A beginner’s guide to cake photography

Want to know how to photograph cakes like a pro? You'll be an expert in a shot with CD&S's top cake photography tips and tricks!

Whether you're running a small business, big business or a social media-focused enterprise, we can guarantee that knowing how to photograph cakes better, to show them off in all their glory, has crossed your mind. 

Don't get your lenses in a twist! We had a chat to our resident CD&S photographer to answer all of your burning questions on how to photograph cupcakes and regular cakes to the highest standard. You'll be snapping like a pro in no time with our top cake photography tips!

Cake Photography Tips: Expert Advice          


Cake photography tips: phone cameras

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Cake Photography Tips: Expert Advice

Almost all phones have cameras now. Are they good enough?

The short answer here? No. The improvement of phone cameras is quite staggering, but you can't really wouldn't consider using them for magazine work. The lens and image sensor on a phone is very small when compared to a conventional SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, so the image quality will diminish when your images are enlarged. Photography is all about light, so the bigger the lens (or the bigger the glass we should really say), the more light can get into the camera. Also, camera phones don't have the manual controls required to fine tune and get the best result from your cake photography. Cakes are works of art, so they deserve to be represented to the highest possible standard after all!

What if you're not in a position to buy a professional camera?

If you don't have any other option than your phone, remember to place your cake in a well lit area and place your phone on something steady to avoid camera shake. There are tiny tripods available for phones, or you can even use a car holder to secure it. It's incredibly important to keep your camera still, especially if it's a phone camera, as they're incredibly sensitive to any movement and you will have problems with unwanted blurring and funny fuzzy photos that don't show your cakes off to the best standard. 

Cake photography tips: professional cameras

Cake Photography Tips: Expert Advice

If you are able to purchase a professional camera, what make and model of camera is best?

We wouldn't recommend a particular make, as all the main consumer brands produce excellent cameras. Of course, budget will dictate what you go for, but an SLR design or one of the compact-style cameras that have interchangeable lenses are your best bet. These types of cameras have all the controls that will enable you to create high quality images... with a bit of practice of course! If in doubt, talk to the staff in store about how to photograph cakes and what they would recommend that is within your price bracket. The tech market changes constantly and there's always new gadgets and developments happening to help make your cake photography top notch. 

How about lighting and using the flash on a camera? Is it necessary?

Many of the problems you will experience from taking pictures will come from a mixture of light sources. For example, your kitchen may have halogen spotlights in the ceiling and florescent tubes under your wall cupboards. These different bulbs will have a different colour temperature, meaning your camera will interpret one light as more orange or more green, leaving you with a horrible quality of light and a rather odd-looking cake!

Our advice would be to use natural light as much as possible, choosing a place near a window (but not in direct sunlight). If you have a conservatory or outdoor space, again out of direct sunlight, these are ideal places for cake photography. Sometimes, natural light can still be a little harsh on one side of your cake, so you can solve this problem by hanging a voile/net curtain to diffuse the light. Then, use a piece of white card or paper to reflect the light back onto the darker side of your cake to create a nice, soft, balanced effect. You may need to use a bit of trial and error to begin with until you get the best result. 

If your camera has an 'on-camera' flash, definitely avoid using it, as the light can be too harsh and create odd shadows. Switch off the flash (check your manual for instructions) and simply use a desk lamp or two with the same wattage and type of bulbs. Make sure to set your camera's 'white balance' setting to the types of lights you have (again check your manual for those instructions) and away you go!

Any other advice on how to photograph cakes with a professional camera?

Invest in a tripod! Even a desk tripod that costs around £10 will open up lots more possibilities for your photography and enable you to use lower ISO (sensitivity) and shutter speeds to achieve higher quality images. Your cakes and business are worth it!

Cake photography tech tips

Cake photography

If a magazine, newspaper or maybe an online journalist asks for images, of your work, what format do you need to provide?

Magazines are printed using a four colour separation process called CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yello, Black). Digital images are in RGB (Red, Green. Blue). With us so far? For images to appear in a print magazine, they will need to be converted. There are pre-production processes that will take care of this during magazine printing, so this isn't something you need to concern yourself with.

However, if you're interested, the best quality image is achieved by providing a CMYK TIFF file at a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch). But this is only really possible if you have access to Photoshop or similar software to convert your original files. As long as you provide a high resolution jpeg in the first place, a satisfactory result can be achieved.

How about formatting an image for social media?

That can be confusing, as while JPEG files are universally acceptable, PNG files on Facebook provide a much better image quality. PNGs also have the benefit of scaling correctly when viewed on different devices. Each platform tends to have its own specifications (that change all the time!), which you can find squirreled away on each respective site's 'help' page. You can also simply Google 'Facebook image sizes', for example and that will point you in the right direction. 

You mentioned Photoshop earlier - would you recommend using it?

Absolutely! It's the industry standard and the full version has some very powerful tools to finesse your images. However, the cut-down version has most of the features that you'll require and a much cheaper price. Of course, there are a number of other options available by different brands. Digital images, even with a top-of-the-range camera, will require an element of sharpening, so we recommend starting with that. But remember, as will all of these filters, use them sparingly as you can easily overdo things and end up with a worse result. 

Brightness and contrast are important too. You can add a little depth to your image or alternatively soften it using this filter. 

Cake photography tips: getting the 'look'

Cake photography getting the look

What kind of background should a cake photograph have? Plain white? Outdoors? 

It all depends on the colour and complexity of the cake design really, there's no 'one size fits all'. If you're going to use a colour, we generally advise using more muted shades so they don't overpower the shot. Of course, you can be as creative as you want by adding props and even a sheet of patterned wallpaper to create a different look. It's all about your personal creativity and taste. Here's some different background examples:

1. This beautiful blue tiered cake worked best on a plain white background, as this really highlighted the sharp angles and pure lines of colour in the cake, as well as letting the beautiful flower take centre stage.

Cake Photography Tips: Expert Advice

2. These cute Valentine's cookies work really nicely on a black background as black and red are stunning, complementary colours, the black helping the red truly stand out and making sure the paler pinks and creams aren't lost on a white background. 

Cake Photography Tips: Expert Advice

3. This outdoorsy background is ideal for a naked cake, as naked cakes are all about embracing everything rustic, basic and natural. So it adds to the ambiance of the image without detracting from the actual cake.

Naked cake

How about a soft-focus background, how do you achieve that? 

That's simple, but very dependent on the type of camera you have and the controls available. If you can access the aperture controls, select a larger aperture (say f4 or f5, as the lower the number, the less of you subject will be in focus) and this will throw the background of your image out of focus. Be sure to select a focal point on your camera though, or everything may end up out of focus and you may need to switch to manual focus to get the result you're after. 

Cake Photography Tips: Expert Advice

Final cake photography tips

  1. Use a low ISO (sensitivity) for a better quality image. An ISO of 100 will produce a much finer quality image than ISO 800.
  2. Secure your camera. This helps keep the quality of image and allows you to fine tune elements of your cake without having to reset the shot each time.
  3. Everything in focus. If you want everything to be in focus, you'll need to adjust your camera to use a smaller aperture (higher number f-stop). The higher the number f-stop, the more of your subject will be in focus.           

There you go, CD&S's top cake photography tips to turn you into a pro! The last thing you want is to let all of your hard work down with an unprofessional photo. But don't worry, know you know exactly how to photograph a cake to the highest standard, you won't have any problems again!

If you're looking for more business tips, CD&S are full of them! Why not check out our article on the 5 Things You Need To Know When Starting A Cake Business!

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