How to Photograph Cakes and Tarts

This live show focuses on how to photograph food, specifically how to take eye-catching and creative images of baked goods such as cakes and tarts. These types of images are popular for blogs, recipe books, magazines, restaurant menus, and as stock imagery, and you don’t necessarily need to be a skilled baker to shoot them!

Composition and lighting form the main focuses of this show, as Karl explains each compositional decision for the image, including his choice of background and props. He also demonstrates a simple three-light setup, which was achieved using affordable lighting modifiers (including a DIY modifier), and shows you how you could further enhance this by using simple reflectors or additional lights.

Topics covered in this show include:

  • How to photograph cakes
  • Food photography tips
  • Compositional tips
  • How to control reflections on gloss products
  • DIY lighting modifiers
  • Backgrounds for food photography

Related classes that you may enjoy include:

If you have any questions about this show, please post in the comment section below.



  1. Hello Karl
    if you were shooting something else that doesn’t have a reflective surface from above
    would you still add another light from behind ?

    1. Hi, yes probably because backlighting a product or food always looks better to me and most foods have some sort of shine, like a tomato for example or a hot steak etc.

  2. Really enjoyed watching this new-to-me tutorial. I have a comment though about how both the hero and secondary cakes are lit: the hero cake’s shadow side was brightened with the extra light, but the secondary cake’s wasn’t: I wonder if that shadow could have been lightened as well so that both cakes are lit more alike? I’d love to hear your opinion on that. thank you!

    1. Hi, thank you for your feedback. The hero cake had extra fill light added to it to make it stand out a bit more, especially in conjunction with that it has a stronger shadow (because it is closer to the ground) as this then helped create greater contrast in that central area. Essentially all I’m doing is looking for ways to make it stand out and I felt that was appropriate to the scene. Also depth of field was used in such a way to isolate the hero cake.

  3. Richard137

    Watching the Replay as I’ve recent joined (Can’t believe it’s a 2020 shot), I found the build absolutely awe inspiring, May I please ask though, the separation between Cheese and topping, over time the juice from the topping ‘bleeds’ into the cheese, would you have a sacrificial hero, whereas a fresh cake would be brought in where the topping is put on at the last minute or would the bleed be an acceptance to the final image?
    Thank you for an amazing Education program.

    1. Hi Richard, thank you for your comments. I’m not a food expert by any means which is why in the past we’ve had Anna helping with the prep and styling. To be honest I wasn’t even aware of the bleed thing but it’s a very good point to raise and something I’ll look out for in the future.

      1. Richard137

        Thank you so much, I’m not sure whether I’m being too picky or if it’d not get noticed. (I have been made aware in the past that I’m a little OCD).

      1. Hi Karl,

        It was at 1:25:20 when you held up the nd filter. Can’t tell which one it was though so appreciate your reply. Thanks!

        1. Hi Joycel, based on the result and that I turned the light up from 1.0 to 2.5 and the exposure was marginally darker I’d say it was a 2 stop ND gel.

  4. Hey Karl thanks for this helpful video, just wanted to know what type of lens are you using for this specific shot? is it 50mm? or is it some sort of macro lens?

    1. Hi Kevig, thanks. This was the 100mm portrait lens but with an extension tube on it which basically turns it into a closer focusing/macro lens. This was a medium format camera so 100mm in 35mm full frame terms would be about 70mm. You will also see in many of the food tutorials with Anna that we are shooting with Canon cameras with a 100mm Macro lens. The Sony 90mm Macro is also an excellent lens and can be used for portrait work too.

  5. Hi Karl. Apart from the techniques that you show and teach that I obviously learn from, something that has helped me to have confidence in myself is to see that you also have problems with the shot and you must solve those problems. See how you gradually create the panorama and the mood makes me feel good because many times I feel incompetent to take good photos because I can’t get the shot quickly. Sometimes we see a shot but we think that the photographer, in this case you, comes up with an idea, takes the shot and voila. Definitely not the way it is. Big Thanks.

    1. Hi Peter, that’s a very good point and I would add that not often does great shot comes easily or quickly. Problem solving is what it’s all about in commercial/advertising/product photography and with more experience of course it becomes easier to know how to solve them.

  6. Hi Karl, that’s great shooting as always, only now I was able to see this. I have a question related the modeling lamps you use on the strobes. I’m watching that octabox and I see such a white bright light, an excellent light. The modeling lamps on my strobes have a warm, too warm light. I’d love to know if I can safely replace them and what lamps to buy. Thanks.

    1. I’d be very grateful if you could recommend me the exact model of the lamps you use. Thanks and have a great 2021!

    2. Hi Corina, unfortunately this is unlikely. A given studio light will be designed electrically and for heat to only handle a specified amount of Wattage for the modelling lamp. Some of my lights have 150w modelling lamps and others have 650w modelling lamps and of course there is a big difference in brightness between the two. Although often I use the 650w modelling lamps on a lower power as they can be distracting. Other options would be to try and darken the room that you are working in so that visually they appear brighter.

  7. Hi Karl
    Actually I am a landscape and architectural photographer, and I am very happy to be with you, because I want to try commercial photography, and I found your videos and explanation really great.
    My question about this video is the direction of the light, I think the shadow should have been in the same direction as the window effect that I did because it would make more sense.
    Just as I noticed that the light should have come from behind the window, so the shadow would be opposite to what was in the video.
    Just let me say the result is really impressive
    Big Thanks
    Oussama Mazouz

    1. Hi Oussama, thank you but the shadow is following the same direction of the light, the ‘curtains’ could easily be to the side of the window where they overlap the wall but I get what you are saying. If I had made the light come through that space then it would be bright at the top of the photo and distract you away from the main products.

  8. As a brand new subscriber I am pleased with your thoroughness. If this session is indicative of your trainer skills the cost of admission is worth every penny.

    Fantastic job!!

    1. Much appreciated and yes nearly all our training is of this standard or even greater. Our live show replays are very popular and informative but we also have many many classes to choose from on all genres.

  9. Alica

    So educational. I love the way you compose the shot, and what you do with light is just amazing. I’ve been into food photography as a hobby for some time now and your tutorials are a real eye opener. Thank you.

  10. Great demonstration and fine result. Well, spend 1,5 hr. When I photograph a cake, I usually have a request to cut off a slice, as Ashly did. And that is a mess and massive post-production/retouching labor. I tried to keep the cake in the fridge for a while to keep the interior layer of the cake looks good after cutting (or use dental floss to clean-cut). I’m looking forward to seeing someday how to make it work the professional way. Thanks, Karl for the demo.

Leave a Comment