Thursday, 8 December 2011

The art of a great food photograph

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Suzanne Goldenberg, a freelance photographer and journalist who offered to take some photographs to try and pitch a Brighton Bakery showcase article to local foodie magazine, Edible.  Naturally, I jumped at the chance for a bit of free publicity and we discussed a few different angles for the piece.  One of the key things that sets us apart from other cake makers is that we offer a range of vegetable based cakes, so that seemed like a good option and I set my mind to work thinking of the best veggie cakes to bake for the photoshoot.
Suzanne pitched the idea to her editor and while the article was given the go ahead, it couldn't be seen as promoting just one company due to advertising regulations.  So instead Suzanne planned to write a general article, with a reference to Brighton Bakery and some local cafes that also offer vegetable cakes.  What a shame.  Still, all publicity is good publicity, as they say, and I had a nice chat on the phone to Suzanne about the benefits of using different vegetables in cakes.  I also offered to make a cake for her to photograph for the article as I was really keen to pick up some tips about taking a good food photo as I really have no idea what I'm doing.  I was sure that a certain father in law of mine would be very happy to help out with any cake leftovers...
So last Friday I baked a firm favourite from our market stalls, Courgette and Cinnamon cake.  I thought it was a good option as it has a lovely texture where you can see flecks of courgette and lemon zest and it's set off by a pretty zigzag lemon icing on top which I hoped would add interest to the photo. 
Suzanne arrived a couple of hours later with a few props in tow - a white board to reflect the light, a small tablecloth, two chopping boards, some pretty plates and a cake knife and fork to dress the scene.  I was surprised that she was happy to take the pictures in our basement kitchen as I didn't think there was enough light, but by angling the white board it lifted the shadows and the photos came out well.
We did a few different set ups, one with the cake in its tin, un-iced on a rustic wooden board, then I quickly iced it and Suzanne took a few more shots of the whole cake on the board.  We both new that the best photos would probably be once the cake was cut, so I cut two generous slices which gave us lots of options for the set up.  Different angles, a slice of cake on a plate with a fork, slices stacked up in front of the rest of the loaf, Suzanne busily snapped away dozens of pictures, all very slightly different.  I asked loads of questions along the way and picked up some good tips.  A key thing is that she used a 50mm prime lens, which we might have to invest in - our zoom lens just can't get close enough to pick up the detail that hers can.  The 50mm lens also allows you to open the aperture very wide and take lovely pictures in lower lighting conditions, which would be a real benefit in our house! 
Like most photographers, Suzanne is very particular when scrutinising her pictures, and is happy if she gets just 3 or 4 good ones from a shoot (and I'm sure she took well over a hundred photos).  Here's her final selection:

photos ©
And here's the link to Suzanne's article on the Edible Magazine website: Courgette Muffin Anyone? 

I love how our battered old wooden chopping board has come out in the pictures, and the rustic water icing really sets off the cake with a lovely contrast.
We only got a brief mention in the article, but it was great to see how Suzanne worked, and we already have a cake photography project planned for next year, so it was well worth the price of a couple of courgettes and a little bit of time.  Thanks Suzanne x

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