Food Photography With Anna Pustynnikova

Say ‘cheese’! Watch and learn as two lighting masters work together.

Bringing out character in a common food product such as cheese, which often looks fairly similar, can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible.

Karl is joined by top food photographer and stylist Anna Pustynnikova for this live photography workshop, where together they style and light an assortment of cheeses.

Texture, styling, composition and lighting are key focus points throughout this photography demonstration and you’ll see exactly how the pair work together to reach their final image.

In addition to learning how to light the product, you’ll also learn how not to light it (and why not) and how you can modify unusual light sources to suit your needs.

This fascinating workshop showcases a three-light setup that can be adapted for other food products as well as a good base of knowledge to carry forward to other forms of food and product photography.

In this class:

  • Food photography
  • How to style food for photography
  • How to reveal shape, color and texture
  • Light setups for food photography
  • Lighting modifier comparisons
  • Camera settings for food photography

You can watch Anna’s first live show, where she and Karl photographed pastrami live, here. She also joined Karl for the live talk show to discuss her career, pricing, stock images and more.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


    1. Hi for most of the food shots we were using a Canon 5dmk3 and 100mm f2.8 macro lens but in this one I was using my Hasselblad and a 100mm lens.

  1. Hi Karl. Thank you for the videos, they are all very useful and informative.
    Question about the light: if we are after the texture, why not to use a beauty dish?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi and thank you. Texture comes from any light that is at a low angle to the texture (to create shadows). It is also increased if the light comes from a collimated source such as a fresnel. It also has the a appearance of higher contrast if it comes from a small light source. Those are the fundamental physics of how light would reveal texture. In some instances you only want texture in one direction which is why I often use thin softboxes horizontally. To fully appreciate the fundamentals of light and how it works please see these classes:
      Also check out the Lighting Comparison App in your customer home page.

  2. Hi Karl, I’d like more details about the picot light you using instead of softbox please.


    1. Hi Luigi, sure no problem at what time in the video so I can see which Picolite and with which accessory.

  3. Great ideas to learn the basics and styling of good if do contract work or open a cafe or mini market. I think I can get some decent shots to practice with a single light and may do some fancy editing with 1 speed light because it might be dark edges in a small room.

    Thanks for the tips. I will probably sign up again during the year since it is a great price with quality instruction.

  4. Hello Karl,

    Do you have large stacks of backdrop surfaces stored in your studio for shoots like this? Do you buy new ones for every shoot? When I go to the hardware store, I see all these large stone slabs, wood tiles, linoleum, and so on. I want to buy them all, mount them if necessary, and keep them stored for use on still life projects. Then I realize that the hardware stores (meaning, big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s) have huge amounts of floor space reserved for these things because they require a lot of space to store. That makes me think it is better to buy them when needed only, and only after thinking about what best suits the shot. After making my image, then the backdrop materials will be left over in the studio but may not be used again because each shoot has unique requirements.

    Do you find that after you are finished with a shoot that you no longer use the materials you bought to create the scene?

    1. Hi, we keep them all and have quite a decent collection of various woods, stone, acrylic etc. Because they are relatively thin they dont’ actually take up that much space leaning against a wall. Cheers Karl.

  5. Thanks, Karl and Anna, for a great tutorial! Could you specify the diameter of fiber optic cable you use?

  6. thanks Karl ,..I hope next tutorials Anna will mention a little bit of composition technique that she will use to do the composition.

  7. Hi,Karl and Anna thanks to explain why the small soft box was the proper choice in this case or for this kind of textured products was quite important.

    In term of lighting the small octobox and the small soft box were both flash lights and the only continuos light was used to the background, is it correct? I asking that because Im trying to figure out what should be the best option to buy to do food photography, continuos or flash? with continuos light can we change the intensity of light as you do with the flash, changing the power ?

    On the other hand in food photography I would like that Anna explain in future tutorials how she construct the scene before to start the shooting I meant, what composition technique she select and why, during the scene preparation how the props are positioned in the scene in order to follow the composition technique…for example in lightroom there is the option to see different composition technique grids so we can see how the props position follow certain rules (golden triangle, rule of odds, etc). I Think Anna must prepare the sketch of the scene in advance in the same way you do your sketch to know how and where position the lights…this will help a lot to understand the logic behind the numbers of props selected and the location of each one of them in the scene.

    thanks in advance for your tremendous help.


    Maria Angelica

    1. Hi Maria, we didn’t use any continuous light, they are all flash. They have a ‘modelling’ lamp that shows you the look of the light but it isn’t used for the photo as the flash burst that comes out of the light is much more powerful. Flash is far more versatile with a much greater power range too. And yes previsualising and sketching the scene first helps alot with the composition.

  8. Hi Karl
    Finally getting around to watching this tutuorial. Really enjoyable.
    Just wondering how I could replace my Elinchrom fibre optic cables as they give a green cast. Elinchrom has a very expensive solution!

    1. Hi Elizabeth, there is no easy solution I made up my own set from some secondhand bits. Maybe you could try a slightly magenta gel over the lights to cancel the green?

  9. Hi Karl
    Just connecting my Canon 5D mark iv to my Pocket wizards plus X. Strange as they worked on the Mark iii but now they don’t work. Just wondering if you know if there is an issue with the new Canon and the Pocket wizards please?

  10. Very nice work as always by Anya and Karl. Anya’s styling and eye for color are outstanding. It’s great to see a food shot with a little more drama and contrast.

    Karl we have seen your fiber optic lighting before. You used the same fiber optics in the Whiskey Product Shot, chapter 6 in the Advertising, Product and Still Life section.

    I have the Elinchrom fiber optic kit and use it as you have here and in many similar applications where you use the picolites with the spot attachment.

    I’m really looking forward to the new food tutorials. I hope you have them online soon.

    1. Hi Kirk, thank you for your comments. Thanks for reminding me about that, I must have used it on an Elinchrom light back then as I’ve just had it modified to fit on broncolor. I’ll have to go and check out that chapter again to remind myself. I’m glad to hear the Elinchrom works well for you.

    1. Hi Donald. Karl was using the 100mm lens. This is roughly equivalent to about 80mm in 35mm format.

  11. Really, really great workshop, lots of useful lighting and other tips; grateful to have all of this content(that I’ve been looking for so long 😀 ) in one single place. As I keep saying, best and smartest investment is in education and this is definitely the place and time to do that. Thank you!

      1. Hello again. Can you tell us please, if it is possible, when the new recorded Food photography classes are going to be released? Thank you

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