I don't know about you but I struggle with cake styling. I think its because I don't like triangles, and when you cut out a piece of cake and take it away from the rest of the cake you're left with a pacman face. I just can't stop looking at it in a cake shot, it's all I can see!
SO. I decided to set myself a challenge of shooting a cake overhead. I'm avoiding the pacman issue by only shooting it whole and then divided in pieces and repeated, without the rest of the cake in the shot. I'm looking to some of my instagram faves for inspo and pushing myself to do a light, colourful and dark version for each set up.
Here's what I created, why I did what I did and how I feel about each image! Please do comment your feedback below and let me know what cake styling challenges you face or how you've overcome them in your own food photography :)
Blackcurrant cheesecake food styling, look 1
So the first style of shot I did was my go to style I guess, brightly lit with back/side indirect natural light from my big patio windows so I get a lot of wrap-around light (see BTS shots further down for my lighting/set up).
I wanted to keep it very clean and purely abut the colours in the cake so used a soft grey backdrop edited slightly green to set the pink off.
I say this is my go-to-style - I like to use 3-5 different sized circles in a fluid, asymmetric flow through the image, using colours and props to support but not overwhelm the subject.
I like the way the cake looks in this image, and the props are cute but it does feel a bit flat with everything on the same level and not much difference in the light across the backdrop.
What do you think?
Shot on the Slay backdrop
Blackcurrant cheesecake food styling, look 2
For my second look I wanted to play with the depth of field and bring in more colour, as part of the challenge I wanted to set myself was working with more bright colours that compliment the colours in the food.
My preferred ways to style with colour are often playing with different tones/shades of the same colour or bringing in a mix of patterns in the same or similar colour - I think this gives a relaxed style while still tapping into the pleasing look repetition gives. I think in food styling where we want to food to shine, using too many colours can throw the focus off what we want to be the hero of the shot, the food, and can be a bit confusing or hectic on the eye.
I've just recently started collecting delft and willow plates and I thought these would work well with the pink, especially knocked out of focus so the pattern is soft and not competing for attention.
I used a cake stand to lift the cheesecake towards the camera - fortunately I had a white one just the right size - but a plate raised by a small bowl or even saucer/pinch pot can work just as well overhead or straight on if they match the plate!
I REALLY like this image. I think it feels modern and stylish even with antique ceramics as they sit well on the backdrop and the drop in focus makes it feel more edgy. It really keeps the attention on the cake too.
Shot on the Kai backdrop
Blackcurrant cheesecake food styling, look 3
I've gone really simple with this look, using a bold and gritty backdrop you wouldn't necessarily think of for cake styling. But I like it!
I've used a large pewter platter to frame the cake further, giving it more substance and separation from the backdrop, adding layers and shadows without overcomplicating the arrangement.
Can you guess which Instagram lovely I was channelling for this one? Comment below!
Shot on the Drip backdrop
Blackcurrant cheesecake food styling, look 4
For my first of the cake wedge images I’ve gone light and cleaner again, trying to use lots of repetition with five pieces of cake.
I'm disappointed with this image. So much so I don't want to share it! And I probably spent the most time on it :(
Oh well, lessons learnt! I wanted it to be bright but dramatic, with strong shadows and vibrant pieces of cake, but I don't think the backdrop or plates lend themselves to that.
And it feels flat. Aaaargh! Oh well, onwards....
Shot on the Slay backdrop
The glamorous side! This is my usual place to shoot until around 3pm at the moment when the sun comes around the back of the house and it gets too bright with direct sunlight.
You can see I've used a sheet of foam board to mask off the top corner as it was too bright on the light backdrop. (If I'd have used a dark sheet of card it would have been too dark - sometimes blocking with white is enough!)
Then the foam board to the left is bouncing light back in and softening the shadows - but I wish I'd removed it to get stronger shadows and more contrast and difference across the backdrop!
Blackcurrant cheesecake food styling, look 5
For my bright colours look using the cut wedges of cheesecake I've gone tonal but also brought in a purple dish as I wanted a darker element to match the depth of the blackcurrants. I think it works well and the spoon with pink jam on it helps lift the area which could have been too strong and dominating if left entirely in shadow inside.
I prefer using only 3 wedges of cake as we can get closer and see more detail, I also like how the pink sits on the dark green Denby plates - love that colour combo! I think the props look lovely on the blue/teal Kai backdrop.
This is a bit busier than my usual style but it's been a good exercise for me - I like the idea of layering slightly different sized plates up to add an extra frame like I did on the central plate just to create a more obvious hero and mix the sizes up a bit.
Shot on the Kai backdrop.
I did take the light bouncing card away on this set up and you can see how high I raised the central plate to get it closer to the camera and overlapping the dishes next to it.
Blackcurrant cheesecake food styling, look 6
I love this one, yeeeey!
The colours pop, its vibrant but edgy, good contrast, a bit moody. The only things I would change would be to redo the creme fresh - not looking too fresh! And maybe add some more blackcurrants left centre but hey I sell photography backdrops so negative space works for me!
I really like that the backdrop has some warm tones among the cool blues, I think that works really nicely as a base for the pink. What do you think? I can see this being the most popular on Instagram!
Shot on the Wander backdrop
I hope you've found this interesting and have some inspiration for your own cake styling!
I think my next challenge will be a tall cake or food item shot from the front with a vertical backdrop behind. I steer away from this in my own photography as it requires a more complicated set up but it feels good to push myself and learn, so maybe one day I will take up the challenge!
The recipe by the way is a Blackcurrant and Lime Cheesecake from Delicious magazine - it should have had toasted coconut flakes in the biscuit base but I swapped these out for Ginger Nut biscuits (50/50 ginger nuts and digestives). It was D-LISH - sweet enough without losing the tang of the blackcurrants and zing of the lime.
Please let me know what you think below!
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