Portland Food Photographer-Chocolate Cake



I keep seeing all this dark/moody food photographs and I just love it.   It’s weird that I like this type of food photography because it doesn’t fit my usual style.  My photos are typically deemed bright and crisp rather than dark and edgy.  I knew this would be difficult so I did a little research.  I checked out some websites and blogs and pinned photos I liked on Pinterest.  Once I figured out exactly how people were achieving this “dark” theme I thought to myself  “Oh, that’s not that hard.”  (And in the back of my mind also saying “…as long as I have an assistant.”)  When it came time for the actual photo shoot I don’t know if it was the fact that I indeed did not have an assistant (she was sick), if I chose the wrong props, if I chose the wrong food item or if my lighting techniques were not working.  I’m going with a combination of all of the above.  I was right the first time around… dark food photography is difficult.  I learned a lot already and the number one thing I learned is this isn’t over- and I will be trying again and and again.  Out of 156 images I came away with 6 keepers… and even the keepers I am unsure of.  (Okay, technically 7 images but one of them is a shadow on the wall that I just thought was fun.)  Needless to say my first time around was rough.  Here’s what I learned…

1. Take a look at dark food images.  (If you need a quick reference you can check out my Pinterest board.)  Do you notice anything?  The first thing I noticed is that they are always using dark backgrounds, dark table tops and dark props (for the most part.)  And a lot of time even dark food.  Okay- that probably just adds to the dark mood.  So I made a black board.  I didn’t use deep colored props, instead I went with glass ware- I figured you’ll see right through the glass and you’ll see black… similar to dark props, right?   …Not sure if that was smart or dumb on my part.  I’m not even sure if my photos work… my verdict is still pending on all these images.

2. You still have to light and expose properly.  No, you don’t get to underexpose the entire image and then just dodge a spot in while working in Lightroom.  (Sorry.)  You can still use window light or another source of light… you just have to control where it goes, what it hits and you have to do all this with black boards.  Hence why an assistant is very important.  (You should have seen the concoctions I came up with in order to get boards, tripod, camera, food, etc. all in the right place. Ugh.)

3. Planning helps.  I suggest you always start with a plan.  If the plan doesn’t work- just eat the cake.  …Or at least make it look like you ate the cake or whatever food item it is your photographing.  That’s what I did- and it’s probably my favorite image.   PS. The cake I used was excellent- it was a chocolate raspberry cake from Beaverton Bakery. I added the fresh raspberries on top.

4. Practice, practice, practice.  Lord knows I need it and will be doing another dark food session soon.  Any ideas on what I should photograph?




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How light is pursued and captured is a photographer's constant challenge and perpetual joy.