No more ugly cookies! I love trying new recipes, and when I’m on the hunt for a new recipe (or a new food blog to follow), the right photograph makes all the difference. These 12 tips for photographing cookies will improve the way you photograph and present your baked treats.
For this photo shoot I worked within a few constraints:
- Natural lighting only – I shot these photos next to a window, sans fancy photographer lights
- Limited prop set – I only used props I had in my kitchen, such as a cooling rack, cookie sheet, a few towels, mixing bowl, and wooden spoon
- Identical cookies – Since all my cookies look the same, I had to get creative styling them
- Point and shoot camera – I shot all these photos with my Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS
Recipe development isn’t my forte so I worked with a package of Birthday Cake Creme Oreos, which are as decadent and as delicious as they sound, and thanks to a fan campaign, they’re here to stay awhile. So if this post makes you hungry, run to your local grocery store and grab a package, no baking necessary. 🙂
1. Work in daylight
A thousand times this: food photos I take in my kitchen’s lighting are almost always hideous. Food photographed in my kitchen lights tends to look green or blue, with multiple hard-edged shadows, and anything shiny looks like slime. Not a good look for food.
This “Before” photo below was taken in my kitchen’s overhead LED lighting.
It’s not a terrible photo, but it could be so much better: the double shadows, the lack of detail in the cookie faces, the crumbs (that one’s my fault), and the bland background aren’t doing my cookies any favors. You can even see the shadow of my camera in the lower right corner – it’s impossible to take a photo in my kitchen without being in the way of at least one light source.
The “After” was taken next to a window on an October afternoon. Notice the much softer shadows and the details in the cookie ridges (can you even read “OREO” in the previous shot?).
Do yourself a favor and take your photos in daylight. This will be more challenging if you happen to bake at night or in the dead of winter, but it’s worth the effort.
2. Take a TON of photos
One beauty of digital photography is you’re limited only by the number of photos your memory card can store. So take a LOT, it can only help.
Aim to take at least 3 (or more) photos of each setup. Try different angles and perspectives, add and remove props. After you upload your photos to your computer, weed out the best into a “Best” folder. Later (whenever you’re sure you’re done with them) you’re free to delete the photos you didn’t need.
3. Show ’em on the cookie sheet
It’s like they just left the oven.
The mere sight of freshly baked cookies has been known to drive people mad. The cookie sheet itself makes for a nice background – it’s got a bit of texture and character to it, the mildly reflective surface makes for a nice contrast, and you can fill the entire shot with it and it won’t look the least bit out of place.
4. Include ingredients
Flour, sugar, butter, chocolate chips, cookie cutters – whatever went into your cookies, show it off! For some of us, the dough is the main event anyway. 🙂
Make an ingredients shot more interesting by cropping it off-center and layering the background. Ingredients in the background adds depth and character to your scene. I’m partial to yellow sticks of butter, myself.
5. Shoot from below!
Look out – massive cookies! (I wish, haha.)
Stack up your cookies and shoot them from below to show off their crisp edges and sides and create a compelling composition. This somewhat unusual camera angle captures eye-level details that are often missed when shooting cookies from above.
6. Line ’em up
Show cookies in a novel arrangement to stand out. My example cookies have an interesting edge texture I wanted to show off – if yours are rolled in sugar or cut in a shape, you may also find a unique shot such as this worthwhile.
7. Take a bite
Nothing says delicious like half-eaten! Breaking (or biting) off part of a cookie shows off the cookie’s middle, be it a surprise ingredient (another cookie, perhaps?!) or just a melted-to-perfection chocolate chip.
8.Mix up shapes and textures
Here I’ve got rough-textured black cookies on a smooth white square plate resting on a mushy woven towel. In the background is a smooth grey placemat. Bringing materials of contrasting colors and textures into your photo is an easy way to dress up simple cookies.
Check out related post Fix Photo Distortion with Zoom if you’re experiencing issues with distorted shapes.
9. One close up with a blurry background
Set your camera to “macro” (looks like a flower icon on many point and shoots) and focus on one close cookie, leaving the rest to blur in the background. This is a favorite technique of food photographers everywhere (just look in any magazine or food blog).
This type of shot shows off the qualities of an individual cookie up close without isolating it in a world of its own. The cookies and mixing bowl in the background give it context and create a pleasing background.
10. Wire Rack + Towel
Aside from being a completely obvious place for cookies to be, a wire rack is a great choice for cookies because of the geometric interest it lends to a composition. The criss-crossing (or parallel) lines add a sense of perspective and contrast nicely against the round cookies. Laying a towel underneath offers nearly unlimited possibilities for color contrasts and patterns.
11. Detail shot
The detail shot needs little explanation, but how to get it can be a bit trickier: set your point and shoot camera to “macro” (often indicated as a flower icon on point and shoot cameras). Press the button halfway down to let your camera focus, and then take the shot. Be extremely still or use a tripod for best results.
Don’t be afraid to improve your photos in Photoshop or a free online photo editor. The first photo below was the photo as it appeared straight out of my camera. The second photo is how it looked after a few Photoshop adjustments: Auto Tone, Photo Filter (Warming), and my own rotating and cropping. It’s virtually impossible to take such an amazing photo with no post-processing needed, so don’t worry about trying. Just try to capture as many great shots as you can, choose the best, and tweak those to perfection.
Bonus Tip: Choose only the best specimens
Obviously, you should use only your best-looking cookies for your photo shoot.
Eat the rest!