Stir Fry Food Shoot

Lighting, styling and posing hands are just a few of the challenges Karl and Anna faced in this food photography class, where they photographed a still life image of a model holding a bowl of stir fry.

Food photography by itself can be tricky, but when you add a person into the shot, there are a few more things you need to consider. Together, Anna and Karl walk you through the different stages of this shoot, from positioning and posing the subject to styling and lighting the shot.

You’ll learn how to combine hard and soft light, control bright highlights, enhance three dimensionality and use mirrors and flags to control your light. Karl explains each part of his three-light setup, sharing his thought process and decisions throughout the shoot, while Anna explains how to position the subject, what props work best and why and how to create balance in the shot.

Course objectives:

  • Learn how to photograph food
  • What to consider when photographing food and models
  • How to photograph hands
  • Food photography lighting examples
  • Food styling tips and tricks
  • Techniques for how to combine hard and soft light

To see how Anna prepared this dish (and for some great food styling tips), make sure to watch the previous chapter.

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

Often, photo shoots don’t go quite as you may have expected. In this case, what was supposed to be a fairly straightforward shot of a bowl of stir fry turned out to be far more complex than Karl and Anna originally anticipated.

Working through the shot, the pair had to overcome a number of different challenges, including finding the right shooting height and depth of field, controlling bright highlights on the subject’s hands while still maintaining three dimensionality and even selecting the right props and lighting modifiers.

Using a three light setup, the pair clearly demonstrate that it’s important to work carefully and methodically and always keep the end goal in mind — make the food the hero. To do this, Karl and Anna had to carefully consider everything from the focus point and clothing selection to lighting setup and props.

When it comes to food photography, even the smallest details count. But with a little care and consideration, you can create something great.


  1. Hi Karl

    Another great lesson in food photography using a stir Fry dish and the best way to light it but it brings to mind a general problem about shooting food photography for clients.

    Clearly the best option is to shoot each type of food in the studio where you can control and modify the lighting and food styling etc., but what are the best options if the client asks you to shoot the food his chef prepares and is actually on their menu.

    For obvious reasons it isn’t always practical to shoot it in his restaurant because so much of their day is needed to prepare everything ready for opening time so the best possible solution I can think of is to ask the chef to prepare everything for the dishes they want photographed and bring it to the studio to actually cook it

    That way the food can be styled and plated ready for photography and again all the elements of their food and lighting can be controlled. The only other solution I can think of is to have the food cooked and ready to plate in their restaurant and we drag all the studio and styling equipment and everything else to their premises and create a set to photograph the food in their place.

    I am relatively new to food photography and I know that at the end of the day the client brief and what he wants is the most important factor but I wondered what your experience is and how best to persuade the client what will provide him with the very best results.

    Best wishes
    Allan Paul

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