Restaurant Photography Workshop with Kera Wong

Restaurant Photography Workshop with Kera Wong

In collaboration with Georges Cameras, Kera Wong, a Sydney-based food photographer and stylist, explores the complexities of capturing food and drinks in an on-location and studio setup. This guide takes you through key elements such as flash photography, lens preferences, the specific types of images to capture, plus the top picks for cameras suited for this fast-growing genre.



Flat Lay Photography: Essentials for Success

Flat-lay photography provides a top-down perspective, enabling a rich view that can include elements like utensils, textiles, and ingredients. For success in this your tripod is key piece of equipment. 


Flat-Lay Tripods

You will require a tripod that is robust, tall enough to get over the top of your subject and ensure that it is out of your shot. 

The reason why you want a robust tripod is to stabilising your camera and facilitating precise adjustments to your framing.


Flat-Lay Tripod Heads

The two types of heads that we would recommend is either a ball head or a geared head. The ball head will allow you to get fast and easy control for people working to a deadline and happy to crop in post. For those of you that like to get it right the first time and want to work with precision we would recommend geared heads where you can quickly get to where you need to be and then fine tune the exact framing of your shot. 


Flat-Lay Tripod Accessories

The final piece of the puzzle are key accessories that will make your life easier, safer and overall a more enjoyable experience. Such as arms that extend the perpendicular extension of your tripod. Both Manfrotto and Sirui offer great options for our flat-lay photographers, the HA-22 from Sirui is our favourite, with its long extension and ease of use. The other item when extending your camera perpendicular to your shot is a sandbag to ensure that you don't lose your camera or hurt anyone on set.

Balanced lighting is equally vital, as it ensures that every part of your composition is well-illuminated, avoiding harsh shadows and highlights that could distort the food's colours or textures.

When it comes to composition, arranging your elements to guide the viewer's eye through the image is crucial. Use the rule of thirds or golden ratio grids to position key items and create a sense of balance. Also, a camera with a tiltable screen can greatly aid in fine-tuning the layout. If your camera does not offer a tiltable screen there are many external monitors that will allow you to not only tilt the angle to assist you while shooting at a high angle but will also assist you in focusing, exposure and viewing in brighter light with a higher NIT values than your on camera monitors. 

In addition, employing a prop stylist (or learning from Kera) can improve your flat lay to a professional level. A stylist can expertly select and position props, ensuring the scene retains visual interest without overshadowing the food. The stylist can also collaborate with you on the best lighting setups, maximising the impact of your image.


Flash Photography: Its Importance in Food Imaging

High-quality lighting is often the main element in food photography, elevating the subject from a bland image to a culinary masterpiece. Kera underscores this point by praising the unparalleled quality of light emitted by Profoto's range of products. Two models from Profoto that stand out are the A10 and the B10s.

The A10 is compact yet powerful, offering speed and flexibility, particularly useful in fast-paced restaurant settings. The B10s, on the other hand, provide a robust range of features, including variable colour temperature and higher power output, making them ideal for more controlled studio setups.

These Profoto models are supported by a large range of light modifiers that allow you to sculpt the light to fit the specific food you are capturing. Whether you're looking to highlight the ice in a freshly mixed cocktail or the subtle hues of a fresh salad, Profoto's light modifiers, such as softboxes, umbrellas, gels, and grids, will support you to get your required look.

Complementing these high-end lighting solutions are Manfrotto's portable light stands. When working on location like Kera, the Manfrotto stand series such as the 1004bac's (master stands) or 1052bac's (more compact option) are stackable. This will ensure you not only have solid, gas filled lights stands to support your gear but a lighting kit that is conveniently locked together to ensure easier transport.

Manfrotto is known for their durability quality and ease of setup and packup. These stands are an ideal match for Profoto's lighting equipment, ensuring a sturdy setup and adding an extra layer of reliability to your food photography setup.


Macro Lenses and Focal Lengths in Food Photography

Capturing food details often leads professionals like Kera to rely on specialised equipment. Macro lenses, such as the Canon RF 100mm f2.8 IS USM, are pivotal in her toolkit, excelling in capturing minute details that make culinary subjects captivating. Such lenses mimic the closeness with which diners naturally interact with their food, offering enhanced texture and subtle delicacies.

When it comes to focal lengths, choices are equally abundant. While Kera vouches for the 100mm for compelling close-ups, we also recommend 50mm or 35mm lenses for capturing a dish within its surrounding context. Ultimately, focal lengths should be selected based on specific needs, the nature of the dish, and the final visual outcome you seek.

For instance, the RF 24mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM is brilliant for wider angles, such as capturing an entire table setting. Whereas the RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM offers versatility, making it ideal for situations where you might also want to photograph people alongside food. On the other hand, the RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM serves well when space is limited, delivering a broader perspective within confined areas.

Choosing Between Zoom and Prime Lenses

Like the lenses mentioned above, the decision for prime or zoom should be based on your specific needs: opt for prime lenses for specialised shots and greater detail, or choose zoom lenses for more flexibility in capturing different angles and distances.


Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are celebrated for their exceptional image quality, offering a single, fixed focal length that often results in superior optical performance. Their construction allows for a larger aperture, providing better performance in low light conditions and enabling a shallower depth of field for aesthetic focus. This makes them particularly useful for specialised shots that require keen attention to detail, such as capturing a dish's texture and colour hues. However, the fixed focal length means that you'll need to physically move to recompose your shot, which might be limiting in confined spaces such as restaurants or kitchens.


Zoom Lenses

Alternatively, zoom lenses offer the convenience of multiple focal lengths within a single lens, allowing for versatile compositions. This is particularly useful when photographing from a fixed position or moving around becomes challenging. A zoom lens can quickly adapt to capture tight close-ups and broader environmental shots. However, the versatility comes at the expense of some image quality and generally smaller aperture sizes, potentially compromising the capture of detail and performance in low-light conditions.



Top Cameras for Food Photography

Selecting the right camera is a pivotal decision in capturing the perfect food shot, and Canon's EOS series has something to offer photographers at every skill level.


For the Professional: The Canon EOS R5

This camera is a perfect match for the professional whose livelihood depends on capturing incredible photos. With a high-resolution sensor and advanced image stabilisation, the R5 can capture the finest details of a culinary masterpiece, from texture to colour. Its high-speed shooting capabilities make it perfect for capturing dynamic action, like the sizzle of a dish or the iconic sauce pour.


For the Semi-Pro: The Canon EOS R8

The Canon EOS R8 is a perfect middle-ground solution for those who have moved beyond casual photography but are not yet fully committed to a professional setup. It features many of the high-end capabilities of the R5 but is housed in a slightly less complex structure, making it less overwhelming for those still learning the ropes. It offers robust autofocus and excellent image quality, making it versatile enough to handle various food photography scenarios. In our opinion, the EOS R8 is ideal for photographers looking to elevate their portfolio or even venture into paid gigs.


For the Enthusiast: The Canon EOS R50

This entry-level camera is an excellent starting point for those wanting to try their hand at food photography. While it may lack some of the higher-end features, it provides a strong balance between ease of use and performance. Its menu and button configuration is less daunting for newcomers, and its image sensor and processing capabilities produce exceptional results when paired with a high-quality RF lens.


Learn More at Kera's Workshop

If you find these tips useful and want hands-on experience photographing food, Kera will host an upcoming workshop at the D's Bar and Dining. This will be an excellent opportunity for anyone wishing to learn directly from Kera who has five years experience in this artform. For more events like this one, check out the Georges Cameras Eventbrite Page.