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.

Comments

    1. Hi, you just need to find fibre optic cable in jacket with end lighting. Do a search for that you should find suppliers.

  1. the fiber optic cable style is called “End Lit.” It is indeed a commercial architectural lighting product. I found the UK company that I believe made this one. You can choose from different ends to cap the cable where the light comes out. The source end looks identical to what Karl is using. Happy to share but dont want to put the company name up without Karl’s OK.

  2. Karl, if you turn that DIY fiber optic cable and attachment unit into a commercial product, I’d be the first one to buy : )
    In the mean time, I’ll try to see if I can make one on my own. Thanks for explaining how you did it.

    1. Hi, Back in the day many of the lighting companies actually made them for photographers but they don’t seem so popular now.

  3. Hi Karl! how a u?

    I wanted to know the name of this fiber model, here in Brazil I looked for fiber optic cables, but I did not find anything like it. (all very thin)
    Do you have a specific name or model?

    tks a lot!

    best regards!

    1. Hi I don’t have any specific model. I can tell you that there were 3 main cables each one is about 8mm diameter and probably has about 40 fibre strands inside each. This one came from a shop window display lighting system.

        1. Hi sorry I don’t understand what you mean by the ‘core’ was removed. As you see it in the video is pretty much how it was when I got it, I just had the metal bit made that attaches to the light so that it fitted on my lights and held the 3 fibre optics together in line with where my flash was firing. They were already held together at that point but just didn’t fit on my flash so I had the metal workshop make the metal tube to fit to my broncolor light.

    1. Hi, I custom made this one from an old shop window display fitting. I’m sure you can purchase lengths of cable and bundle them together as here and then have a metal work shop form them into a fitting to attach to a light which is also what I did. You may also find some on ebay as elinchrom and broncolor used to make them in the past.

Leave a Comment