As some of you may have noticed by now, my wife makes a lot of cupcakes and other assorted sweets. Personally I think it’s the best hobby she could have chosen – I get all the sweets I can eat (sometimes more) and, as if that wasn’t enough, the things she makes are really pretty, which gives me lots of opportunities to shoot them in different ways. Today we’re taking a closer look at a couple of cupcake shoots where I had a very clear idea of what I wanted the end result to look like.

When I saw these sleeping twins I immediately knew that I wanted a darker theme to give it more of a “sleeping at night” feel. I also had the idea to balance the colours by letting the background go pink for the blue baby and blue for the pink one. Since I wanted to shoot them a bit from above, I decided to light the table. I also needed to get them up and away from the table or I would be lighting them as well as the background. I accomplished this with a couple of glasses turned upside down (first time I ever use them for anything, worked really well as cupcake stands). After that it was simply a matter of positioning the two background lights (both lp160’s) to get the desired effect.

Setup shotHere you can see the setup – yes, I actually managed to remember to take a setup shot, there’s a first time for everything, just don’t expect me to remember it next time. You can also see my nice, ghetto grid (left) and snoot (right). To attach the gel I use either rubber bands or gaffer tape, very high tech. The two white boards are actually the backside of a bookshelf and have proved to be extremely useful. Here the left one was used to gobo the main light – a handheld SB-400 with Rosco’s tough white diffuser – to keep spill light away from the background. The right board is acting as a reflector to provide some fill light. All in all I’m pretty happy with the result, it’s close to what I envisioned when I first got the idea.

CupcakesWe have time for one more cupcake and, as with the previous one, I immediately knew how I wanted to shoot it. I thought the black rose and bold red would look great if it was just floating around in darkness with some directional light, giving it some shape and shadows. The main issue to achieve this was to keep the light completely off the background, so I couldn’t just slap the cupcake down on the table – well, technically I could probably have done that but it would require more precise control of the light. Anyways, I wanted to get my subject elevated a bit and I just happened to have a kind of black tin foil that wouldn’t reflect any spill light. So I rolled the foil into a pillar and balanced the cupcake on top of it. Next came the single light, which was an lp160 with tough white diffuser and a cereal box gobo underneath. Sorry, no setup shot for this one, I usually remember that I should have taken one around the time when the last piece of equipment gets taken down.

I think the end result has a nice impact and definitely close to what I had in mind. With some more time I would have experimented with a second light in there as well: take down the main light a bit and throw some rim light in there. Or get really fancy and try to light just the rose with a really tight grid and then throw some goboed light on the red (I don’t even know if I could have pulled that off but it sounds kind of awesome). A faint red glow on the background could also have been a nice effect. The possibilities are endless.

The last few days I’ve had a lot of cupcakes to shoot so I’ve been able to experiment quite a bit with different setups. It’s very rewarding when the result comes out the way you imagined it and when I compare my latest shots to the ones of the first cupcakes my wife made, the difference is striking. I also keep picking up useful techniques while I’m fooling around, just little things to remember and take out when needed. Hope you’ve enjoyed the post, I know I enjoyed the cupcakes (both the shooting and the eating part).


Cupcakes Setup shot Cupcakes Cupcakes