Fine Dining Food Photography: Photoshoot

Working with food photographer Anna Pustynnikova for this series of food photography classes, Karl and Anna set about creating a sleek and stylish shot of duck leg confit for the next food photography class. Together, the pair demonstrate essential preparation, styling and lighting techniques for eye-catching food photos.

In this chapter Anna details her step-by-step styling, building up to the final mouth-watering shot while Karl gradually builds up the lighting and shows simple techniques to highlight key elements of this delicate dish.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • Product Photography: Food Photography
  • Photographing food in plan view
  • Food styling for different camera angles
  • Photographing food using multiple studio lights
  • Selecting depth of field for food photography
  • Achieving focussed light with alternative lighting techniques
  • Full frame vs medium format — results comparison

If you enjoyed this food photography course, watch Anna’s live show here.


  1. Michael Glass

    Karl, thanks for this. Just joined and ready to go through all your tuts.

    Apologies for the wall of text below, a simple writeup would be: Is it ever okay to use different backdrops, plates, flatware, glassware, etc. for food and beverage photography at a restaurant if they don’t actually serve food those items or have those backdrops as surfaces?

    I do some photography (among other things) for the agency I work at. I’ve been photographing a high-end American steakhouse client for the past few years and I’ve got the “look” locked down to everyone’s liking – not too far off from this look, really. However, this being my only restaurant client, I’ve run into a few conundrums.

    The flatware, glassware, and dinnerware are all as plain as you could picture. Nice, but plain. Same goes for the table settings – tablecloth is white, napkins are white, there is one candle on the table in an overly large votive. The biggest problem for me is “selling” a steak on their plates. They are MASSIVE white dinner plates. They easily dwarf the 38 oz. Tomahawk and 40 oz. Porterhouse steaks. I have the hardest time showing the scale of these huge steaks, or any dish for that matter, due to the plates and backgrounds. They just look small and the backgrounds usually end up having to be an interesting crop of the plate in the frame.

    Same goes for the environment. This is a three-story building with dining on two floors and a rooftop bar. The restaurant is only 5 years old, so it’s in good shape, it all just feels so basic and sterile.

    I’ve asked for sides to be placed on plates, and for the kitchen to use smaller plates for photography purposes, but they rarely budge because they don’t want to misrepresent. I’ve also proposed shooting on different backgrounds that have the same vibe of the restaurant, but give viewers a slightly refreshed look. They usually oppose that. My question is – what are my options here? I think I could convince them to make some of these adjustments for the sake of photography and building a scene rather than it being so clearly on location, but I’ve been reluctant to push too hard because I myself am not sure if it’s good practice / commercially ethical to photograph food for a restaurant out of its actual environment.

    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi, glad you are enjoying the platform. Yes your problem is a common one, the restaurant doesn’t want to misrepresent which is understandable as they can’t have clients complaining that ‘it’s not the same as the photo!’ but on the other hand they won’t consider changing their serving style. The first question would be would they benefit from different plates, cutlery, table dressing etc from a general restaurant aesthetic point of view? Would it make their restaurant look a whole lot better and would it affect the efficiency of their service (waiters, kitchen etc). If you can make a case for change then that’s your first option because as a business if they can see the value in creating a ‘better look’ for customers then of course they would consider it. If that’s definitely not an option then you’ll have to change the shooting style, to go in tighter and cut out the crap that looks big bland white areas, if for example the table cloth is too stark and broad then a carefully placed wine glass, bread basket, salt and pepper etc etc can reduce the blandness. For the food you may have to consider a lower shooting angle and arranging the food slightly differently. A lower angle will of course hide a lot of ‘surface’ problems such as plates, table cloths etc but it will also reveal more background areas of the restaurant which you will then have to consider in your composition. No easy answers I’m afraid.

  2. Absolutely spectacular work. Watching these videos is mesmerizing. Actually going to buy some small mirrors now to give it a shot!

  3. I am glad to sign up again. Give me ideas using speed light and accessories in a small room. I think sign up at least 2 or more months. Signed up another place also to gain additional skills if I every look for work.

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