When you make a pizza the first thing you think about it is the toppings, and rightfully so. But like a guitar to a drum, Cheese is what brings it together. When you lift your pizza, there should be a fight between the remaining pizza and your slice to stay together.
The best food photography evokes a visceral reaction. All five senses are engaged, creating a nearly palpable desire to eat that dish. When photographing a pizza, it's the pull of the melted, gooey cheese that makes our mouths water. But achieving this is no easy task; it requires a knowledgeable stylist, a complex rig set-up and some magic from the photographer.
For this shot, what Robert Olin Studios had to do was make sure that we got it right on the first take. Unlike other forms of food photography, cheese pulls don’t last. When the hot pizza arrives on set, the lights and the camera have to be ready to go instantly. So Robert Olin used a stand-in, to pre-light. The stylist made a few pizzas to see what the best option of baking and cheese was. So one of the rejects came out to our set and Robert Olin began to play with it.
When looking at the stand-in pizza Robert Olin had to look at particular things and relay them to the stylist. Robert Olin pointed out that the crust was too dark, and we figured out how much baking it would need to have to be the right color with our exposure. They wanted to make sure that the cheese pull was lit properly and interesting. So Robert Olin used a point light source from the back right to skim along the pulled cheese in the foreground. Robert Olin also used a point light source from the back left to highlight the toppings and the cheese pull on the back end of the pizza. At the time of the stand-in, Robert Olin used a large white card to fill as needed. But once the hero pizza came out there wasn’t a need for it.
To achieve the final shot, the stylist cooked and pulled about 10 different pizzas. Each pizza got a few pulls out of it that could be lifted and shot. Each pizza would see its own problems and need some quick fixes. Such problems were, sometimes the cheese would be too thick and we would need to poke holes in it. Other times the cheese wasn’t enough and the stylist would had to add more. When more cheese was added, the stylist did it on set and used a heat gun or a steamer to melt it down.
Every time you pull you get something different. Despite that our final shot came from the 3rd pizza, we used all 10 just to see what we could get. Its addicting!
If you wanted to make a pizza like what we had, you can use this easy and simple recipe. ( change out for your own toppings as needed )
1 12-inch round of pizza dough ( store bought or hand made )
4 teaspoons heavy cream
2 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 ½ ounces fresh taleggio
Ground black pepper
1 ounce Parmesan, finely grated
Sauce to taste
Place a pizza stone or tiles on the middle rack of your oven and turn heat to its highest setting. Let it heat for at least an hour.
Drizzle the cream over the stretched dough. Put sauce on, then your toppings. Shred the mozzarella evenly over the toppings. Break the taleggio into pieces and do the same. Grind an exceptional amount of black pepper onto the surface of the pie, approximately 8 to 10 grinds.
Using a pizza peel, pick up the pie and slide it onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
Scatter the Parmesan over the pizza and serve immediately.