Tell a story
It doesn't matter if you are showcasing the skills of a rising chef or a great meal shared with friends at a local joint you need to tell a story. This can be accomplished by having the ambience and environment featured in your photo. This photo was taken at a fine dining restaurant Clementine. The photo says upscale without being pretentious; this reflects the demeanor of the restaurant.
See the Light
Photography in its basic form is capturing light. Before selecting a spot to take a picture of food scout out what looks like interesting light. Light gives the food texture and depth. Windows are fantastic light sources for food. A great place to start is with the window light coming in from the side or back of the food. You can use a square 12 inch white card on the other side of the food to bounce light that has come in for the window to fill in the shadow area. A white card can be a piece of foam core or poster board. In a pinch you can just use a white napkin or tablecloth. In this photo the window is back left and the fill card is placed front right to fill in the shadows. A nice benefit of this lighting is the sun passing through the mint.
Change Your Perspective
Try different views of your subject: above, below, slight angle, down low, up close, or far away. Rotate the plate or drink to find the best angle. Eventually you will find a perspective that will speak to you and the shot will work.
Know Your Camera
It doesn't matter if you have a point and shoot or a high-end Pro D-SLR, the better you know your tool the more successful you will be. That's right, read your manual! Also, find books on photography, listen to photography podcasts, and talk to more experience photographers. It is very important to learn the basics of photography and understand the relationship of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Then you won't be as frustrated when you have no clue what happened to that photo and you will know how to fix it.
Look At Other Work
Magazines are the greatest way of seeing current trends in food photography and styling. Each one has its own "look" but there are many similarities. Some of the best food shots can be found in Gourmet, Food and Wine, Real Simple, Bon Appetite, and Saveur. Take the time to cut out your favorite pictures and save them in one place. It can be fun to try and replicate a picture for practice.
If you are interested to see the rest of this series of photographs the gallery is on photography page under Clementine Tasting.