look steaming hot.

Ready, steady, cook! If you start making mouth-watering masterpieces, let us know! You can join our Flickr group, or tag us with #OlympusUK on Instagram and we’ll share the best images we see.