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Inspirations >> Photos & People

A Day in the Life of a Professional Photographer – Interview with Ho Wai Kay

Ever wondered how a professional photographer spends his day? Join us as we follow Ho Wai Kay on a fine dining photography shoot. He shares his experiences and philosophy on being a professional photographer with us.

A typical fine dining filming day:

The night before the shoot, I go through my equipment check-list to ensure everything I need is there. This includes checking with my assistant who is responsible for some of my equipment.

Forgetting to bring lenses for shoots limits my creativity tremendously. Thus, a check-list is very important.

For fine dining dishes I ensure my Canon EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is in the bag.

I always try to get an early night before any shoot so I am more alert.

On the filming day, we report early to the hotel for a quick final brief with the marketing executive, and then we take a look at the location selected.

If I feel it’s not suitable, we scout around for other locations. It’s important that the background is not cluttered.

I like to be in full control of the lighting, so I use mainly strobe lights for my food shoots with as little natural lighting as possible. However, the final result must be as similar to a naturally lighted scene as possible.

After set-up of lights, and with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III tethered to my Mac Book Pro for client review, I discuss the flow of the dishes with the chef, ensuring that he doesn't prepare the dishes too fast. Fine dining dishes deteriorate very quickly so they should arrive fresh from the kitchen.

With years of experience in managing expectations of the Chef and the Marketing Executive, I ensure that throughout the photography session, they view the results immediately, with feedback on the spot. If they request corrections of imperfections, I am able to advise if it is more practical to re-shoot that dish or scene perfectly rather than to Photoshop it out.

I also ensure that I do not adjust the Chef's arrangement of the dish without permission. To them, it is not just a science but also art and I respect that.

During filming I like to be as consultative as possible. Some photographers are very set in their angle and composition and do not entertain feedback even though the client is the paymaster.

I am very practical - commercial photography is my rice-bowl and I can always do artistic shots in my own time.

We typically shoot 2-3 fine dining dishes an hour, and when we’re done for the day I use a combination of Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP), Capture One Pro and Photoshop to fine-tune the images.

I’m always looking to improve by comparing my shots with other photographers, developing my eye for composition and style.

Ho Wai Kay

Ho Wai Kay is a Singapore-based commercial photographer specialising in hospitality photography. This includes fine dining, portraits, architecture and interiors for hotels, restaurants and other clients.


Isaiah Tan

A professional videographer with a love for photography, Isaiah runs a video production company, a wedding video/photo business, as well as a small bar in Singapore. He enjoys experimenting with different photographic techniques and always wants to learn and discover more of the world around him.