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.
For this shot, what we 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, your lights, your camera have to be ready to go instantly. So we used a stand-in to pre-light. Our 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 we began to play with it.
When looking at the stand-in pizza we had to look at particular things and relay them to the stylist. We 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. We wanted to make sure that the cheese pull was lit properly and interesting. So we used a point light source from the back right to skim along the pulled cheese in the foreground. We 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 our stand-in, we used a large white card to fill as needed. But once our hero pizza came out there wasn’t a need for it.
To achieve the final shot above, we cooked and pulled about 10 different pizzas. Each pizza got a few pulls out of it. We would lift and shoot. Then we would see 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 we could see that the cheese wasn’t enough and we had to add more. When we added more cheese, our 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.