Photographing Candy Using Colour Theory

In this photography class Karl works with professional food photographer Anna Pustynnikova to show you how to create this colourful arrangement of macaroons and sweets using just three lights.

Colour theory, food styling and studio lighting all come together in this class as Anna and Karl combine their knowledge to produce this bright, beautiful image. You’ll learn how to carefully use shape, colour and texture to guide the eye as well as see how to carefully control your lighting to achieve a particular result. If you’re looking for creative food photography ideas, this food tutorial is the perfect place to start.

Course objectives:

  • Learn how to photograph food
  • Understand colour, colour theory and how it impacts your image
  • See how to use shape, colour and texture to guide the eye
  • Food photography lighting setup examples
  • Learn how to control the depth and direction of shadows
  • Food styling tips and tricks

For food photography tips from Anna, watch from the start of the class. For more about the food photography lighting setup used in this shot, watch from 34 minutes to the end.

NOTE: This class is available with English subtitles.

I was joined by Anna Pustynnikova for a new series of food photography classes and to start we decided to create a bright, punchy image of macaroons, smarties and candy.

To ensure the success of this image, colour was key, so we spent some time carefully selecting the colours of our background and subjects (you can see another example of how I’ve used colour theory in our live handbag product shoot here).

Color calculator website

We used a colour calculator to determine the best colour combinations to use for the shot.

Background selection for food photography is important.

Once we’d decided on our background colours, Anna started work on the composition, sharing some great food styling tricks. She used the different sizes and shapes of the candy to create depth in the image and guide the eye.

Anna shared a number of useful food styling tips.

Once the styling was finalised, I was able to start work on the food photography lighting setup for this shot. For this image, I used only three lights: my main key light was a bare bulb point light source from above and I used two other lights bouncing off my studio walls to soften the harsh shadows from my main light.

The food photography lighting setup I used involved just three lights.

The end result is a dynamic combination of colour and texture, all of which works together to create a really eye-catching final piece.

The final image:

For more food photography tips and food styling tricks, click here. I’ve also put together a selection of our most popular food photography classes, where you’ll find more lighting setups, ideas and inspiration, below.

If you have any questions, please post in the comment section below.


  1. OMG when you showed the effect of the fill lights you help me scratch a HUGE brain itch I was having looking at some photographers work that do this kind of bold and hard light look. I always thought that even tough it was properly exposed and the light was super bright it always felt dark and I couldn’t explain why. Well now I know!

  2. Anna and Karl, your tutorials are so inspirational. Something so simple and looks fabulous. Knowing and understanding light is soooo important. Trial error. Changing the light did change the mood. I was impressed. Thank you!

  3. Hi Karl,

    In your shoots, you often use painted hard boards. Why have you chosen to use hard board or mdf instead of colored seamless paper, since they are both matt and non reflective.

    1. Hi Mandy, because paper bends, creases and isn’t as durable when you are leaning on it, hanging it up etc and you can’t get the exact colour you want. But we do use colour card occasionally if it is thick enough and the right colour.

  4. Excellent video Karl, thank you. Do you have maybe any suggestions on how to learn the food styling part? I mean for a high-end budget shot, as a photographer you will receive the setup but for us acting more like SOHO business with small customers we need to also offer this service to the customers. Any suggestions would be welcomed! Thank you

    1. Hi Andrei, the key thing with food styling is the arrangement just like in good product photography. So as a photographer this is something that we need to become skilled in anyway. Arranging is finding the best aesthetics and composition, this includes choice of props, surfaces etc. Food stylists go one further they have the props, they understand food, can usually cook and know how to prepare and keep food looking fresh. You can obviously pick up various tips on many of those things from Anna in our courses but you can also buy food books or cooking magazines they are a good source of inspiration and recipes and usually have good quality food photography and styling.

  5. Definitely my favourite video so far. Very inspirational. In my opinion, you can’t go over the Inverse Square Law theory enough and this touched on it in a really nice way.

    Brilliant stuff!

  6. Hi, Karl and Anna!

    I’m loving all of your videos, thank you for all you share.

    I am wondering, what are these ‘soft boards’ you are using? I see them in several of your videos, but, I can’t seem to figure out what they are exactly, what they’re made of, and where to get them.

    I’m in Texas, so, maybe there is a another name for them here…

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Allison, most studios like ourselves call them ‘Polyboards’ as they are made from Polystyrene. They are usually available from builders merchants in 8ft x 4ft panels and they are used for insulating houses. Some of the new ones have a silver foil on one side which can be useful but if it’s on both sides then it’s a problem as it’s better to have white. Alternatively the other option is another material called ‘foam core’ or ‘foam board’ which is a lightweight thin rigidish material used for mounting pictures and posters too. This can come in huge sheet sizes and is usually available from picture framers or sign service type companies who make signage.

      1. Thank you, Karl! I’ll look for the poly boards, but, in lieu of that, I know I can find foam core. Allison 🙂

          1. Oh, great, I will look into that. And, I will also now be ordering a Manfrotto tripod as well.

            Thank you!

  7. awesome tutorial karl!
    i wondering what tools did you use in photoshop to remove the overlapping shadows in the board?

    1. Hi Ade, thank you. I just made a selection with a polygon lasso tool along that edge, feather by 1 pixel and then clone tool. These techniques are covered clearly in our new Photoshop Individual Tools section. All the best Karl.

  8. looks so easy when I see you guys… then when I try… :-S
    thanks for this inspiring lesson.

    1. Hi Limelight, work through it slowly each step at a time. Solve one problem at a time. The biggest challenge on this was is probably the styling, as the lighting is quite simple and even more simple if in a small white studio space or room.

  9. Another awesome tutorial Karl! Thank you! Love when you have Anna in the studio. Would you ever be interested in doing a tutorial on packaged food products? Like protein bars or powders?

    1. Hi Oksana, thank you and it’s interesting you mentioned this but Anna wanted to do a session on shooting branded food products and packaging but we ran out of time. Maybe next time I get her back! 🙂

  10. Hi Karl,
    Have you tried using the color website by Adobe? ( I allows you to do the same as but you can also import your shot and measure the different colors and then import those color profiles into Photoshop itself. Worth exploring if you haven’t done so yet.


    Jorge from Argentina (the land of Malbec, Tango and love)

    1. Hi Jorge, yes but my problem with the Adobe one is at this time they only use the RYB color model and not RGB.

  11. Beautiful demonstration and explanations. So glad you demonstrated the lighting positions for not only the shadows but also the inverse square law. I was wondering about how far away the light should be but now I know. This will be a very interesting project to attempt.

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