Looking through my Instagram feed, it's pretty easy to see the exact date that the quality of my cookie and cake pictures began to improve. June 26, 2016. I bought a second hand Canon camera and a couple of backdrops, and started making an effort to take more professional quality pictures. It's also the time frame that the number of followers I had began to increase. Better pictures = better user experience, and in the highly competitive and crowded world of social media content, every little thing can help you stand out.
It took me a while to find a style and method that worked best for me, so I thought I would share how I get from "first shot" to "publish ready" with my cookie pictures. If you're going to invest in the time it takes to make a beautiful set of cookies, you most definitely want to invest in the shorter amount of time it takes to produce a quality picture of your work.
Rule #1: Natural Light Matters!
Walk around your house at different times of the day, and look for spots where you get good natural light, preferably diffused through a shade or trees. You don't want bright light that shines directly on your subject, but enough light that you can bounce around to highlight your work. Our upstairs living room (that is conveniently still empty since we moved in) is the perfect spot for me to get good light late morning or even early evening. There are windows on two walls, which light up my cookies from both sides. A large window in a dining area will work just fine too. You want the light facing your cookies (not having light behind them).
I realize it's not always possible to shoot pictures during the day. In that case, I will often bake and decorate a couple of extra cookies to save for when I am able to do so. Harsh overhead lighting from a kitchen or dining room light fixture will add a yellow tint and a bunch of shadows to your cookies, and no amount of editing can fix that. (Note- I did not edit the below picture because I wanted you to see how dark the room was at the time. It was a cloudy day, but you can see in the final picture that the natural light was still enough for a quality, social media worthy photo.)
Rule #2: Have a Mobile and Flexible Set Up
We have a skinny table upstairs that I can move around as needed, and my backdrops are foldable and slim for easy storage. Get creative with what you have on hand. If your dining table is the best spot- then perfect. If you need to move around a small side table, that's fine too.
Things you will need for your picture set up:
* 3 pieces of sturdy white foam board (I use the Elmer's brand found at the grocery store). I use one for a bottom surface, and the other two are taped together for the backdrop. I taped a piece of foil to them to better bounce light off the back. (General rule of thumb is 3 points of light on your subject.)
* A subtle vinyl backdrop. (Scrapbook paper can work in a pinch, but I find it's not enough space for me to photograph). This wood grain backdrop is my favorite: https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1153493223 and it goes with everything. I also like that it adds consistency to my pictures.
* A plate or a stand for your cookies (I LOVE my simple rectangle white platter that I picked up at HomeGoods for about $9).
*Props for displaying (I typically use crinkle paper from Michael's, or colored balls that can be found at baking supply stores or online). Sprinkles are a nice touch too. Keep it simple- you want to complement the cookies, not compete with them.
Rule #3: Think of the Final Photo
As I arrange and photograph the cookies, I try to think of how I want the final picture to look. Do I want to focus on one particular design? Do I need to save room for a logo? Should I have several options so I'm not posting the same thing on Facebook or Instagram? Take multiple angles and configurations, then look at the pictures before breaking down your set up. I no longer use my Canon since I upgraded my phone to the iPhone 7 Plus. I love the quality of the camera, and often take pictures in "Portrait Mode" if I want to highlight a favorite design (the picture at the top is Portrait Mode). Plus, it's pretty easy to edit and post if I want to do something on the fly. Most importantly, be sure to give yourself plenty of options to choose from when posting.
Rule #4: Editing is Your Friend
Even the most well taken photograph can use a little help. PicMonkey is my preferred online site for editing, but there are other free options like BeFunky and Fotor that work too. I typically add some highlighting, enhance the colors if needed, and always add my logo to pictures. Even if you don't have a dedicated logo, it doesn't hurt to choose a font and add your business name somewhere on the picture. Below are the before and after versions of this set. The changes are very subtle, but I wanted to brighten the green color and lighten up the set just a bit.
Rule #5: Publish in Multiple Places
I'm certainly no guru when it comes to social media, but I do like to engage my followers as much as I know how. Quality photos always catch my eye, and that's why it's important to me to showcase my work as best as I can. Oftentimes I'll post the same picture to both Facebook and Instagram, and other times I'll choose different ones. If there is a story to tell, I usually keep them the same. If the cookies are all the same image, I might use a close-up picture for Instagram, and one of the whole set for Facebook. I have different followers on each, so my main objective is to make sure I'm providing something interesting to view.
As always, thank you for taking time to stop by. I love and appreciate feedback, and am always happy to answer questions. If there is a topic that you would like to see covered, please feel free to ask.