How can I improve this photo

Posted on 2011-03-14
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
This photo is not a good example of photography, but it is the actual cake we sell. How can I improve it to make it look more tasty? I have adobe photoshop CS4 and Illustrator. I can use them a bit, but I'm still learning. Thanks! carrot cake
Question by:mel200

Accepted Solution

enkor earned 1400 total points
ID: 35130379
1) Brightness and Contrast
2) Selective Color
3) Levels
4) Selective Color

Everything is in the upper menu

There are so many techniques to work with photo, but some of main are to set the white-black balance and colorize image.

Expert Comment

ID: 35130394
First of all, better lighting would have made all the difference with this photo.  I would invest in one of those little portable photo booths that you can buy online.  I have seen these called "mini studios".  These usually come with lights and backdrops so you can get the shot you want. Photoshop is an amazing piece of software, but proper lighting is the key to appetizing food shots.
LVL 26

Assisted Solution

by:David Brugge
David Brugge earned 600 total points
ID: 35130631
In my humble opinion, there is no artist more worthy of praise than a good food photographer. Food photography is very difficult, as you are learning.

Let's start with the photo itself. I'm assuming that if you sell the cake, you can re-shoot the cake. The photo above looks as if it were taken with the zoom set to its widest setting. When a wide lens is combined with a close up, you get a distorted angle. The front of the cake looks much larger than the back of the cake. I would shoot from a farther away with the lens zoomed in about three quarters of the way.

I would also move down a bit so that you are shooting more from the side and less from the top. You don't need to see much of the icing on the top to have an understanding of what is there, while on the other hand, the texture of the cake as well as the highlights which indicates its moistness are what you want to play up to make it appear most inviting.

I would look at at least a dozen slices of cake, if not more, to find one that has a good distribution of nuts, carrots, etc. This gets into the area of food styling. It's not by accident that you never see a burnt or misshaped french fry in an ad. Same goes for the ketchup and mustard that dribbles down the side of a hamburger. It was all painstakingly arranged by hand.

Then there is the setting. Good food photography is all about emotions. You want the viewer to conjure up pleasant memories, either real or fanciful, about your food. You want them to remember that time in Grandma's kitchen when she served you a slice still warm from the oven. You want the setting make them want to reach into the photo and grab the cake and eat it. A slice of cake stuck on a plastic laminate table top doesn't get it. No one wants to sit down to that. At the very least, put it on a plate! Better yet, build a simple set that tells a story. Nice plate, view of a folded napkin, fork at the ready, perhaps a glass of milk in the background.

Lighting. This goes along with the story. Michael Ray, one of the top food photographers in the biz give you the low down here Scroll down to the part on lighting - in fact, read the whole article. I don't think anyone wanting to lean about food photographer can find a better starting place than his blog.

Michael Ray forgets his audience sometimes and forgets that we don't all have $$$ to spend on equipment, but there's still a ton of good info to be learned from his site.

The goal is to have a shot that is so good, that it needs very little work in Photoshop. That being said, Photoshop is essential for  adjusting the contrast, applying sharpening, and my favorite tool, the lens blur (because it's very hard to get consumer level digital cameras to throw backgrounds out of focus), but start with a great photo.
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Author Comment

ID: 35130736
Thanks, all. I don't actually have access to the food to take a picture of it, this was sent by the manufacturer. I'm a little better photographer than that :)

Expert Comment

ID: 35130759
Cut and paste it using Adobe Photoshop, and put it in the hand of a hot chick.

This will make the photo much more interesting.
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 35130772
> Thanks, all. I don't actually have access to the food to take a picture of it, this was sent by the manufacturer. I'm a little better photographer than that :)

How much would it cost to buy a piece of the cake? Or one very similar? For that matter, how about a stock photo of carrot cake?

Author Closing Comment

ID: 35131056
I'm going to split the points. I was actually hoping to get more specific instructions, but encor gave me a direction to go in, and D Brugge spent so much time giving me great instructions on food photography that I think he deserves some points, too.

Author Comment

ID: 35131138
Oh, just a note to D Brugge, I use stock photography pretty often, I'm a big fan of Istock, but I was just trying to determine if one could take a terrible photo and manipulate it to look not bad. I think I've established that the answer is no. :) Thanks for everyone's help, even hot chick guy,
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 35133097
This is just some playing around, but using enkor's suggestions along with a few tricks of my own, this shows some of the directions that you can take an image such as this.

True, you can't usually make a terrible photo look great, but with some luck, you can make it less terrible.  some things that you can do

Author Comment

ID: 35133584
Not bad, thanks! I ended up using a stock photo cropped to work. stock photo

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