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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Tips To Photograph Commercially Appetising Pizza Cheese Pull

Ever wondered why cheese pull looks so appetising in commercial food photography? Well, the trick lies in the art of food substitution. In this article, food photographer, Joyce Leong, reveals the industry secret of ‘gluey’ cheese pull. Read her step-by-step guide and check out her setup that helped achieve an award-winning shot!

 

Why Cheese Pull?

Cheese is a common ingredient used in many everyday dishes, ranging from pizza, cheese bread, baked rice, sandwiches and more. This means that the tips and tricks you’ll gain from this article will be transferrable and applicable across many dishes. Furthermore, cheese pull is often utilised in commercial food photography to increase the food’s appeal. It also adds an overall drama to the output shot, making this technique a good one to know by heart!


 

Tools You'll Need

  • Pizza (frozen pizza is used in this example) and garnishes, such as basil leaves, shredded mozzarella cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes.
  • Props to create more interest in the foreground and background, such as glassware, a round wooden board, and plates.
  • Tools for cheese pull: white glue, paintbrush and melted mozzarella cheese.
  • Lighting equipment such as a softbox, external flashes and white foam board used to act as a DIY reflector.
  • Camera equipment and tripod.

Things to Consider:

  • Mood and styling. Is it against a neutral background? Do you want to use natural lighting or achieve a harsh, dramatic look?
  • Work with colour theory. Use green ingredients to complement the red tomato pizza base while keeping the props neutral. This will keep the focus on the food.
  • Camera angles. Do you want to capture close-ups? Do you want the shot from a top or side view?

Image we’re attempting:


EOS 6D Mark II, EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/6s, 50mm
 

Step 1: Setup

  • The bare flash was angled on the left side of the setup and diagonally towards the pizza.
  • A softbox flash was angled top-down from the left side and slightly behind the pizza.
  • The camera was positioned to photograph a straight frontal of the pizza.
  • White foam boards were placed at the back and diagonally from the pizza.

As the light is positioned from the left side, the pizza slice meant for the cheese pull is strategically placed to face the lighting so that it will be beautifully highlighted. This will also allow the light to shine through the cheese pull, reducing any uneven and noticeable dark shadows in the image. A white foam board reflector is placed at the back and side of the dish for bouncing off the light from the bare flash and softbox flash, casting a soft and even lighting to the overall image.
 

Step 2: Technical Preparation

Before working on the food and ingredients, it is recommended to test out the lighting. Take a few test shots with a similar object (a book, a phone etc.) on the plate to simulate the scene. You should also use this chance to set your Manual Focus and determine the height of the cheese pull where light is most flattering. For this shot, Joyce set her camera on continuous shooting mode to increase the chances of nailing the perfect moment during the cheese pulling processBy using tethered shooting with the EOS Utility app, she was able to view the sample images on a bigger screen to troubleshoot any changes required in the setup or lighting. 
 

Step 3: Food Preparation

Do remember to pre-cut your pizza slice before baking it in the oven. If not, the cheese might harden or dry up when you attempt to cut the slices after the cooking process. This will also reduce the number of attempts to cheese pull before needing to add more mozzarella cheese.

Tip: when working with frozen pizza or any baked items for the first time, it will be better to underbake the dish first to check for the food’s vibrancy and overall look. Some food may look more appetising in photos when slightly undercooked.


 

Step 4: Glue-infused Cheese

To create fake cheese, its best to use the same type of cheese already on the foodFor this examplemozzarella was used.  

Start by melting some mozzarella cheese in the microwave on low heat before mixing it with some white glue. Its important to avoid a high temperature as it may burn the cheese instead of melting it. Next, paint the fake cheese on the sides of the cut pizza slice so that it sticks. You can also sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top to add more texture. 

Tip: for the right consistency, the gluey cheese shouldn’t be too watery that it just drips off the pizza. If it is too watery, you can give it a few minutes to harden up. The ratio between the cheese and white glue is never fixed as it depends on how stringy you want to showcase the final cheese pull. 

Different cheese come with their unique traits. Cheddar cheese will often lose its colour after mixing with white glue, so a few drops of yellow food colouring is necessary for maintaining realism and vibrancy.


EOS 6D Mark II, EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/6s, 50mm 

Step 5: Garnishing Before the Shoot

Don’t forget to add your cherry tomatoes and basil leaves on top of the cooked pizza. Remember that some of the garnishes should not be baked together and only added after as this will retain the ingredients’ colour and freshness. You should always try your first cheese pull before shooting to ensure you get the desired consistency.   

Tip: you can choose to use any strong adhesive to fix down the other slices so that they don’t lift during the cheese pull process.

Tips Roundup:

  • Set Manual Focus so you can determine the best cheese pull in the image.
  • Avoid clutter and over-styling that may overwhelm or distract the focus from the food. Here’s a flatlay guide!
  • Check your histogram for accidental blown-out highlights as you are working with reflective grease.
  • Use continuous shooting mode for food photography that requires human movement.
  • Colour balancing is important in food to achieve realism, so make sure you set the proper white balance or utilise a grey card!

Here are more cheese pull shots to inspire you: 

For similar articles: 
Applying Creative Filters to Artsy Food Photography 
How To Create and Photograph Stacked Still-Life Food Structures 
Taking Dramatic Food Photos in Chiaroscuro Style 

Joyce Leong

Joyce Leong
Joyce Leong is an international award-winning food photographer who has three years of industry experience under her belt. She specialises in capturing authentic, bright images that tell a story through lighting, styling and props. She strives to create imageries that evoke emotions while bringing her creative visions to life.