Cake Photography Tips

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Good photos are the key to grabbing your customer’s attention on your website or making your cakes look good in print. But since most of us are cake makers, not photographers, we thought we’d start the tutorial section with a crash course in taking better pictures of your cakes. For less than $100 you can take your photos to the next level. That may sound like a big investment, but trust us, it’s worth it.

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Materials:

  • Camera
  • Camera tripod
  • Dedicated piece of fabric or sheet for a backdrop (iron and hang it to store)
  • 3 lamps with at least 60-watt halogen bulbs in each

The first step towards achieving eye-catching cake photos is to buy the best camera you can afford. At Cake Central Magazine, our photographers use a professional camera and lens to achieve the stunning images. It is very possible to take great cake pictures with your own point-and-shoot digital camera. In fact, the images you’ll see in this tutorial were shot entirely with a nonprofessional camera. To get familiar with the dos and don’ts of photographing your cakes, check out our tips, which identify the most common mistakes and the most effective fixes when trying to get the perfect cake shot.

DO…

  • make sure your piece of fabric or sheet is ironed and free of wrinkles
  • arrange 3 lamps strategically to light your cake and eliminate shadows
  • use at least a 60-watt halogen bulb in your lighting lamps
  • put your camera on a tripod for a clear image
  • make sure your camera is a minimum of 8 megapixels
  • photograph your cake straight on from the front
  • be aware of everything that can be seen in the shot, including light switches, messy countertops, etc.
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DON’T…

  • don’t photograph your cake at a downward angle; it will look smaller
  • don’t use a wrinkled, creased, or dirty backdrop
  • don’t use black for your background, since it absorbs light and shows any flaws in the cake
  • don’t use a singular light – it will create shadows and spotlight effects
  • don’t use a flash have accidental items in the shot

Cake featured in this tutorial by celebritycakestudio.com

Your intention should always be to take a good photo that can be sent “as is” to your web designer or publication. Unless you are an experienced graphic artist, do not attempt to just “Photoshop® it.” Processing a digital photo to fix lighting, color, and other various mistakes is laborious, expensive, and most importantly, avoidable.

There are many free resources online where you can access amateur photography advice. We like thephotoforum.com. Following these tips will give you high quality pictures of your cakes to use on your website, facebook, in your brochures, and on cakecentral.com! Of course, sometimes you can do everything right and your photos just don’t turn out the way you had hoped– or maybe you’re placing that last sugar rose on the way to delivery and simply don’t have time to set up the perfect photo shoot for your cake. In that case, you may want to leave the picture-taking to a professional. If you are submitting photos for a book or magazine, you should always work with a professional. We talked to Nate Thacker of NLT Photography, who offered tips on how to negotiate with the person who will be photographing your cake– the wedding photographer.

 

Every professional photographer is different, and there are no set rules for how to approach this situation. As a professional photographer myself, here is what I would suggest. Developing a vendor relationship with a wedding photographer is key. Make it a point to connect with and talk to the photographer. Check to see if the photographer will be on site when you are dropping off the cake, so you can meet in person to discuss the details

Some photographers may agree to give you the high resolution images for free in exchange for photo credit, while others may require you to purchase each image. Make it clear to the photographer what you intend to use the images for, whether it be for business promotion, contest submissions, magazine submissions, etc.

The photographer may want to establish a written contract for each exchange. If (and only if ) you are paying for the images, it is appropriate to ask for an approximate date upon which the images will be delivered. Otherwise, a polite and grateful follow-up e-mail to the photographer will help remind him or her that you are really looking forward to seeing the edited photos of your cake.

12 Responses to “Cake Photography Tips”

  1. Thank you for the great tips. I dont do cakes but I am trying to learn cookie decorating and photography at the same time. I have a difficult time learning how to “set up” a photo and I always rely on the light in the room. I never thought about placing lights around and hanging a backdrop! Thank you!!!

  2. While most of these tips are good, I wholeheartedly disagree with the assertion that ones need to spend a fortune on a camera to get a good shot. It doesn’t matter if you have a $60 camera or a $600 camera if you don’t know how to use it. The image you get out of any camera is 80% what you put into it (lighting, composition, camera settings) and 20% equipment. Your lenses do make a difference, so if you do have a DSLR, you’re better off buying one high-end glass lens than three cheap plastic lenses, but to the average Joe, even this difference won’t be noticeable. A point and shoot or even a iPhone can take amazing pictures if you take the time to learn its various settings/modes and to set up a good shot. Following the lighting and backdrop tips in this article is a very good way to start.

    Also, if your camera allows you to change f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO, spend a couple of hours reading about these settings and how they interact with each other. For example, if you want the cupcake in front in focus, but want the cupcakes in back to blur out, you want a lower f-stop number, but that opens up the lens, letting more light in, so you may need to speed up the shutter or lower the ISO to compensate. If you have a large cake that you want to be sharp front to back, you need a higher f-stop number, but now you’ll definitely need that tripod because you’ll have to leave the shutter open longer to get enough light.

    Finally, if you want a perfect picture, you need a perfect subject. Make sure your light placement doesn’t put ugly shadows across the cake or around it. Sometimes looking at the subject sideways or upside down helps you to better see flaws that our amazing human brains auto-correct for us, but that would ruin a picture. Make sure the backdrop is hanging smoothly and the table is crumb free. Make sure any ‘accessories’ look good where you’ve placed them around the cake. It’s worth it to spend the time to set up the shot right. Sure beats hours of computer work later to fix a bad photo. After all, wouldn’t you rather be baking?!

    • “I wholeheartedly disagree with the assertion that ones need to spend a fortune on a camera to get a good shot. ” — That’s actually what this article is about!

      In this tutorial we used an 8 Megapixel $70 Olympus Point-and-shoot Digital Camera to create our good photo next to the “Do” list.
      http://media-us-148799954183.s3.amazonaws.com/b/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2013/07/tutorial-photograph-cake-6.jpg

      We left the camera in Auto mode and turned off the flash. As you can see from the diagram, we used 3 desk lamps we purchased at a second hand store for a few bucks (you can also get really inexpensive new desk lamps at places like IKEA and Target) and a cheap neutral bed sheet. In total, including the camera, we spent under $100. If you already have a camera, you can recreate what we did for less than $30. And the supplies should last for quite a while.

      And thank you for all the great photography tips!

  3. My husband builds intricate model cars. He photographs them with a piece of white Bristol (sp?) board (thin cardboard) curved on the counter, the car sitting on one side, with the cardboard curved up behind. The photos look good (with our point and shoot digital). Would this work for a cake, in your opinion? I don’t have a place to hang a sheet to take a photo, and don’t make too many cakes, so my photos are mainly for my albums. The Bristol board is easy to store, and never wrinkles! It has a matte finish, so no shine in the background.

    • I just wanted to share how I make my backdrop for my cakes as I have limited space also. I use one of the tri-fold science project boards that school kids use (often for a science fair project). These can be purchased at most craft stores & Walmart. I purchased a few pieces of fabric (just a couple of yards each) in different colors for flexibility. You can certainly use one color of you choice. I do have black and have used it without any issues. I place the tri-fold board on my table with the fabric draped over it (wrinkle free of course). I use clothes pins or bag closure clips (for chips/cookies) from my kitchen to secure the fabric to the board. I do use additional lighting to help with any shadows, although I’m not always successful. I am NOT a photographer. My camera is also a point & shoot because I like things easy. So I have one of those cameras for idiots – me. Here’s the thing, if you’ve ever had professional photos of your family, etc., taken at a photo studio just think back to the equipment you saw in the room. This helped me to figure out many things on my own. And lastly, I use a free photo program from the web to place my name on my photos, crop, frame, etc. Again, very easy to use. Hope this has helped.

  4. I always try to get a picture of my cakes before they are delivered. I have made every single one of these mistakes and wondered why my pictures don’t look as glamorus as everyone elses. So now I know. Believe me, I am going to make marvelous photos now. Thanks for the Tutorial.

  5. In my opinion daylight is superior to any kind of artificial light. I always put my cakes close to a window, turn of any light bulbs in my apartment and finally set white balance on “daylight”.

    If a shadow makes my cake look unflattering I use white paper or a mirror to light up the shadow. However, I think that any kind of shadows give some depth to my photos.

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