How to Photograph Your Cake with A White Background
I see this being asked all the time in cakey forums and some decorators have in fact made photographing their cakes this way their signature look. It can be tricky especially if you don’t have a nice big window and or enough light sources.
There are however a few ways to achieve this look with not much equipment or software. There are just as many ways to do this with lots of equipment and software as well. This way is just a quick hacks way.
It does make it easier to create this look in different circumstances if you understand the how and why behind how you can achieve a white background.
Given that I am on location shooting our latest tutorials this week and had to get a shot of Margie’s Jemima Puddle Duck Cake before she goes to her new home and I only had limited things with me, it certainly helps to understand the how when I am setting this up and using materials that are on hand.
I have shot a quick hackers iPhone video to show you how I got this effect with a limited set up. Please note, this video was a super quick video shot on my iphone so excuse my shaky hand!
You will need
- A piece of white cardboard or paper
- A thin white plastic sheet or muslin
- A DSLR camera
- My budget Photojojo pop up flash bounce ) because the expensive external flash is broken….but this works well for a hack. The one that I have linked to is a newer one since I bought mine, its probably even better
- A big window with natural light coming through from behind
- Optional – Light source for the front of the cake, your flash will probably be enough though. I had a softbox already set up so did use that but you will be able to get the same result by tweaking your camera settings.
- A cake!
The objective here is to blow out or overexpose the background without overexposing the cake. Its a fine line but if you can nail it its a great option as the focus is completely on the cake. It also saves you having to edit an almost white background in a program such as Lightroom.
You can see in this image here before playing with my camera settings, Jemima is in focus but the background is clearly visible and a bit blue.
What we are trying to do is let just enough light into the camera to overexpose the background without overexposing Jemima. You have three options or settings on your camera to control how much light is let into the camera.
ISO – this is the grain or the size of the pixels
My personal preference is not to overexpose too much by increasing the ISO too far as you will get too much noise or grain in your image. If you have a lower quality camera or you just cannot get enough light into the camera this may be your only option. If the images are only for social media and web use it doesn’t really matter too much however if you want to use the image in print, say for a magazine ad you want to tray and keep the noise/grain in your photos down.
Aperture – This is the size of the hole inside the lens that gives you your depth of field but also controls light.
The Aperture for your cake shot will depend on what lens you are using AND what you want your final result to be in regards to depth of field ie the depth of the area that is in focus.
Finally, Shutter Speed. When it comes to food photography, this is my preferred tool to control light. I will usually know how much depth of field I want in the image and I also know I want as little noise as possible. Since you are not shooting a moving object you can go down nice and low and tripod your camera if needed. This will allow you to fine tune the amount of light that you let into the camera.
I have gone through all the exact camera settings that I used in the video and I show you my exact set up.
Remember there are many ways to achieve the same look. These images could be tweaked further if you wanted to ensure a perfect white that would blend seamlessly into the white of a computer screen, which you would do if you were shooting say product shots for a website. For the most part though, photos on websites have a light border around them or a slight colour difference actually defines the edge of the image and so near enough is good enough.
If you do want to tweak further, investing in an editing program such as Lightroom will go a long way to helping you tweak your images, especially if your surroundings are not conducive to good natural light.
If you want to go further in depth we do have our Photograph Your Cake course where we take you deeper into understanding your DSLR, cake photography and a session on basic Lightroom editing. This is currently on sale this week for $37 usually $97!
You can check it out HERE
If you want to take the video tutorial to make Jemima, the tutorial will be live on August 1st 2014 in our members area. Find out more about being a member of our website HERE
Tell me if you like this video and I can shoot some more quick hacker videos for you :)