Cookie Porn: Behind the Scenes

What fun would a vegan cookie blog/book be without photos for all the recipes? Writing about vegan cookies is nice, but a bunch of words cannot possibly make up for a collection of photos, given they’re well-composed and engaging. When I first started this project, back in 2007, I knew little about composing a food photography shot. But learning how to work your camera, about composition, and lots of practice can get you to that point.

My camera is a Canon Rebel Xti digital SLR. I don’t claim to be a professional photographer and it’s not one of the newer high end expensive cameras, but it serves my purposes. I got it with the kit lens for my 17th birthday a few years ago. I wouldn’t recommend the kit lens the camera came with then, but the new lens it comes with has image stabilization, so it’s a decent all-purpose lens. Luckily, my kit lens broke and I was opened to a better world beyond the kit lens. I replaced it with the far nicer Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. However, I only use one specific lens for cookies (and all food porn)-the Canon 50mm f/1.8, for the low aperture that allows you to focus in on your subject and gives you a nice blurred background.

Here is the 50mm lens that does all my food porn. It’s CHEAP for a lens (running around $100), but fantastic:

The background in that photo, the checkerboard, was the result of an idea that popped into my head (I’m probably not the only person who’s thought of this) while walking through the scrapbooking aisle of the craft store. These large square scrapbook pages could be used as backgrounds for cookie photos! So I picked up a stack, running at around 50 cents each, and the rest is history.

Here’s my collection:

Buy the nicest camera and take the best composed shot ever, but if you don’t have an interesting set-up, background, plates, or props for your food shots, they are going to be bor-ing. Seriously.

When you’re taking lots of photos that are all going to be in one place, people are going to notice if you repeat the same plate over and over. I solved this problem by starting a plate collection. Go to a thrift store and spend 25 cents to a dollar per plate and if you do that enough you’ll form a collection in no time. If people you know are doing some spring cleaning and are going to get rid of dishes, you say, “bitch, drop that plate and give it to me”. They’ll be happy to oblige.

Here is a fraction of my plate collection:

Actually, your plates don’t have to be plates at all. Use candy dishes, candle holders, whatever. And collect some props to be used in your backgrounds, like…

…sugar/cream pourer things:

…flowers:

…apron:

…pumpkins, gourds, halloween decorations:

I always shoot with natural light. Unfortunately, turning on the lightswitch doesn’t allow for the beautiful shadows and perfect lighting that your window provides. Since we don’t all have a photography studio with special lights that would be better than your kitchen lights, it’s best to just work around the hours of sunlight.

Here is the set-up for Adorable Bleeding Heart Sandwich Cookies:

And when you really get in there up close and think about composition, this is your product. You may have to take several shots to find the best one:

The set up for Peanut Butter Cups. It doesn’t look terrible shot from this far away, but the photo after this is far more visually interesting.

The reason the food/baked goods that people photographed looks perfect in the photo is TV magic. All those peanut butter cups didn’t turn out perfectly. I just picked the best looking ones for the photo. These poor suckers didn’t make the cut:

So there you have it. This is how I do my food photography, but it’s not the only advice you’ll be able to find. If you’re interested in food porning, start looking at photos, learning how to use your camera, read blogs, and read about food photography.

Happy shooting!

5 thoughts on “Cookie Porn: Behind the Scenes

  1. Pingback: Chicago VeganMania 2010! « The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur

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