Cupcakes are not only delicious but fun to photograph. Their pretty colours and whimsical embellishments make for great photos.
You don’t need to make things complicated in order to get beautiful cupcake photography.
Here are 8 tips to keep in mind for the next time you shoot cupcakes.
8. Tell a Story Through the Atmosphere of Your Cupcake Shoot
The first step in getting cupcake photography is deciding how you want to capture it.
Are you looking for a bright and airy shot, or do you want to create a dark and moody feel?
Even minimalist images should convey a sense of atmosphere. Or they can hint at a wider story.
Have an idea of what food story you want to tell and set your scene appropriately.
You also don’t have to use many props when shooting cupcakes. They can stand on their own to make a powerful image.
You might want to choose only one prop. A cake stand or a tiered cookie stand works great to show off your cupcakes.
When deciding on props, be careful to choose props that are cohesive with your subject. A knife with a bit of frosting on the tip makes sense with your subject. A pair of botanical scissors don’t.
7. How Light Direction Emphasise Different Cupcake Textures
The direction of your light is a very important consideration when planning your cupcake shots.
That leaves side lighting, backlighting, and side-backlighting.
Lighting images from the side is a safe approach that works for a lot of different food subject, including cupcakes.
Just be sure to have a reflector or white card opposite from your light source to bounce some of the light back onto the scene. This way your cupcakes will be evenly lit but the light will have dimension.
You can also have your light source coming from behind your subject. This works very well to emphasize texture and make your cupcakes glisten.
The challenge with backlighting is that oftentimes the back of the image will be too bright. And the front ends up looking too dark.
You can correct this by bouncing some light onto the front. Also try playing with the distance of your set to the light source.
Side-backlighting is when you position your light source in between a side lighting and backlighting set-up. If you image the face of a clock, this would be at 10:00 or 11:00.
This is a great angle. You can get the pros of the other lighting directions without the cons.
6. Camera Angle and Orientation for Cupcake Photography
The camera angle and orientation you choose for your cupcakes will also make a big difference in your final results.
You can choose a 3/4 angle, shoot your cupcake subjects straight-on, or overhead. Each of these food photography angles will have a different look.
If you want to emphasize the pattern of fancy, piped on frosting, an overhead shot can be a great choice. If you want to show off the height of that frosting, shooting your cupcakes at eye-level would make most sense.
Decide whether you want to shoot your cupcakes in portrait or landscape orientation. Cookbooks and magazines usually have a vertical orientation. This is why a lot of food is shot this way.
This approach may not allow you to put as many cupcakes as you want in the frame. The lens you use will also be a factor.
To make sure you choose the right camera angle and orientation, think about which would bring out the best features of your cupcakes.
5. Make Your Images Pop With Colour Wheel Tricks
One of the best ways to elevate your photography is to work with the power of the colour wheel.
Colour is an important part of a composition. There is whole psychology around colour and its uses.
Colour evokes the emotions and creates a sense of mood in an image. It bears some thinking about when you’re planning your shoot.
The colour wheel is a simple item that artists use every day. It can help you make decisions about which colours will best play off each other. That way you can ensure your cupcake photographs have that wow factor.
Focus on a couple of colours–the colour of your cupcakes and your backdrop. Too many colours in an image will make it look chaotic.
4. Use a Pastry Bag for Piping On Frosting
You can frost your cupcakes simply by spreading on thick icing. Or you can add some extra pizzaz by piping your frosting on with a pastry bag.
You can keep it simple, or get as fancy as you choose.
You need some serious skills to embellish your cupcakes as pictured in the image below. But you can also get a beautiful results with an inexpensive pastry bag with the appropriate tip.
Scoop the icing into the bag and press down as you swirl the contents onto each cupcake with a circular motion.
You can find a lot of useful videos on YouTube that will show you different piping hacks. You can also find out how you can frost your cupcakes with nothing but a plastic sandwich bag.
3. Add Texture With Sprinkles and Other Embellishments
The foods that photograph best are those with a lot of natural texture. Texture adds contrast and detail. Adding some sprinkles or other such embellishments to your cupcakes will make them doubly captivating.
Consider the image below. With just the frosting, the image might have looked rather ho-hum.
Add some solid swaths of small and colourful sprinkles. This will get your cupcakes to a whole other level.
Sometimes less is more though. Don’t overdo it with too much of a good thing. Lots of texture, props, and bright colours can end up overwhelming your viewer.
Be strategic with your sprinkles!
2. Make Your Cupcake Photography Stand Out With Composition Principles
When photographing your delicious cupcakes, you must be aware of the compositional principles. Your subject is composed of several of the same items. That’s why the placement of them is crucial.
You need to take advantage of the principles of repetition, line, pattern, and shape.
Line is the most basic compositional principle.
Lines lead the eye through key focal points and elements and keep it focused on the image.
Lines should point to the main subject, or into the frame. With cupcakes, this may be one that is a little bit different than the others in terms of shape, size, or some other detail.
Before taking a shot, explore your composition by creating different patterns and see what looks best.
Repetitive elements add interest to an image. They can also appear monotonous. Breaking up the pattern in some way will create a stronger photograph.
In the picture below, one cupcake is positioned higher than the others, which creates a subtle break in the rows of cupcakes.
In addition to these principles, the rule-of-odds will also be useful to you when composing your cupcake images.
This compositional principle states that an odd number of objects are more captivating to the viewer than an even number of objects. In food photography, we typically use three or five objects.
An even number of elements compete with each other and divide the viewer’s attention.
On the other hand, an odd number of elements create a more balanced and harmonious composition. They create a resting point for our eyes.
1. Edit for Colour and Contrast to Improve Your Cupcake Images
When editing your image, be sure to get the right balance between your white and blacks. And also between your shadows and highlights.
These basic edits will give you the correct foundation to play with the colour treatment.
If you’re using Lightroom, spend some time in the HSL panel working on individual colours. Brighten them or tweak them to the exact tone that you want.
Each camera reads colour a different way, so you’re image will require some colour work to get them looking great.
Using the Vibrance slider in the Basic panel is also an important tip. Vibrance will saturate the midtones without overdoing the colours that are already saturated.
The Saturation slider in Lightroom will give you intense saturation that can look fake and unappetizing. If you use this slider, keep it really low, such as +5 or +6 maximum.
Add a bit of contrast with the contrast slider, or play with the Tone Curve.
Digital files are quite flat. Adding at least a bit of contrast to your food photography is a must.
When it comes to cupcake photography, get creative and think outside the box.
The Internet is saturated with cupcake images. How can you approach your cupcake photography a bit differently?
This might mean using some glossy backdrops or really ramping up the colour treatment in post-production.
These 8 tips should have given you some new ideas on how to take great images of your cupcakes.