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How to photograph wedding cakes

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:

Wedding cake Adelaide Photography (1)

Lighting set up – Marcus is holding my gobo (a cardboard box):

Wedding cake Adelaide Photography (2)

Three of the final wedding cake images delivered to Steevie & Shaz:

Wedding cake Adelaide Photography (3)

Example of using corner/wall as gobo:

Wedding cake Adelaide Photography (4)

Final wedding cake images delivered to Claire & Dan. Image on right shows Ayers House table settings in background:

Wedding cake Adelaide Photography (5)

All that’s left is to cut the cake – Dan’s cheering after battling to cut through the hard icing:

Wedding cake Adelaide Photography (6)

 

Please feel free to share your own tips/comments/critiques in the comments section below (“,)

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dan - sweet little tutorial, thanks for sharing!

Sachin Khona - Thanks for sharing!

Nicole - love the pics! cant wait for mine in jan 2013 – just wondering if you know who did their cake?? looks fab! 🙂

Heather - NEAT! Thanks for sharing!

Nessa K - Cool tutorial! I love how celebratory the groom is in the last shot, too! 🙂

Derek Martinez - Great writeup, thanks for sharing!

Veronica - I have no lighting equipment or back drops. what do I do from where. I use Nikon D90. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Joel C - Hi, thanks for checking out my site.

I recommend using a neutral background if possible. Try to have the cake in front of a large light source for softer light (like a big window). If possible have the background darker than the cake. If the background has distracting elements use a large aperture (lower number). If you can get a large piece of white material to use as a reflector, this would be handy if the shadows are too dark..

Good luck!

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