As a food photographer I’ve learned that photographing pizza is a challenge. Unless you’re doing an editorial shot for a magazine, shooting pizza for advertising or packaging is about as tricky as it gets. You’ll need the orchestrated talents of a good food stylist, a product development specialist, and a general assistant, not to mention a fully equipped kitchen/studio complete with pizza oven.
Constructing the pizza requires partially baking the fresh dough-sauce-cheese combination while separately sautéing the perfect pre-sliced toppings. This is necessary to keep all the toppings perky and distinct. The toppings must be pan sautéed individually and just short of cooked. The more toppings, the more juggling. And each type of toppings has it’s own required sautéing time. The partially baked pizza is pulled from the oven. The toppings must be quickly and artfully assembled to the exact customer requirements. Now is when the stylist can really shine with special alchemy and closely guarded secrets. The pizza is ready for the final bake off.
Add to all of this the requirement of a cheese pull and you have organized chaos with a race against time. Understand that all cheese is not alike. To get the cheese to pull in the first place you need to use whole milk fresh mozzarella. Cut the slice first in your baked and assembled pizza. Then reinstall it with small strips of mozzarella in the “vee”. It is used as an elastic binder. Pop the whole pizza into the microwave until the mozzarella is melted. It’s also helpful to use a spatula with tacks to hold on to the slice while it’s being pulled.
Of course the camera, well crafted lighting, and pizza set must all have preset positions prior to the pull attempt. I use the term “attempt” because the chances of getting it right the first time are remote. So have your crew continuing to make the perfect pizza over and over again. Not only are you racing with the pizza construction, but the cheese pull quickly congeals and looks old (like my test shot). These are the basics of pizza cheese pulls. Within the context of all of this technique, don’t lose sight of the aesthetics and principles of good photography. If you’re up for it, you’ll need lots of time, dedication, attention to detail, and a healthy dose of luck. What can’t be perfected in the real world can be aided with skilled use of Photoshop.