Food Photography for Pastries Like a Pro


Chocolate Strawberry TartThere is only one reason the food photography on my blog is the quality it is.  I am fortunate to have a professional “on call” photographer as he calls himself.  My husband, Mike, is a retired professional photographer.  Mike was a freelance photographer who shot editorial, high end ads, annual reports and shot for Time, Newsweek and Fortune others among other things.  I remember well, Mike in Europe on tour with the San Francisco Symphony for a month while I was opening the bakery.  I never realized how helpful one person could be until he wasn’t there any longer.  One thing he never shot was food photography.  That came about when I entered the field of food professionally.

As there is no natural light in my kitchen, it is lit with three 1000 watt tungsten quartz lights bounced off the white ceiling which illuminate my island  where the majority of the photography takes place.  The ceiling becomes one big bounce card!#1 Light#2 light#3 LightMike rigged it so we flip two switches and the lights go on.  Much nicer than photo stands cluttering up my limited workspace!  This light was clipped to the ledge above.  I couldn’t be happier!!!!Light StandSince the photographs are shot from my view point, a large, black piece of foam core is placed across from me to block out the pantry cabinets.  Island with black board My preference is to have the” how to”  food photography shot as I see it while I work, so that if  your hands are doing what mine are, you should be in pretty good shape.  When I first started blogging, I knew I wanted to be able to convey everything going on in a given recipe so that a person who knew virtually nothing about baking/pastry would be able to follow and end up with a reasonable version.

Mike uses a D90 Nikon camera and his main lenses for the food photography are Nikon 17/55mm F/2.8 and a Nikon 55mm F/3.5 Micro-Nikor. Camera and Lenses He adds additional light when needed with mirrors to light up the dark side of the mixing bowls, pans or whatever.  An additional “kicker” light adds highlights and depth to some of the finished photos at the beginning of each article when needed.  This photo of baklava is a perfect example.  Without the help the sidelight provides, this photo would have been rather flat. Baklava Mike also does a great job lighting the inside of mixing bowls and saucepans with mirrors when not using the “kicker” light, making it easy to see what is going on in them.Peaches boiling

I am mainly in charge of the styling, although there are times I get totally stuck and Mike steps in and saves the photo.  I have an extensive collection of dishes, although there never seems to be enough.  As time permits, we search out dishes and accessories in resale shops and Good Will stores as well as clearance sales.  While cleaning out the basement, we recently found pieces from my mother’s china and some old odds and ends of silverware from my grandmother which I am enjoying using.  I used them in this photo.

Slice of Lemon gooey ButtercakekNapkins, napkin rings and place mats are handy for adding color and interest (as well as filling up holes in odd shaped shots).  I sometimes add flowers because I like them for beauty as well as color.

I also perform post production on the photos, as they need, using Lightroom 4.  I still find working with it amazing.  While certainly not the in-depth program Photoshop is, I find Lightroom is perfect for my needs (and my learning ability)!  In the beginning, all I had was iPhoto which came with my Mac but it soon, very soon, became apparent that I needed more in the way of post camera and also a method of storing the photos.  Because we have literally thousands and thousands of photos needing to be stored, I use Drobo which is a redundant system that hopefully will not lose them.  I have had off site storage units crash and lost photos stored in them.  Very frustrating, to say the absolute least.  I could say more, but not in print!

I was once told that the photography of my finished dishes was not up to blog standards.  I’m still pondering what that means as I don’t believe there should be one style of photography  that all blogs must adhere to.  I have been gratified by the comments on our food  photography.

My biggest problem at the end of a shoot is what to do with the food.  There are only two of us and we certainly don’t need to eat a whole cake!  A lot of items go to work with me where I put them out for the staff or sometimes I take them wherever I go –  the hairdresser, the doctor’s office, the neighbors – wherever.  They always seem welcome.

When we go out, Mike always has his camera with him.  Here are some photos he took while I was shopping at various farmer’s markets.  I hope you enjoy them.

Peaches at a Farmers MarketPearsTomatoes

These remind me of the Soldiers in the Chinese Tomb

These remind me of the Soldiers in the Chinese Tombs

CantaloupeFinally here are some “outs” from other photo shoots.

Bowl of LemonsMike noticed the inside of fennel when I cut the bottom from fennel. I missed it until he pointed it out.Sliced Fennel

Guacomole ingredients

Guacamole ingredients

Pineapple - you can see the "kicker" light on the left side

You can see the “kicker” light highlighting the left side of the pineapple.

Both Mike and I appreciate the comments about his food photography that many of you have taken the time to write.

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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25 thoughts on “Food Photography for Pastries Like a Pro

  1. Pat

    One of the things I’ve admired about your blog is the simplicity of the photos. Just pictures of the work you put into each recipe and the glorious outcome of that work. I can’t imagine someone saying your blog photos aren’t up to standard! What’s that??? Thank you for all your unselfish work to put this blog together, and thank you to Mike for the beautiful photos of real food.

  2. majaskitchen

    I think your photography is beautiful and your styling is simple and natural….what I have been complaining about the so called food photographers is that they enhance food with painting oils and coffee on roasts and meats…and who knows what else they do on fruit and vegetables……to make their pictures come out the color they want…I feel it is totally hypocritical…to have a photograph in a book supporting a recipe that cannot be reproduced in a home kitchen to look like its picture …
    You both have been very generous with your blog and photography to show us how you accomplish your pictures as a professional photographer in a learned and traditional style…Thank you…I really enjoyed reading your blog…

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thank you Maria. I appreciate the support. I agree that any photo accompanying a recipe should look like what it is when it is done.

  3. Tina shannon

    Dear Helen….This is a great “blog”
    The copulation of photos and your recipes is the thing next to eating the pastries you create. I’m also in glad to help you eat!! Tina

  4. Cheryl Matzker

    I loved reading this! I know Mike is a talented man (and a lucky one to be married to you!), but it is fun to see how he’s decked out your work space so he can get the best shots. You really are great together!

  5. Rhea

    I’m shocked that someone told you your pictures are not up to “blog standards” (whatever that means). I just hope that person doesn’t make their way over to my site, because my pics are nowhere as nice as yours. Thanks to you and your husband for sharing your talents!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks Rhea. In the end the fact you share your love of food with others is all that matters but I do sincerely thank you for your comments.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Vera – My kitchen is very small but boy is it efficient. Nothing is more than a couple of steps away and most items are within arms reach. I designed it when we remodeled the back end of the house many years ago. I love working in it. I’ll do a post on it shortly. Because I have almost no horizontal space, I used the vertical space on the walls. Thanks for writing.

  6. kitchenriffs

    Mike’s photography — and your recipes! — are wonderful. Fun post — always love to see behind the scenes info about how photos, food, posts are made. Thanks so much.


  7. Patty padawer

    great … I always love Mike’s picture!! So what is the yummy gooey looking cake- pie on your grandmothers beautiful plate??
    Patty Padawer

  8. Mari gold

    You are both pros and it shows as does the love and respect you have for each other.. Keep it up, you make life better for SOO many. Sorry I never met you when I lived in St. Louis.Marilyn

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Thanks Marilyn: I would have loved to have met you but at least we can share the same interest. Thanks so much for reading.

  9. Manisha

    Lovely pics Helen and congrats to Mr. Mike for hands on shots of your recipes. Without them I couldn’t have learnt so much!!! you guys make a great team indeed…

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