How To Make Your Cake Photos Look Great
It is commonly said that people "eat with their eyes". If something doesn't look appealing, it most likely will get passed by. The same holds true for displaying photos of your edible artwork! When looking through the millions of cake pages online or the billions of photos of amazing cakes on Pinterest, you'll notice the brightest, most colorful and appealing photos have the most admirers! So, how do they do it? Do you need to purchase expensive professional equipment? No! Do you need to spend $700 on professional photo editing software? No! So what is the secret? Well, I'm about to tell you!
When I started my cake decorating page "Otchcakes Decorated Cakes" on Facebook one year ago, I had just a few followers - mostly friends and family - but at that time I wanted to grow my cake business and have it become successful enough to bring in an income so I could enjoy being a stay-at-home mommy, and also contribute to the household bills. My first photos on my site were just okay. Every cake I made would be finished around 4 or 5 AM, and after working through the night, I was exhausted and just wanted to get to bed. So in my groggy state, I would turn on the bright fluorescent lights in my kitchen, toss a piece of fabric over my oven to give it some sort of background (and secretly hide the powdered sugar and crumb mess that was spread throughout my kitchen... hehe), snap a few photos, and be done with it. These half-hearted photos were what ended up on my page. Yeah, the artistic side of the cakes looked good, but the photos were still dark even under those bright fluorescent lights (go figure!), and sometimes the fabrics I would use would have a pattern and would distract from the cakes. Needless to say, I wasn't really going to increase my business with these types of photos!
I would work so hard on my cakes, and not put any effort into my photos - the very thing that would bring customers in! So after some time, I started experimenting with my pictures. I began with little changes, like using a solid black background to take away from any distractions (just a plain black sheet of fabric draped over my oven or a chair). Then the biggest and best change was taking my photos in natural daylight! Oh what a difference!! I didn't realize how much the fluorescent light was distorting my photos! Before learning to photograph with natural light, my white cakes always had a dingy tint to them:
Wow! What a difference!! In the first photo, my eyes immediately go to the millions of polka dots surrounding the cake! Next, my eyes go to the wrinkles in the fabric behind the cake - what a mess!! What was I thinking?! And lastly, look how dingy the fondant looks... that is NOT white! But in real life, the fondant on the first cake was as pure white as the cake on the right! Lighting really matters! Whether you place your cake directly in the sun for a photo, or you place it near a skylight in your home or near a window, natural light will make all the difference! And best of all... natural light is free!
Next, let's talk cameras! Here's some great news for you: you don't need to purchase a top-of-the-line $3,000 professional camera! Just use what you already have! The first photo on this page (the cupcake photo) was actually taken with an old hand-me-down Canon Powershot from 2007 (yeah, it is 8 years old! That's ancient in technology years!)! If you have a phone that takes good photos, or an old digital camera, use it! One huge tip I have for you when it comes to taking great photos is to learn as much as you can about your camera! Until recently, I had no idea that lowering my shutter speed to ISO 200 would cause my photos taken on a cloudy day or in a dark room to be brighter and clearer! Another tip is to invest in a small tripod (nothing expensive), and use a 10 second self-timer (or shorter time if your camera has it), so your camera has a chance to be perfectly still before it takes the photo. Now you may want to say, "but my camera doesn't have the ability to take bright photos like your cupcake photo!". Well, I have a little secret for you... great photography is not all in the camera... especially in this day and age! There is a wonderful program made by Adobe called Lightroom! It's like the "lite" version of the well-known Adobe Photoshop! Any digital photo you take can be altered by this program to make it clearer, brighter and more eye-catching! Let me show you what that cupcake photo was before:
Okay, it's kind of embarrassing to show this picture... *sigh*! This is the actual raw, untouched photo before it was edited with Lightroom. Would this catch your eye if you were flipping through Pinterest or searching for cake decorators on Facebook? Probably not! I know I wouldn't give this a second look! But by using the awesome tools in Adobe's Lightroom program, I was able to brighten my picture to its actual real-life color! My cupcake, buttercream, and tablecloth are not that dark in real life! So, after cropping the photo, playing around with the exposure slider in Lightroom, fading the cloth background to make it less distracting, and also increasing the vibrance of the colors, I ended up with this:
Hmmmm... I don't know about you, but I would rather eat this pretty bright cupcake versus the shadowed one in the first photo. For some reason cameras (especially older ones like mine) can often have trouble picking up true-to-life colors! This is what Lightroom is for! If you were to place your edible work of art in a brightly lit room, this is what it would look like... but if you were to see that same art in a photo, it may look drab and not so appetizing. So, where to find this Adobe Lightroom, and how to use it....
Actually, I downloaded a 30-day FREE trial of Adobe Lightroom from CNET.com! Whenever I need to see reviews on electronics or software, Cnet is the place to go! Before you download, please read the specs and make sure your computer is compatible and has enough free space for the program. Also, before you decide to start your trial, I highly recommend watching a few tutorials for beginners on Youtube to familiarize yourself with how Lightroom works. That way you'll be able to fully enjoy your free trial instead of spending half of the trial trying to figure it out. Yes, once your free trial is over, you will have the option to purchase this program which is a little pricey. But as of now, while I am writing of this article, the current price for the Lightroom program is $149.99... MUCH MUCH less than the full version of Adobe Photoshop CS6, which is currently priced at $699.00!! If you'd like to download Lightroom and start your free trial, click the link below:
Ever since I started editing my photos with Lightroom, traffic to both this blog and my facebook cake page has boomed! Lightroom has given me the ability to post more professional-looking photos, and also highlight the actual colors and details in my cakes that I had spent hours upon hours creating! And along with this ability to create bright beautiful photos, I've found a new confidence and have stepped my toe into the world of food styling and have starting learning art of choosing complementary backgrounds and props... but that's a different article for another time :).
Even if you don't style and brighten every single photo in your portfolio, pick a few favorites and showcase them. And at the very least, beautify your profile picture - it will make all the difference!
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and have found it helpful! God bless!