Cheese still life

Part of the latest series of food photography classes with professional food photographer Anna Pustynnikova, this course looks at how to style, light and photograph an assortment of cheeses.

In this class Karl aims to recreate the feeling of the historical Dutch Master paintings using a careful combination of lights, including a DIY lighting modifier to add small pockets of light. You’ll learn how to style and light items that have similar color and texture and understand how to achieve balance while still highlighting particular elements of the shot.

Course objectives:

  • Learn how to photograph food
  • Food photography lighting setup examples
  • How to photograph items with similar texture and color
  • Food styling tips and tricks
  • DIY lighting modifiers for studio photography
  • How to guide the eye using shapes and lines

For this rustic cheese still life image I wanted to create the feeling of the old Dutch master paintings, which I knew would require careful styling and lighting.

The first step of the shoot was to select a background. Our initial choice, however, turned out to be too glossy. We tried to reduce the shine by burning the surface and also applying dulling spray, but in the end we decided to use a different board altogether.

Food photography background choices.

The reduce the shine on the background we tried burning it and using dulling spray.

Backgrounds for food photography

In the end we decided to use a different board altogether.

Once the background was decided, Anna focused on the composition and styling of the shot. Working with items that were a similar color meant shape and texture was very important, and she used a combination of elements, strategically placed, to create a sense of balance in the shot.

You can see a few of the various stages of styling below.

Food photography styling

Different styling stages throughout the shoot.

For the lighting I used a Para from behind, along with a single light on the background and Picobox (which I compared with a small 35×60 softbox first) from the left.

I then used a DIY lighting modifier, which I’d created using some old fibre optic cables, to add small pockets of light on certain points of the image. By using this modifier I was able to light key areas without flattening the image or losing texture.

Food photography lighting example

Using a DIY modifier to create patches of illumination.

By shooting individual pockets of light on key areas of the shot, I knew I’d be able to comp everything together in post to get my final image. You can watch the full post production for this class here.

The final image:

Cheese still life food photo

The final cheese still life image.


To learn more about food photography, visit our Product section, where we have a great selection of food photography classes. Below I’ve put together some of our popular classes to help you get started:

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.

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