I recently produced a field segment for Check,Please! Northwest. The shoot focused on Hunger, a Seattle restaurant that features a great bar, and modern food. The shoot required b-roll neighborhood shots, a stand-up interview, b-roll shots of the restaurant, and close-up shots of drinks and food.
During the shoot I remembered a few good tips about shooting in restaurants: Lighting and lenses will make or break you.
I was pretty thankful I brought along the Canon C300 as my main camera. The interchangeable lens system allowed me to switch out my lenses between interviews, b-roll shots and food / drink shots. The built in XLR audio inputs also allowed me to ditch the Juice link I usually use with my 5D and the subsequent synching in post. The audio was richer, crisper and easier to monitor. The C300 is now my go-to camera, while I continue to use the 5D for beauty shots.
I used the Canon 24-105 f/4 for my outside shots and some inside broll shots. PRO: The lens’ long range allowed me to stick with one lens and get a variety of shots outside and inside. CON: The f/4 was fine for outside in late afternoon, but difficult inside without additional lights.
For the food and drink shots, it’s hard to beat the Canon 70-100 f/2.8. PRO: The f/2.8 keeps the high quality resolution while capturing beautiful imagery in low light. CON: Yes, it’s ridiculously expensive, but you are able to get the close up shots that would not have been possible otherwise – I typically just rent it for a day.
Speaking of lights, you really need at least 3 lights when shooting in a restaurant – and they need to be soft boxes. Having a soft diffused light on either side will warm up the food, help pop colors, and allow you to capture details like steam, without blowing out fork shots or bright plates. A small back light emphasizes the food while separating it from the background. I used an LED light bank for the interview and it worked great. Many of the new LED light banks (including mine) have adjustable dimmer switches, color temp gels, and are easy to set up and tear down – B&H Photo Video has a good selection.
The final product is below – enjoy!