Have you ever photographed cakes, desserts or other confectionery? If yes, then you should be aware that even the most exquisite culinary masterpieces in the pictures sometimes look unaesthetic, and sometimes not at all appetizing. What is the secret and why do we see a completely different picture on the pages of glossy magazines or on the Instagram feed?
Do you want to learn how to properly photograph desserts without professional photographic equipment, limiting yourself to your smartphone? All this is quite real, although the quality of the camera in the phone still plays an important role.
Preparing the film set for shooting desserts
First you need to choose a location for shooting. The work surface can be located almost anywhere. It is only important what exactly gets into the frame — what accessories or decorative elements.
With morning lighting, photographs of desserts with coffee or tea are especially good, and in the evening you can even place candles in the shooting area. Consider not only the time of day, but also the time of year.
The background should be concise and at the same time original, so that nothing distracts and does not spoil the final picture. If you don’t have what you think is a suitable location for shooting cakes and desserts, it will not be difficult for you to prepare it. You will need a white sheet of drawing paper, which can be turned not only into a background, but also into a light reflector.
You can also set the mood for your shots with colored backgrounds — pink, blue, yellow, and even black. All this can also be whatman paper. To control natural light, you can use a purchased reflector or make it yourself from foil stretched over some kind of frame.
When you need to diffuse the harsh light from the window, use a light white cloth or plain tracing paper. With all these simple items, you will be able to create professional shots and get the most out of the camera in your smartphone.
Your main task when shooting a dessert or cake is to present the confection in an appetizing way. Properly selected background, well-placed lighting and post-processing will help to achieve this effect.
It is better to shoot not with hands, but with a tripod. If you use a smartphone, you can buy an inexpensive table tripod for it with flexible legs, which is easy to set up at different angles and on almost any surface.
The power of composition when shooting cakes and desserts
When composing a frame, you need to take into account a lot of nuances. Placing a dessert against a bright background or placing a teaspoon next to it unsuccessfully can shift the vector of attention in the opposite direction.
Do not neglect the classic techniques of composition in photography. Try to place objects in the frame according to the rule of thirds, the principles of symmetry, or experiment with camera angles.
When composing a composition, pay attention to the details:
- If the dessert is decorated with many decorative elements, do not overload the frame with additional objects and details.
- Neutral backgrounds in light colors are the best choice. At the same time, contrast is needed so that the dessert does not merge with the background. This applies not only to the background, but also to tablecloths, cake stands and so on.
- If there are auxiliary elements in the frame, they must match the style of the confectionery. Fresh flowers, lace, pearls are combined with a wedding cake. A picture with a New Year’s dessert can be supplemented with artificial snow or confetti.
- When only a piece of dessert is in the frame, place a cup of coffee or an elegant teaspoon in the frame to give the treat a mouth-watering look.
Over time, you will begin to understand when you are composing correctly. This comes with experience, but the main rule remains the same: the dessert should be the centerpiece, and everything else is needed to complete the picture. If, when you look at the picture freshly, your eyes fall first of all on the spoon or background lying near the cake, change the layout or remove unnecessary items altogether.
Decor for desserts — how to use it wisely
Learn how to decorate desserts, cakes and baked goods to make them look appetizing. If they have a boring monophonic texture, this is unlikely to attract attention. Imagine a faceless cake covered in white cream. No matter how tasty it is, they will not pay attention to it. And even more so, no one wants to cook or order it if you offer culinary recipes or cook cakes to order and promote your page on Instagram or other social networks.
You can decorate desserts with anything — from fresh fruits and berries to nuts and chocolate. Even ready-made toppings are sold that can give the cake a completely different look. Some lemon or cherry glaze, vanilla cream, cinnamon and more can dramatically change the picture.
Lighting that matters a lot
The best option for any food photo is natural daylight. It is able to reveal the texture of the dessert without distorting the colors. If it’s cloudy outside, use some lamps. And never use a flash, as it will distort all the colors and rob the frame of depth.
The direction of the light plays an important role. The light source can be placed on the side, in front or behind the object. But shooting, standing between the dessert and the window, definitely should not be for a number of reasons:
- there will be overexposure in the photo;
- colors will turn out faded;
- your silhouette will hang over the subject.
Experiment and find the best angle. For example, dark cakes and desserts (biscuit or chocolate) work well when shooting from the side, as shadows and highlights do not burst into the frame in this case.
If you have a mousse with a translucent jelly top or a cake decorated with fresh berries and fruits, try photographing it with backlight. In this case, the colors in the foreground will turn out to be the most vivid and juicy. The sun’s rays or a lamp will illuminate the jelly from the inside without overexposure.
To redirect or soften the luminous flux, use reflectors made of white thick paper. Desserts with a heterogeneous texture are especially original with the right approach. The combination of illuminated and shaded areas creates spectacular color transitions. Try to place reflectors on the left and right, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the result.
Regardless of which side the light source is on, diffuse it. This is especially true for bright sunlight. Otherwise, sharp differences between shadows and light will make the picture rougher. You can hang a window with a thin cloth that will make the lighting even. As a result, the transitions from light to shadow will be softer and smoother, and the picture will turn out to be more professional, even if you take it on a smartphone.
Common mistakes when shooting desserts
Many beginners who are just learning to photograph cakes and other confectionery make the same mistakes:
- shoot in direct sunlight, without softening or scattering;
- choose an unsuccessful angle (here you just need to experiment and gain experience);
- enclose the photo in a frame by adding all sorts of hearts and flowers — this is a bad move that makes any picture very cheap;
- use too aggressive filters in post-processing.
Get closer to the ideal
Photographing cakes and other treats in such a way that everyone wants to try them is an art form in its own right. First you need to master all the basics that we talked about above and start practicing. Try different angles, play with light, compose shots in different ways, and experiment in some other way. Then view the received frames and analyze where you made the right decision and where you didn’t. So in a few months you will learn how to shoot desserts like a professional specializing in food photography.