Case study: Just say cheese!

cheesemaker taking sample from cheese block

Dairy products director Simon Clapp takes a cheese sample.


Mostly I use this blog to “air my views” on whatever has occurred to me that week, but this week I’d like to offer you a case study from an assignment I shot earlier this year.

Corporate and commercial photography doesn’t always have to consist of serious suits looking stern, important or entrepreneurial across a boardroom table.

As this set of pictures shows, sometimes I can be called upon to take pictures of a different kind of entrepreneur. It might not be obvious that that is what they are, but although the Clapp family business has been farming this site on the Somerset Levels for generations, they continue to pioneer new working methods and products while keeping their cheeses very traditional and authentic.


cheesemaker eats cheddar in view of glastonbury tor

Farm and dairy herd director Rob Clapp enjoys a ploughman's with a view of Glastonbury Tor.


For this shoot I was asked to produce a small set of images suitable for inclusion in food and lifestyle magazines and general press releases. The brief was to create a “hero shot” of each of three key players in the operation; the brothers who own the business and the head cheesemaker. Of course I would have happily photographed everyone involved, because in this kind of business every member of the team is vital, but we only had limited time and only so many images would get used.

The purpose of the pictures wasn’t to record the daily working lives of the cheesemakers in a strictly photojournalistic way, but to represent them in more of a magazine style, where I had freedom to choose settings and use additional lighting to give the pictures a more polished look.

I couldn’t have been more thrilled to work with these people. I had a warm reception from the start, a chance to watch cheese being made, and got to taste some of the most fantastic Cheddar cheese ever to pass my lips – I’m a sucker for a proper mature Cheddar, not the stuff imported from Canada which just has the word “Cheddar” written on the pack, but the kind that comes from local producers who know how it’s done. The taste is incredible as it evolves in your mouth.


cheese maker holding cheddar cheese

Cheesemaker Billy Melluish does well to pose holding a 20kg cheese.


Anyway, back to the photography. I won’t bore you with details, but in essence it involved choosing suitable locations, getting the portable lights set up and adjusted and getting the shots done as efficiently as possible so as not to disrupt the working day too much. Plus I had to work fast as the weather was threatening to turn moist so I needed to get all the outside shots done before I could turn to taking pictures in the warehouse where the cheese is matured, tested and stored until it’s ready for despatch to the shops.

If you like good cheese, I strongly recommend seeking out some Brue Valley Cheddar at Marks and Spencer, or you’ll find it as Pilgrim’s Choice Farmhouse Reserve in Tesco’s.

If you enjoy seeing case studies, let me know and I’ll do more.

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  • pogomcl October 12, 2010  

    Cheddar recommends

    that shows that you’ve never ever bitten into Cougar Gold made by the students of Washington State University or Wisconsin Gold… There are good cheddars in the US, but many of them made under university programs in dairying.

    Let me find Cougar Gold her yo go

    Wisconsin Cheddar

    booth worth your investment

    I think Billy would look even better holding a small calf or surrounded with goats –after all cheese comes from animals.

    • Glass Eye October 12, 2010  

      I’m sure American cheeses are excellent, but not sure why they call them Cheddar. Do they know where Cheddar is? Seems a little like piggybacking a well-recognised name instead of taking the time and effort to build their own quality brand name.

      I did take shots of Rob with a calf which also went forward to the client. I just wanted to show a quick selection here.

      I do hope you enjoyed the article though!

  • Eryn MacLachlan October 14, 2010  

    Hey Tim,

    I really enjoyed the case study! I would like to see more. 🙂

    However, being somewhat of transplanted Canadian from Ireland….

    Canadian cheese… (cheddar mmhmmm) rocks!

    • Glass Eye October 14, 2010  

      Hi Eryn

      Thank you for your appreciation. I really appreciate your appreciation! And I’m sure there will be more case studies to follow.

      But oh dear! Canadian Cheddar? Irish Cheddar? I’m sure they’re lovely cheeses, but if I didn’t have other commitments I think I would start a protest group against the misuse of the name. Or maybe I should set up a Parma Ham and Champaign manufacturing business in Cheddar! 😉