High Contrast Photography | Fun Pizza Night

Fun Pizza Night

High contrast photography technique

Oh great, another pizza post. BUT this is not just pizza. This is high contrast photography. This is harsh lighting that creates super dark shadows and supa bright highlights.

I had the idea to do a fun photoshoot with friends and (per usual) everything revolves around food. Mikayla and I are total foodies and our favorite food is artisan pizza. If we were trapped on a desert island, we would 100% choose pizza as the one food we would eat for the rest of our lives. So yeah. We’re that serious about pizza.

So I know I know I have to talk about the technique, but at the moment, I am going to talk about what went on the pizzas. Did you really expect me to just jump into the techniques without talking about the delicious freaking food? Pizza number one: we have a charcuterie board pizza. This pizza has an olive oil base, fig spread, ovalini mozzarella, roasted butternut squash, toasted sunflower seeds, prosciutto, arugula, and it’s drizzled with Mike’s Hot Honey. This pizza is the perfect blend of sweet and salty.

Pizza number two: we have a standard (but still amazing) margherita pizza. On this pizza, we spread olive oil on bottom, store bought <the fanciest Fresh Thyme store brand marinara sauce> (we’re super classy dudes), ovalini mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil, and topped with fresh Parmesan. This pizza is such a classic. In my opinion, if you’re going to judge a pizza place on their pizza, always order the margherita. If they mess this up, their pizza isn’t great.

Pizza number three: we have a Mikayla creation. This one is an olive oil base, minced garlic, ovalini mozzarella, basil, fresh parmesan, more basil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. That garlic was the freaking best, and the lemon added such a freshness to each bite. Oh my goodness all I want to do is eat this pizza again.

Okay okay, let’s talk about how we set up this whole shoot. To get high contrast photography, we are using our Profoto B1’s as the light source, a 4′ Octobox, and a beauty dish. When we first started shooting, we were using the Octabox as the main light source and the beauty dish as the filler. We kept running into an issue with the photos looking like a standard ole evenly lit photo (nothing wrong with that, just not what we were goin’ for). It was lit very well, but it didn’t have those harsh, deep shadows and stunning contrast.

The lighting was very soft, so we thought that maybe the closer we put the light sources, the better the shadows. We were wrong, but hey, the creative process isn’t necessarily a smooth journey.

So, we decided to use the beauty dish as the main light source and the Octobox as the filler and it was doing the same exact thing (we didn’t think it through, okay? we were hangry and the pizza smells were wafting through the air). We were getting frustrated and felt a little defeated. We shifted our perspective and imagined the light sources (soft boxes) as the sun.

If you were standing directly under the sun, you would see harsh shadows and vibrant highlights. But if a cloud were to go in front of the sun, it would be diffused and you wouldn’t see your shadow anymore.

So with that track of mind, we took off all of the diffusers that were on the light boxes, and used the Profotos by themselves. What a freaking difference. The lighting was night and day, or, sunlight and cloudy light. So in the end, to get high contrast photography, we decided to use the beauty dish (without a sock) as the main light source on high power, and the Octobox as filler. We placed the beauty dish at a slight angle over the food and had the Octobox pulled back to the side on a lower setting to fill in the rest of the light that the beauty dish couldn’t cover.

One thing that as photographers, or even artists, need to remember is that we all need to learn. You will fail. You will fail hard. You will fail multiple shoots in a row. It will happen and continue to happen. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t growing. This shoot took us about 45 minutes to figure out the lighting alone. You learn through your failures. I’ve had many photo shoots where I tried and tried and just couldn’t get it. That’s totally okay. That means that maybe in a month or two, I’ll try it again and nail it.

Now enjoy some freaking pizza (promise our next blog won’t contain pizza) and maybe try out this fun high contrast photography technique yourself!

If you have any questions regarding photography techniques or even a commercial shoot, seriously reach out here in our contact form!

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