14 of the Best Cupcake Photography Tips

Silvain • updated June 12, 2022 • 7 min read

Cupcake photography, 13 tips

Cupcakes are not only tasty, but they are also fun to take pictures of. Their lovely colors and clever decorations make great photos. Remember our tips the next time you want to shoot cupcakes.


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14 Tips for great Cupcake Photography

1. Use the grid lines to help you

What do you know about the grid? A grid is a layout on your camera that has lines or grids to help you figure out how big your subject is. The Rule of Thirds is another name for this. Your topic should be near the corners.

The rule of thirds is a composition rule for photos that says an image should be divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically so that there are nine parts in total.

Illustration cupcakes photos with rule of third
Illustration cupcakes photos with rule of third, @Brooke Lark

So, if you put points of interest at these intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced and level, and viewers will be able to interact with it more naturally.

2. Pay attention to the subject

So, if you want to take a picture of a cupcake, you should spend a little more time setting up the shot. To be more specific, some professional photographers say that the subject shouldn’t take up the whole frame and that two-thirds of the photo should be empty space.

It makes the subject even more noticeable. But make sure you tap the camera’s focus button on your subject. This is to make sure that it is in focus and that the lighting is good.

preparing the cupcakes for the photoshoot
Final preparation

3. Best light source

If there is enough natural light where you want to take the photos, let’s try to do so without turning on any electric lights. Without a doubt, natural light is the best.

But a lightbox or photography lights can work, but natural light is always ideal for cupcake photography, with or without these tools. For example, a cake looks beautiful when it is lit with soft light from a window or a light above it.

Always try to take photos near a window where there is natural light. Also, it can be find it boring when a photo is taken in the middle of a room.

4. Use your cupcake photos to tell a story

The first step in taking photos of cupcakes is deciding how you want to do it.

Do you want a shot that is light and airy? Or do you want to go for dark and moody food photography?

Even the most simple photos should show a sense of place. Or, they can give hints about a bigger story.

image shows plain cupcakes freshly baked
Plain cupcakes freshly baked
  • Are the cupcakes served at a birthday party or at a wedding event? Or are they for a party for kids?

Think about what kind of food story you like to tell and set the scene for it.
You don’t need many cupcake decorations. The color schemes and textures of your backdrops and any other props you add will be key to creating the atmosphere you want.

When cupcakes are photographed, they are often done so with a pastel or bright background. On the other hand, dark backgrounds with a shade of deep blue work very well with chocolate cupcakes. And strawberry cupcakes can be used to make a pink fantasy world.

You might only want to pick one prop. To show off your cupcakes, you can use a cake stand or a tiered cookie stand. Make sure that the props you choose go well with your cupcakes.

cupecake photo with light source behind
Cupecake photo with light source behind

5. Use lighting to draw attention to different textures

When planning your cupcake shots, the angle of your light source is a very important factor.

  • Don’t light food from the front when when taking pictures of it. This makes photos look flat and lifeless because there are no shadows.
  • This leaves side lighting, backlighting, and side-back lighting as the only options. The safest way to light pictures is from the side. It works for many different kinds of food, especially cupcakes.
  • Make sure you have a reflector or white card opposite your light source so that you can bounce back light onto your scene. This makes sure, that there is some depth in the scene and the cupcakes are evenly lit.
  • The light source can also be positioned behind your subject. This is a great way to show off the texture of your cupcakes and make them shine.
  • When you light something from behind, the back of the image is often too bright. And in the end, the front looks too dark. You can adjust this by reflecting some light onto the front. Play around with how close your set is to the light source.
draw attention to certain areas with light
Highlight certain areas with light

6. Choose the angle and direction of your camera

Your camera angle and orientation choice will also make a big difference in the photos you take.

  • You can take a photo of your cupcakes from a 3/4 angle, straight on, or from above. Every one of these views will look different.
  • An overhead shot can be a great way to show off the lovely frosting that has been piped on. Take the photo from eye level, if you like to show the height of the frosting.
  • Choose if you want to take pictures of your cupcakes in portrait or landscape mode. Most magazines and Instagram are set up vertically. This is why this is how photographers take pictures of food.

With this method, you might not be able to fit as many cupcakes in the frame as you want. Also important is the lens you use.

Cupcake topping ideas
Cupcake topping ideas

7. Add color to your pictures to make them stand out

Using the power of the color wheel is one of the best ways to improve your photography. Find a color wheel here.

  • Using the power of the color wheel is one of the best ways to improve your photography. Find a color wheel here.
  • Artists use this simple thing every day. It can help you figure out which colors will look best together. So, you can be sure that your dessert photos will really make people stop and stare.
  • On the color wheel, colors that go well together are on opposite sides of it. Using them can make your pictures look really professional.

The best practice is to focus on just a few colors. Focus mainly on the colors of your cupcakes and the background. If there are too many colors in a picture, it will look messy.

Pastry bags for cupcake decoration
Pastry bags for cupcake decoration

8. A pastry bag is great for putting frosting on

  • Spreading thick icing on your cupcakes is one way to decorate them. With a pastry bag, you are able to pipe some extra swirls onto the frosting.
  • To embellish your cupcakes like the one below, you need a lot of skill. But you can also make pretty things with a cheap pastry bag and some creativity.
  • Put some of the icings in the bag, apply gentle pressure and move the bag in a circular motion over each cupcake.

There are a lot of helpful how-to videos on YouTube that show you how to do different things with pipes.

9. Use sprinkles to give the dish more texture

Cupcakes that have a variety of natural textures look the best. Adding sprinkles or another kind of decoration to enrich the contrast and details will make your cupcakes look more interesting.

Sprinkle on some small, colorful bits. This will make your cupcakes even better.

Just keep in mind, that less is more. People can get overwhelmed by too much texture, props, and bright colors.

Use your sprinkles in a smart way!

10. Use the rules of composition to create harmony

When you take a picture of your yummy cupcakes, you need to know the rules of composition. You should use the concepts of repetition, line, pattern, and shape.

The most basic rule of composition is to use leading lines. Lines lead the eye to the most important parts of an image and keep them there. Lines should lead to the main subject or frame.

composition the cupcakes
Cupcake composition

Before you take a picture, try out different patterns to see which one looks best.
Repetitive parts of an image make it more interesting. But they can also look boring. If you break up the structure in some way, the photo will be better.

One of the cupcakes in the picture below is higher than the others. This gives the columns of cupcakes a small break. 

Composition, direct viewers attention

You can also use the Rule of Odds to make your cupcake pictures look better.

11. Don’t be afraid of empty space

What is negative space? Negative space is the empty space around and between an image’s subjects. And what do you know? It can take a good photo and make it look royal.

When there is a lot of space in a picture, the subject will stand out more and make people react more strongly.

But what does the empty space look like? Well, it’s usually a big expanse of sky, water, empty land, or a big wall, like the one in the picture below.

Cupcake photo showing empty space
Cupcake photo showing empty space, @ohtilly

This rule says that a group of objects with an odd number of items is more interesting to look at than a group of objects with an even number of items. I often use three or five when taking pictures of cupcakes.

An even number of cupcakes compete for the viewer’s attention. But a composition with an odd number of elements is more balanced and flows better, simply because it becomes a resting point for our eyes.

12. Reflection is a fun thing to do

When you see the sunset reflected on the water’s surface, do you feel the tranquility? In fact, we love to see that because our eyes are drawn to reflections. So, look for ways to play with them in the photos you take of your cupcakes.

cupcake photo with glass reflection
Cupcake photo with glass reflection

There are a few unusual places to find reflections. For example, water, mirrors, sunglasses, drinking glasses, crystals, and surfaces made of metal are all good examples.

13. Post-processing, the final touch

The basic edit of your photos will take care of the image’s whites, blacks, shadows, and highlights when editing it.

With these adjustments, you’ll have the right base to play around with the color treatment.

  • Spend some time in the “HSL” panel of Lightroom working on primary colors. Make them brighter or change them until they have the exact tone you want.

Each camera has its own way of seeing colors. So your pictures will need some color work to look good.

Screenshot adobe lightroom adjustment panels
Adobe Ligthroom adjustment panels

A second important tip is to use the “Vibrance” slider in the Basic panel. Vibrancy will make the midtones more saturated without making the colors that are already saturated look too much like that.

  • If you move the “Saturation” slider all the way to the right, the image will be very saturated, which can make it look fake and unappetizing.
  • If you use this slider, set it to a low number, like +5 or +6 at most.
  • If you use this slider, set it to a low number, like +5 or +6 at most.
  • Use the “Contrast” slider or the “Tone Curve” to add a little bit of contrast.
    Digital files are quite flat. It is a must that your food photos have at least a little bit of contrast.

14. Quick and easy cupcake recipe

If you have never made cupcakes, this basic cupcake recipe takes 15 minutes to make and only has five ingredients.

This recipe for cupcakes is great for beginner photographers who have never baked before. The recipe only calls for six things, you probably already have in your kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons milk

STEP 1

Set the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5 and let it heat up. You can put cupcake liners in two muffin tins to make 24 muffins, or you can use one muffin tin to make 12 at a time.

STEP 2

Start by creaming together butter and sugar in a bowl with a wooden spoon or electric whisk. Beat until fluffy and soft. Then add the flour, eggs, milk, salt, and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

STEP 3

Divide the mixture evenly among the paper cups.

STEP 4

Put both muffin tins in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cupcakes in are a light golden color.

STEP 5

Take the cans out of the oven. Let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes in the pans. Then put them on a wire rack to let them cool. Once the cupcakes have cooled down, they can be decorated and you can start to take photos.

Conclusion

Try to be creative and think outside the box when it comes to cupcake photography. Cupcake photos exist all around the internet. How can you take a fresh approach to your cupcake photography?

Take advantage of these 13 tips and bring your cupcake photography to the next level.


Discover more food photography:


Cupcake photo ideas

Not sure how to make cupcakes for your photoshoot? Check out some recipes:

Mummy cupcakes with spooky mummy faces
Christmas light Cupcakes
Cupcake lovers mason jar
Rainbow Cupcakes
Chocolate hazelnut Cupcakes

What are your tips for cupcake photography – let is know in the comments!

By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.

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