Photographing candy using color theory

In this photography class Karl works with professional food photographer Anna Pustynnikova to show you how to create this colourful arrangement of macaroons and sweets using just three lights.

Colour theory, food styling and studio lighting all come together in this class as Anna and Karl combine their knowledge to produce this bright, beautiful image. You’ll learn how to carefully use shape, colour and texture to guide the eye as well as see how to carefully control your lighting to achieve a particular result. If you’re looking for creative food photography ideas, this food tutorial is the perfect place to start.

Course objectives:

  • Learn how to photograph food
  • Understand colour, colour theory and how it impacts your image
  • See how to use shape, colour and texture to guide the eye
  • Food photography lighting setup examples
  • Learn how to control the depth and direction of shadows
  • Food styling tips and tricks

NOTE: For food photography tips from Anna, watch from the start of the class. For more about the food photography lighting setup used in this shot, watch from 34 minutes to the end.

I was joined by Anna Pustynnikova for a new series of food photography classes and to start we decided to create a bright, punchy image of macaroons, smarties and candy.

To ensure the success of this image, colour was key, so we spent some time carefully selecting the colours of our background and subjects (you can see another example of how I’ve used colour theory in our live handbag product shoot here).

Color calculator website

We used a colour calculator to determine the best colour combinations to use for the shot.

Background selection for food photography is important.

Once we’d decided on our background colours, Anna started work on the composition, sharing some great food styling tricks. She used the different sizes and shapes of the candy to create depth in the image and guide the eye.

Anna shared a number of useful food styling tips.

Once the styling was finalised, I was able to start work on the food photography lighting setup for this shot. For this image I used only three lights: my main key light was a bare bulb point light source from above and I used two other lights bouncing off my studio walls to soften the harsh shadows from my main light.

The food photography lighting setup I used involved just three lights.

The end result is a dynamic combination of colour and texture, all of which works together to create a really eye catching final piece.

The final image:

For more food photography tips and food styling tricks, click here. I’ve also put together a selection of our most popular food photography classes, where you’ll find more lighting setups, ideas and inspiration, below.

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


  1. looks so easy when I see you guys… then when I try… :-S
    thanks for this inspiring lesson.

    1. Hi Limelight, work through it slowly each step at a time. Solve one problem at a time. The biggest challenge on this was is probably the styling, as the lighting is quite simple and even more simple if in a small white studio space or room.

  2. Another awesome tutorial Karl! Thank you! Love when you have Anna in the studio. Would you ever be interested in doing a tutorial on packaged food products? Like protein bars or powders?

    1. Hi Oksana, thank you and it’s interesting you mentioned this but Anna wanted to do a session on shooting branded food products and packaging but we ran out of time. Maybe next time I get her back! 🙂

  3. Hi Karl,
    Have you tried using the color website by Adobe? ( I allows you to do the same as but you can also import your shot and measure the different colors and then import those color profiles into Photoshop itself. Worth exploring if you haven’t done so yet.


    Jorge from Argentina (the land of Malbec, Tango and love)

    1. Hi Jorge, yes but my problem with the Adobe one is at this time they only use the RYB color model and not RGB.

  4. Beautiful demonstration and explanations. So glad you demonstrated the lighting positions for not only the shadows but also the inverse square law. I was wondering about how far away the light should be but now I know. This will be a very interesting project to attempt.

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