The one thing that bugs me more than anything else when it comes to cake decorating is the fact that people will spend hours and hours creating amazing cakes but fail to put any effort into making sure they have a good photo of it! After all, the cake itself will only be around for a few days, sometimes hours, before it's eaten which means the photograph is the only proof it existed and the only way to show people how great it was!
These cakes are all made by hobby bakers and past students, and they've kindly agreed to let me share them to highlight the need to take a good photo. These cakes obviously took a lot of time to make, and they look great.
Sadly, though, the photos don't show how good the cakes were in real life and as they're the only thing left now that they've been eaten, that is a real shame. If the ladies who made these decided to turn their hobby into a business in the future these would be two incredible cakes which they may be reluctant to show potential customers purely because of the quality of the photograph.
Now, I am not claiming to be a great photographer, far from it in fact, but I always try and make my photos look the best they can, even if I only have a couple of minutes to snap a quick shot, and even if I only have my iphone handy!
So here are my three simple steps to take better photos of your cakes, I hope you'll find them useful!
Move your cake off the turntable and ideally put it onto a cake stand. If you are taking photos of cupcakes make sure you take them out of the box.
Move your cake away from any mess or other items. No one wants to see your plug sockets, dirty dishes, kitchen aid etc.
Create a nice backdrop and move the cake in front of that. Backdrops don't have to cost a lot of money or take up a lot of space. I have one 'proper' backdrop (click here) but I also use wallpaper offcuts which you can get for free from most DIY stores. If you don't have a backdrop or don't want to store one, you could simply move your cake to somewhere in your house which already has wall paper on a wall or even a plain painted wall. To really make your cake be the 'star' of the photo you might like to make sure that the background is seemless and you can do that easily with a backdrop or wallpaper.
To show you what a difference moving your cake can make take a look at these photos, the one on the left was taken where I had been working on my cake and yes I'd moved most of the things away from it but it's still a terrible photo! The second was taken on a backdrop with nothing else in shot and already without making any other adjustments it looks far better than the first one!
You will also need to move yourself to make sure you take a photo at the best angle for your cake. This one looked best taken from slightly above but most cakes will photograph better front on so you may need to get down to eye level. This doesn't always work though and I do always prefer to take shots of my cupcakes from slightly above as shown in this gallery.
The second thing to consider is the light and you'll be pleased to hear you don't need to spend any money at all on good lighting for your cake photos! The best light is natural daylight and we get plenty of that in the UK! It doesn't need to be sunny, it just needs to be light, so even on a cloudy day you can take great photos, in fact some of the best light comes on a dull day as there are less shadows.
Position your cake so the light is coming in from the side rather than in front or behind the cake. In my house I have a window to the left of my hob (about 1.5mts away) so I take my photos on the hob - on a backdrop of course, no one wants to see my hob!!
Next turn off any lights you have on in the room so you are ONLY using daylight - even if it seems dark to your eyes it is probably light enough for your camera, especially once you've applied step 3.
Make sure there are no shadows being cast on your cake - this sometimes happens when the sunlight floods through so you might need to move slightly or wait until the sun has moved a little. This photo from one of my past students shows how shadows can ruin your photo. If you are struggling to find somewhere without a shadow then use something to block the light stream, as long as there is still enough light in the room you could close a curtain or use a piece of cardboard to block the light from causing shadows.
Do you want to make your cakes look more professional? Read my simple tips here.
Did you know if you are using an iphone to take your photos you can increase/decrease the exposure? Simply tap the screen to focus and then slide your finger up/down the screen to move the sun icon to increase or decrease the exposure.
This is usually the part that freaks people out but there really isn't any need to panic about editing your photos and you don't need any technical or expensive photoshop software for this.
I use a simple app for all my editing and it works really well. There are many apps available for this step but the one I prefer to use is called VSCO.
I make 3 very simple tweaks to all my photos and for most photos I leave it at that, I would rarely spend more than a couple of minutes doing this as my photos are usually only destined for social media rather than anywhere more exclusive!!
I will usually increase the exposure and contrast a little as shown below, and then I will bring the temperature down ever so slightly. If my photo has a very warm colour, by which I mean if it had a yellow hue to it, then I would turn the temperature down a little more.
By making these 3 tweaks this photo has improved a lot already and I've spent hardly any time on it at all. I then cropped the edited image slightly to remove some of the empty space.
So you can see by making these 3 simple changes to the way you take your photos and then adding in a simple editing app, your photos really can look great and you can have an image of your cake you can be proud to share online and keep for the future.
Don't forget to take some close-ups of the details as well, and some other photos at different angles perhaps, and edit those the same way. If your cake has a hidden feature, such as a rainbow sponge or a secret filling then make sure you take photos of those too - even if it means a photo of a 'naked' cake! If using VSCO you can simply copy and paste the edits to save you editing them all individually.
Of course there are lots of other things you can do to get even better photos with both a camera and a smart phone but I hope this has helped you to get better shots of your cake next time you need to snap a quick picture.
If you want to learn more about taking great shots of your cakes and other items then I can highly recommend this online Craftsy photography class.