By Travel & Leisure
September 17, 2013
Credit: Malley Priebe

Ask an Expert: David Alexander Arnold, Travel + Leisure’s Deputy Photo Editor

Q: What’s the secret to great food photography? I often take pictures of my meals, but I’m never happy with them. —Jay Davidson, Lake Oswego, Ore.

A: If possible, sit by a window or outside: natural light almost always produces the best results. Experiment with shooting in the shade and direct light. Since tight shots can make the food unidentifiable and sometimes unappetizing, try putting some distance between your camera and the plate. Shooting straight down from above lets you see everything clearly and is usually a flattering angle for food. Don’t forget to stabilize the camera by using both hands and bracing yourself against the table or a wall, which prevents blurriness caused by movement. If you have an iPhone, SnapDish (iTunes; free) is a must—it edits even the darkest photos to look magazine-worthy and, another plus, links directly to Twitter.

Q: We want to try a cooking class with a notable chef. What’s on your radar? —Lori Bennett, Cambridge, Mass.

A: At Tennessee’s 4,200-acre Blackberry Farm (doubles from $695, including meals; three-day events from $600), demonstrations are often held by star chefs—Eleven Madison Park’s Daniel Humm and James Beard Award winner David Kinch are on the roster in the coming months. About an hour south of Santa Cruz, California, at L’Auberge Carmel (doubles from $425; classes from $100), the executive chefs of Aubergine teach both sweet and savory courses (including one on the intricacies of Monterey Bay abalone); Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck give lessons at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa (doubles from $299; classes from $95). And this July in Tuscany’s 11th-century Villa Montecastelli (212/414-4898; seven days from $3,650 per person), guests can spend a week with chef Marco Canora (of New York City’s Hearth restaurant) touring the property’s organic farm before gathering in the kitchen to learn to make everything from fresh pasta to zucchini frittata.

Q: Which food bloggers should I be following? —Kate Sanchez, Oak Brook, Ill.

A: To get the hometown take on five culinary capitals, check out these favorite upstart food bloggers: Expat Katie Parla documents hidden gems and must-try dishes in Rome, while Jason Tse does the same for his native Hong Kong. LondonEater and A Gringo in Buenos Aires report on the “it” restaurants in their respective cities. And we can never resist the mouthwatering photos posted by Singapore’s Ladyironchef.

Q: Short of bribery, how can I secure a reservation at a hot restaurant? —Emmett Dixon-Schmidt, via e-mail

A: There’s no real secret to booking sought-after tables, but there are a few ways to improve your chances. “Call the restaurant and ask to speak to the host,” recommends Michael Bailey, director of guest relations at Manhattan’s storied Monkey Bar. “Show respect and be flexible. Never demand a table.” Specialty concierges with Quintessentially, Luxury Attaché, and American Express Platinum, from T+L’s parent company, offer members exclusive access at many restaurants. Track last-minute cancellations with the OpenTable app (iTunes; free), which monitors reservations directly. And here’s a tip: many top restaurants hold tables for industry regulars, but have been known to free those seats for gracious walk-ins.