Updated: Apr 2, 2018
Many have asked what gear/ equipments I use to frame all the gorgeous looking photos of food/ portrait/ interior as posted in my Instagram account "Squarepad". My PRIMARY gear to shoot are my mirrorless camera FUJIFILM X-T1 & subsequently FUJIFILM X-T20 with multiple PRIME LENSES; 16mm f1.4 | 23mm f1.4 | 35mm f1.4 | 56mm f1.2 | 90mm f2. WHY FUJIFILM??
First of all, this is not a paid blog post but It's just me wanting to thank FUJIFILM for producing such a great product for my photography purposes. I was introduced to this brand by a very close friend of mine "Kelvin" who is an existing FUJIFILM X-T1 user and I fall in love with it instantly because of the ergonomic built and how user friendly it is where the "Aperture ring", "ISO", "Shutter Speed" and "Exposure Compensation" dials are easily accessible just on the camera's body! WOW..!
Ever since, this camera has been my favourite pick of all times especially to all my food shots (flatlays & interior). My undying love for BOKEH has resulted me in investing on all widest aperture (f1.4/1.2). If you are curious why do I need f1.4 for flatlay? YASS! It's for my "Inception" shot where all the background is blurred to create distinctive separation between the foreground and background (something that not even Iphone X can do).
"Inception" with Instax Printed by SP3 Printer taken with 23mm f1.4
"Inception" with iPhone *there are many ways to hold your phone to avoid your hand looks so big in the frame. Do head to my Instagram "squarepad" to see all my Inception shots. Taken with 23mm f1.4
A quick walk through of my past experience
I used to rely on my Iphone for all flatlays (29 mm full frame equivalent) but I realised that I'm losing the true color representation of the food, tables and shadows; therefore, I started to use my 16mm/23mm (24/ 35mm full frame equivalent) prime lens for all flatlay and the result is just mind-blowing. All my photos are shot in MANUAL mode (adjustment of ISO, Shutter Speed & Aperture). I shoot all images in JPEG format and they are all in the highest resolution and by default "Classic Chrome" filter is applied on all photos because it's one of the BEST IN-BUILT FILM SIMULATION in my opinion. Personally, I'm not so much of a RAW person because I don't prefer to edit from laptop using Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom (I like to keep my "photo editing" simple without major (adjustment/tweaking). My all time favourite mobile applications are SNAPSEED and VSCO FTW! *laughs*
Unedited shot taken with 23mm f1.4
Honestly, if you are taking shots using camera, the shadow on food or certain part of framing can be overpowering but it can be easily edited. Also, I like to include hands & legs as part of my framing because the skin tone color just popped in the frame (above photo)
Shot taken with 16mm f1.4
Having 16mm perspective definitely allows me to shoot naturally without having to climb on chairs most of the time. This flatlay is framed with Fujifilm X-T1 with Classic Chrome film simulation at a hipster cafe in JB "The Replacement Lodge".
Shot taken with 16mm f1.4
Recent cafe hop all the way in Damansara Uptown. The Good Batch has been in town, KL for many years. I'm glad that they are still serving great food. Also featuring the Instax square print out and my Fujiflm X-T20 mirrorless camera with 56mm f1.2 mounted.
Shot taken with 16mm f1.4
The Classic chrome built in Film simulation definitely brings magic to all my framing because of the distinctive feels that added to all my photos. Look at how the color of the skin popped. Shot this around f5.6, the sharpness of the image is outstanding.
My favourite flatlay game with 16mm f1.4
Was so fortunate to dine in here at 5 stars resort "The Chateur", Pahang (Malaysia) with unlimited flow of food and the best part of this framing is the marble table. Look at how all the food color pops in this framing.
Yet another framing taken with 16mm f1.4 at "The Chateur".
This is only the partial of the food you see that was framed by me. Everything on the table was pre-arranged by me and the model was directed to pose exactly how i wanted them to be. I definitely love dealing with food!! More PHOTO SHOOT please!! hehe
Things you can use for flatlay (camera, cutlery) taken with 16mm f1.4
A brunch scene taken at Forty Hands, The Sphere (Bangsar South). Editing this photo is a bit tricky because i have to manually brush certain area of this framing to achieve the desirable effect. Applied a combined A6 + E5 VSCO filter for this effect
Hand is my ultimate flatlay prop, has always been, will always be; taken with 16m f1.4
A shot taken at Open Work, JB. Love the minimalistic interior with marble table in sight. Will definitely be back again to take a framing of food with marble table
A properly composed shot by me during my workshop 12.0 taken by 16mm f1.4
Flatlay is also a game of plating, composition, colors arrangement and hands as prop. You'll learn as you shoot and you will understand composition better when you go cafes more often. Lolol... :P
Flatlaying on marble table is LOVE!
Ever since I sold my 23mm f1.4 for 16mm f1.4, I've never regreted by decision at all because I love how wide the perspective is in food and interior framing. Like what my friend said, priority & need changed as we shoot
Light chasing with 16mm f1.4
Attempted light & shadow shot in the most unfavourable situation in Acme Bar, Troika. Somehow, FUJIFILM just excel in nailing the skin color every single time.
A flatlay of Minced Pork Scramble Egg & Salmon Rice taken with 16mm f1.4
I think i have included sufficient example of why you should spend on 16mm f1.4 due to natural position to frame an aerial shot while you are out and about in a cafe for all instagram worthy shots. Go get one for yourself please!! Don't say I bojio :P
A rare catch of light during cafe hop in JB taken with 16mm f1.4
I don't really have any direction when it comes to composing my flatlay but I do know whether my flatlay works or not based on the framing you see here.
HAHAHA, Mother of all FLATLAY shot taken with 16mm f.14
Literally removed most of the decoration and rearranged the display for this shot. Hence, the rabbit and plants seen in the frame at Softlaunch Cafe, Sri Petaling. *don't judge guys*.
Feasting like a King & Queen taken with 16mm f1.4 *looks like a drone shot*
Had a combined food sampling and birthday celebration at this amazing Restobar at Beta KL, Fraser Place. Sometimes I like my photos to look more on a shadowy side.
Shot taken with 23mm f1.4
Having to shoot at lower focal length (16mm) means it provides wider field of view (around 83 degree compared to 23mm around 67 degree). IF you are doing a lot of flatlay photography, this lens is perfect for all your Instagram framing because it gives you a slightly wider field compared to your iphone and it's perfect for widespread flatlay on the table (no need to climb on chairs/ tables) *laughs*
Shot taken with 23mm f1.4 prime lens
Love how the camera is able to capture and identify all colors distinctively. The food just popped in this framing and further enhanced by skin color and camera in her hands as prop
Exterior of "Two Buns Cafe, Penang* taken with 23 mm f1.4
Love how a random stranger walked into my framing and I perfected the shot. Stood in the middle of the divider for almost 20 minutes waiting for vehicles to pass. Definitely worth the wait.
Interior of "Isabel Restaurant & Bar* taken with 16mm f1.4
This prime lens is excellent for flatlay and fairly wide angle for interior shot (this restaurant is actually quite small and tight in space). Symmetry game strong here!!
Interior of "Wizards at Tribeca" taken with 16mm f1.4
Love at how sharp it is to shoot at aperture around f4. The interior is definitely the highlight here. Definitely love the perspective of 24mm full frame equivalent.
Interior of Summer at 17 cafe located in Cheras, KL taken with 16mm f1.4
The drawing on the wall definitely draws my attention towards it. Love the element of human in the picture because I've always loved to take pictures that tell stories. I hope i'm not only the weird one who loves to do so. Lolol..
My dream corner in my house taken with 16mm f1.4
How could someone not love the kinfolk-ish corner like this at The Replacement & Lodge? Everything in this corner is so incredibly placed and arranged. The light ray that hit on the spot just make this corner even lovelier. You know where to go if you're dropping by JB for cafe hop.
Perks of being the first customer in the cafe taken with 16mm f1.4
Exterior of "The Replacement Lodge, JB" * taken with 16 mm f1.4
This is definitely a place where you can frame all your Instagram-worthy shots because everything about this place is so on point. The interior, exterior, food, stay, furniture, and the people working in this cafe.
A fairly wide shot of an interior taken at Mechanic Cafe, Cheras with 16mm f1.4
Probably a cafe that best represent me that I really love so far. Come on, look at all the simple details at the coffee counter and the quotes used on the wall
Interior of "Amore Espresso Bar"taken with 16mm f1.4
Love how minimal the concept of the cafe is. Not to mention that they have NEON light too
Exterior of Isabel Restaurant & Bar* taken with 16mm f1.4
How can you not love such pretty place in Kuala Lumpur? Perfect place for a date if you don't know where to go. *laughs*
Portrait taken with 16mm f1.4
Why this lens? I'm definitely impressed by the features that this prime lens has to offer; fast autofocus, close focusing distance, wide angle, solid feel upon mounting on my Fujifilm XT1. Shooting at widest aperture (f1.4), look at how the lens maintains its sharpness (above photo)
Taken with 35mm f1.4
A little trick of food photography is by simple tilting of the bowl of food you're holding works well if you are doing a frontal shot whilst highlighting food details in the food (above photo)
First experience shooting at KL Performing Art Centre (PEKING MAN) *Theatre*
Shot this at around ISO 5000-8000, using 56mm f1.2 (wide open) and shutter around 1/180. Look at how Fujifilm X-T20 cope with low light! Not convinced??
My favourite prime lens for portrait is 56mm f1.2 mounted on my FUJIFILM X-T20 (It would be BEST if it's mounted on FUJIFILM X-T2). In my opinion, it's probably one of the best and nicest bokeh for most of my shots. This is also my lens to go if I were to do a frontal food shots for any commercial shoot. Having wider aperture, improved image processor, shorter shooting interval and boost ISO range to 12800 allow me to shoot even in low illumination since I'm not a big fan of using FLASH.
Not much of light around, it's just spot light above to highlight faces of actresses
All photos taken here are non edited (JPEG). Impressed with the performance of my X-T20 with 56mm f1.2 mounted?? Ok lahh, pretty decent for me *smiles*
Taken with 35mm f1.4 (wide open)
Enough of human shot. Let's look at some bizarre coffee shots. Love this set up!
Taken with 56mm f1.2 (Wide open)
This was my lucky shot when my BOKEH was quite accidental (Someone was watering plants in the background and the droplets of water appeared to be like BOKEH BALLS).
Trisha Mah blending in with interior of Botanica Co located at Bangsar South taken with 56mm f1.2
Another shot taken with 56mm f1.2 shot wide open.
Love how the sunlight hits on her left and the gradual shadowing on her right. *feeelsss*
Waited for around 15 minutes where he took the noodles out from the boiling pot for the STEAM effect!! PERFECT!!
Waited for a total of 25 minutes to take a single shot of this famous Duck Kway Chap stall located at Kimberly Street, Penang. It was worth the wait. *56mm f1.2
Taken with FUJIFILM X-T20 & 56mm f1.2 lens mounted (non-edited)