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Style File: DYLAN + JENI

Food photographers Dylan Ho and Jeni Afuso show off their favorite gear
Jeni Afuso and Dylan Ho with some of their favorite gear | Photos: DYLAN + JENI
Style File: DYLAN + JENI

Meet DYLAN + JENI, the coolest couple on the food and travel photography scene.

Dylan Ho and Jeni Afuso fell in love over late-night taco runs and cozy suppers at Lucques in Los Angeles. After a day spent stuffing themselves on a surprise trip to Mexico City, followed by a marathon meal at Pujol, Dylan popped the question, getting on one knee, surrounded by flickering candles. Jeni said a teary, "Yes."

And we know all of this because of Dylan and Jeni's now-retired food blogs, which chronicled their food-centric adventures all over Southern California and abroad, post after post of hidden restaurant gems and date nights with a mysterious "D" or "J."

These blog posts are a first glimpse of what Dylan, then an ad agency art director, and Jeni, a former kindergarten teacher, do now. That is, hang out with chefs, travel the world and shoot amazingly beautiful food and drinks for a living.

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The L.A.-based duo made the jump to full-time photography this past summer, ditching their old careers (and blogs) for this new one together, and they're doing pretty well. As in: shooting for the likes of Bon Appétit, Saveur, Food & Wine and now Tasting Table for this very feature (!!!), plus scores of big clients, like Bacardi USA, Major Food Group (Carbone, ZZ's Clam Bar) and more.

"We met through food and wrote about our food and travel experiences purely for our enjoyment like many others," Dylan reminisces. "It wasn't until we were asked to photograph for a restaurant and shoot for a publication that we realized that we could make a living out of something we enjoyed doing together."

"We got to a point where we knew we had to choose our careers," Jeni adds. "Most of my recess and lunch breaks were spent on the phone conferencing with clients or checking in on a shoot, but there was something very exciting about transitioning from a long day of teaching to jumping on a plane to shoot cocktails or pizza!"

Follow Dylan and Jeni on Instagram, and you'll see what they mean. One day they're jetting to Thailand to capture the thrill and mystery of street food for Bangkok Airways. The next, they're shooting a new restaurant in their hometown, armed with a heat gun, tweezers and a pretty amazing pair of scissors.

The pair shared their tools of the trade, from their non-DSLR shooter of choice to that all-important heat gun, plus a few coveted items they've collected on their travels (see the slideshow).

Though they blush when they look back on their old blogs, they haven't forgotten their first love connection.

"We talk about writing a travel blog together, but it's on the list of the many things we want to do together," Jeni says. "We'll get to it one day!"

But for now, the L.A. couple is fine with what they're doing: shooting their first book, one with Punch's Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, and eating, traveling and more eating.

"Our passion is learning about a culture and ethnicity, and food is the best way to experience it," Dylan says. "For example, we didn't know anything about Mongolia, and rather than just read about it, we went there for two weeks and really learned a lot . . . about Mongolia and each other."

Now that's true love.

  • Zojirushi Thermos ($42)

    Jeni: "My pet peeve is having a water bottle that condenses and leaves a wet mess. I carry my Zojirushi everywhere especially while traveling. Staying hydrated helps minimize jet lag and keeps my skin happy."

  • Evian Facial Water Spray ($21 for three)

    Jeni: "I always have Evian spray in my bag for travel and also for food shoots. Evian can wake up your skin, burgers and fresh herbs!"

  • Japanese Paring Knife ($13)

    Jeni: "I love the knife cover, and it's actually a pretty sharp knife. I use it a lot to trim down citrus or fruit on shoots. If I lose it, I won't cry, because it's under $15."

  • Kitchen Tweezer ($7)

    Dylan: "A must for styling on food and cocktail shoots."

  • Digital Heat Gun ($39)

    Jeni: "Renowned baker Sherry Yard teaches us a lot of styling tricks, and on a recent shoot, we needed to melt down her ice cream cake. Heat guns are handy when you want to reheat meat or melt cheese without torching it. It's pretty fun, but you have to practice with these guns. The guys at Home Depot were really confused when I tried to explain why I needed one. 'You're using this for cheeseburgers?!'"

  • Slip-N-Snip Scissors ($11)

    Jeni: "They are foldable and beautiful. These scissors are great to have on shoots, especially when you want to trim herbs or little food flyaways. Chefs usually question my scissors, but after a couple hours of shooting, they are always looking for them."

  • Hakuba Inner Soft Box ($11)

    Jeni: "I found these camera inserts during our trip in November, and they are perfect for converting a bag into a proper camera bag. Now I can store my camera and lens along with hard drives, laptop, food-styling gear and my makeup in my great Porter bag."

  • Roberu Camera Strap ($108)

    Jeni: "Roberu makes beautiful and practical leather goods. Their straps are handmade in Yokohama, adjustable and the leather is soft and comfortable around the neck and shoulders. And they are so beautiful. We get tons of comments on our straps."

  • Porter Tanker Bag ($451)

    Jeni: "We use our Porter Tanker bags as our camera/work/travel bags. They are light and don't look like they're used for holding camera gear; they're the best."

  • Olympus PEN E-P5 Camera ($1,000) and Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/1.8 Lens ($450)

    Dylan: "Our camera for travel and street photography. Sometimes the best photos we take don't always come from a DSLR. People usually shy away when they see it, so this comes in handy for more candid shots. The 17mm lens is a standard lens for the Olympus PEN, and it's the equivalent to a 35mm lens on a DSLR. For me, a 35mm lens is a great lens for traveling, because it allows you to get close enough to shoot food and details yet wide enough to capture scenes and landscapes."

  • Contax 2 (starting at $345)

    Dylan: "I have a nice collection of compact and SLR film cameras at home—kind of like my little nostalgic museum. Although it's not practical to shoot film on many of our jobs due to the cost of developing film, there's something we still miss about hearing the sound of film. Digital will never have that feeling and texture of film photography."

  • Middle Eastern Spices

    Dylan: "Lots of ras al hanout, harissa, chermoula, cumin, black cumin and a lot
    of blends. We use them every day, especially over a fried egg or avocado toast. We eat a lot of eggs."

  • Pelican 1050 Micro Case ($16)

    Dylan: "Pelicans were originally manufactured for trigger-happy people (guns). It was only a matter of time that they would become the standard for transporting expensive photography equipment. We use these for our hard drives but also recommend the larger cases for carrying cameras and lenses on land, sea and air."

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