Pictures! We all take them because, well, they are the only record we have after our delicious and beautiful masterpieces have been devoured. A knife, a fork, and a hungry mob is all it takes to wipe the memory of your tireless hours of work into oblivion. (A little dramatic? Maybe.) But I’m trying illustrate to you the importance of documenting your efforts, and more importantly, your skills.
It doesn’t take much to go from “Ehh…” to “WOW!” And who really wants to hear “ehh” about their cake?
So let’s talk about some basics.
Where do you take your shots?
Think about it for a second. If any of these words come to mind and are true for you, it’s a good thing you’re reading this post: kitchen table; counter; at the party; in a box, standing over top of it… ***RED FLAGS HERE!!!***
The general clutter and unnecessary stuff that exists in these places are competing with your cake. Your cake should have center stage and be the star of the photograph! Ask yourself this: “Do I want to remember the laminate counter and the cream colored tiles around my cake, or just my cake?” “Does that printed plastic table cloth sporting Buzz Lightyear reeeaallllyyyyyy help my cake stand out?”
The answer is no. Let me show you.
Yes. I know. You can already see why the first image is problematic. There’s a GORGEOUS girl stealing the limelight. That, and the white molding on the wall behind her and the deep shadowed area in the upper right– both distracting. Every one of those things competes with my Wall-E cake. The image on the right is better (it’s still not great, but a definite improvement). Why? White background; Wall-E POPS off the screen because he is the only interesting thing there.
Better yet, consider some back drops like these recently purchased ones from Ink & Elm:
|To read about this image and why I chose THESE specific backdrops, click here for my blog post!|
In my Skull and Crossbones cake you can see I used two of the backdrops shown above. My Pink ranunculus cake I used what has become my go-to, FAVORITE backdrop: a roll of photographer’s paper, which you can find HERE. It’s available in tons of colors, shades, and sizes. It’s a roll of paper, so as it gets used and worn you can just snip of the end portions. The length is what I love most!
Lighting matters! More than you know.
“Lighting” does not merely mean there IS light versus there ISN’T light. The type of light is very important.
All lighting is NOT created equal. Do your photos have a blue hue to them? Or perhaps a yellow hue like in the ’70’s and ’80’s? Well, if you’re not going for vintage or sepia toned replications of your cake, learning some basics about light and your camera helps.
Again, let me show you.
You may remember this cake from the Luck’s Edible Image contest I participated in on Cake Central last year. The first image on the sky blue backdrop was ok. But it maxed it’s awesomeness at “just ok.” I re-shot it against my new favorite back drop, at a different angle to catch light differently and from a different lighting source. The angle of the cake changed the way my camera recorded light. It was kind of muted and grayish. The gold highlighter on some of my floral spray was blown out with light in the first image, but reads as glimmering gold in the second re-shoot. I never really realized it until I used my newly acquired skills from the book below. My cake wasn’t recorded as beautifully as it could have been.
Natural light (from the sun) is always best. It can be elusive and finicky at times, but it out-performs any and all artificial light sources no matter how sophisticated and expensive they may be.
*Shameful confession: I bought a lighting system less than a year ago and I’ve used it once because it killed my cakes. It was awful. Never again. My youngest now uses the box to climb on to get onto my bed.
Avoid the following at all costs if you want your cakes to be beautifully preserved forever by your camera: fluorescent lighting, lamp or overhead lighting (like typical kitchen lighting), straight on lighting, lack-of-light-lighting.
Know thy camera and what you’re doing with it!
Yes. Camera. NOT CELL PHONE. Yes, I meant to yell there. And here’s why: when you make beautiful cakes, and have a good setting and good lighting, you may get noticed. That’s good and it feels FABULOUS to have your hard work recognized like that. Perhaps you participated in a collaboration that required “High Resolution” photos or “Professional Quality” photos; or maybe you have been asked by a print magazine if they can include your cake in a feature…
Cell phones will NEVER be able to shoot at high enough resolution to be acceptable for these purposes. Not at all. No exceptions. Please read that again. And one more time. I can’t stress enough: just because it looks good, and sharp, and crisp on the monitor or on your smart phone screen does not mean it is high quality or professional quality.
There’s this thing associated with digital photos called DPI , Dots Per Inch (equivalent to PPI/PPP in some countries). On the computer/internet the standard at which you see crisp clear beautiful images is 72-96 DPI. That is actually very low resolution. It is standard and suitable for the web. If something needs to be “high resolution” or “professional quality” it needs to be at least 300 DPI. Printing requires more information to be contained within the digital file. You cannot get this resolution with the camera on a phone.
Does your camera already have any of these features shown below?
|If you have low lighting, that little circle with a dot and a line will be your best buddy: a timer. You can set (in many cameras) it to a 2 second delay or a 10 second delay so your hands don’t need to be on the camera if the shutter is going to stay open a bit longer to allow more light in in low light settings. That way, you don’t get fuzzy pictures. Slight hand movements on the camera cause poor focus. That flower? A close up setting that allows you to capture reeeeaaallllyyyy small details. It’s called Macro. It’s different from just stuffing the camera closer to the subject. My favorite extra on my camera. Hands down.|
Did you know those things about them? If you don’t, you should learn. It doesn’t take much, honestly! But knowing what these little things can do for the quality of your pictures is priceless! They can control sooooo many things that you likely won’t need photo-editing software (though I’ve been addicted to Photoshop since I was 15… I’ll never be without it).
Even the simplest of point-and-shoot digital cameras can help. You may be an equipment junkie like me and want a more advanced DSLR and that’s fine, too.
But just pinky swear to me right now that you will back away from the cell phones for shooting your cakes. Pretty please?
So many truly beautiful cakes have been denied inclusion into some print magazines simply because they weren’t “high resolution”. Most of them were shot with cell phones… insert regret here.
All that points you here…
This. This e-book. It really changed the way I shot my cakes. The difference from 18 months ago to now is startling. I cringe now at how I used to shoot my cakes and at how “ok” I was with it. I wish I could go back in time and re-shoot them knowing what I know now. I feel like I lost the opportunity to document my work as best I could.
|Click HERE to visit Pinch of Yum and preview the e-book|
But now I’m passing the torch of knowledge on to you. Right here. The book is a whopping $19. It will take you through the basics of shooting food successfully including: basics of DSLR and simple point-and-shoot cameras and how to make them work for you; utilizing home spaces to shoot; angles; light; editing; streamlining your entire process so it doesn’t take you forever to get “the shot”. It’s written in terms that anyone can understand, so you won’t feel like it’s over your head with terminology and for more advanced users- it’s not.
I spent 2 years as a professional photographer, mostly with portraiture and sports. I photograph my wacky kids daily. Food photography, and specifically CAKE photography, is distinctly different. I thought I already knew it all.
Man, was I wrong. Best $19 investment in business in a very, very long time.
And if all of this was just too much to read and you’d rather watch an amazing caker show you how SHE does it, click HERE.
Lastly, I have to inform you as per federal law that I am a PinchofYum affiliate. What’s that mean? If you get the book, I’m compensated. Like I said before: you click the button, the monkey gets a banana. Those bananas keep me chugging along. Things like Tae Kwon Do lessons and beginner’s soccer lessons (that I’m not sure will continue based on my child’s insistence on picking the ball up with his hands…) and more fun stuff to make more tutorials for y’all. But also as I’ve stated before, my word is all I have to rest on. I don’t review things I don’t like, I don’t believe in being negative or harming a company. But I won’t recommend something that I don’t like. I’ve turned down recommending some big things by big people, because they aren’t in line with my work or my word. Scout’s honor.