Lifestyle Food Photography: Chopping Vegetables

Ready to learn from the best? Chop to it!

In this food photography class, Karl and Anna demonstrate how to shoot a lifestyle food image and work with models to create lifestyle images that can be used on blogs, websites and for publishing.

Here you’ll learn how to use backlighting as your key light, draw attention to elements in a shot using carefully controlled lights and also see how a polariser can be used to further control light and reflections. You’ll also see how to carefully style a shot like this, including how to combine multiple textures, shapes and colours and how to style, pose and light hands.

In this class:

  • Food photography
  • How to photograph lifestyle food images
  • Food photography lighting setup examples
  • Food styling tips and tricks
  • How to photograph hands
  • Using a polariser for studio photography

As part of our latest series of food photography classes, presented with professional food photographer Anna Pustynnikova, we decided to cover lifestyle food images. For these shots, we wanted to incorporate a human element as this is a powerful way to establish a deeper connection with your image.

For this image, we photographed our subject chopping fresh vegetables. The set included a wooden surface and background along with an array of fresh vegetables, styled by Anna.

Lifestyle food photography

Lifestyle food photography such as this can be seen in formats such as blog posts and even recipe books.

The set needed careful styling and lighting as the aim was to keep the focus on the vegetables, rather than the hands and the knife held by the subject. Hands can be a challenge to photograph, they need to be carefully lit and styled so as not to draw attention from your main subject.

To start I introduced a Para 133, using it as a backlight. However, one of the consequences of using it in this position was that it caused a harsh glare on the table top, so to overcome this I used a polariser.

Food photography lighting setup

I used a polariser to reduce the reflections caused by my backlight.

Next, I added a gridded light to create a beam of light on my background and a third light, a softbox, to fill in the shadows from the front. I experimented with the softbox in different positions to get the best light and most texture.

Food photography lighting setup examples

My lighting setup included three lights.

Once the lighting was finalised, the next thing was to focus on the positioning of the model’s hands. For this we had to consider whether the pose looked natural and how the light reflected off the blade of the knife. This required some minor adjustments to the hand position — the angle and height — and I also experimented with reflecting some light onto the blade of the knife.

The final image:

Food photography with model cutting fresh vegetables

The final image.

To learn more about food photography, we have a range of classes that provide a number of food photography tips and food styling tricks. To see our full selection, 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.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl,
    I would like to buy Lee circular polarize filter, i found a 105 mm landscape polariser but it has a slightly warm bias, enchance the greens, browns and golds that are so often associated with photography in the landscape.
    I will use this in studio for still life,food photography etc. having a warm bias is problem? Which type Lee polariser filter do you use in studio? Thank you

  2. Hi Karl,

    I was wondering how come you often ‘graze’ the backdrop with a light with the honeycomb grid on the reflector dish – is this a stylistic preference that is unique to you, or is there a scientific reason for which others may choose to do this too?


  3. Hola Kart Taylor.

    Te hago una pregunta dentro dentro de su profesionalismo.
    PORQUE NUNCA USAS EXPOSIMETRO SEKONIC. Para la medición exacta puntual de cada luz ..

    Thankyou… Carlos

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