I’ve written this article in response to a couple of people asking me how I shoot wedding cakes. Like nearly everything in photography there are many ways to skin a cat; this is my way.
Equipment: I use a dlsr with off camera flash (OCF) – some point and shoot cameras are able to use OCF, but most can’t. If you have only a P&S to work with, if possible I recommended placing the cake near a large light source, like a large window. Flash should be turned off, and especially in low light, place the camera on something to stabilise it to reduce chance of blur and so the camera can use a lower ISO, reducing noise and increasing the quality of colours.
Scene: If I can decide where the cake is – or the angle to shoot it from – I make sure the background is uncomplicated and not bright (a dark scene can be controlled easier). An old stone wall works well as its uniform throughout the scene and has a bit of texture. The ambient light I shoot at minus 0.7 to 2 stops of light. I use the camera and flashes in manual mode for consistency. And I prefer shallow depth of field in most cases – usually my aperture is set somewhere between 2.2 and 5.6.
Lighting: I place a larger light source (eg. shoot through umbrella) to the front and side of the cake. Placing the umbrella to the side of the cake casts a soft shadow on the opposite side of the cake adding dimension. An easy starting point to guestimate the exposure when using a shoot through umbrella is if the ISO is 200, the light is about 1-1.5m from the cake then aperture will need to be about f3.2, if you have one speedlight set to 1/8 power.
The last light I add is a “kicker”. I place this pretty much in line with the front light – facing the rear of the cake, and fairly far away (within reason). I leave it bare-bulb – so the transitions from the highlight to the shadows is abrupt. I try to hide this light behind a corner so the light isn’t spilling into the field of view of the camera causing flare/ghosting. When corners aren’t accessible a gobo is necessary.
Recap – nice background, ambient about 1 stop underexposed, soft light front , hard light back, fairly shallow DOF. Different angles/details. Voila.
Ambient light and 2 OCF’s introduced (slightly overexposed and distracting chairs and cross in background). This cake made by Sam’s Cupcakery:
Lighting set up – Marcus is holding my gobo (a cardboard box):
Three of the final wedding cake images delivered to Steevie & Shaz:
Example of using corner/wall as gobo:
Final wedding cake images delivered to Claire & Dan. Image on right shows Ayers House table settings in background:
All that’s left is to cut the cake – Dan’s cheering after battling to cut through the hard icing:
Please feel free to share your own tips/comments/critiques in the comments section below (“,)