Cheap Cake Photography Hacks

gray cake with a pink heart with an arrow through it. There is a chocolate slice of cake on a plate with a fork.

Don’t let bad cake photos get in the way of growing your cake business! If you are looking for easy and cheap cake photography hacks, you are in the right place! There are a ton of fabulous online courses that can teach you great food photography, but those courses aren’t in everyone’s budget. Not to mention, the expensive cameras and equipment that can be required for many of those courses. Today, I’m going to share some cheap and easy to implement cake photography hacks that will elevate your cake photos so that you can stop your audience in their tracks and grow your business.

Title image says: "Cheap Cake Photography Hacks: A Complete Guide No Fancy Equipment Needed"  There is a photo of a gray cake on a white cake stand.  The cake has a pink heart and arrow on it.  There is a slice of cake and a fork on a plate.
Cheap Cake Photography Hacks Title

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links’. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Why Good Pictures Matter

You may be wondering, “why do my photos matter as long as my product looks good?” They matter a lot! In a world with so many spending so much time on the internet, your photos are the face of your business. Many people search social media for recommendations for bakers and cake designers. Your photos are competing with other bakers in your area.

You want your pictures to grab your audience’s attention and make them say, “oooh, I want that!” Consider the example below of 2 different pictures of the same cake. It’s clear that background, lighting, props, and even editing are absolutely factors that can determine if you will grab a potential customer’s attention or not. I think it’s safe to say that the second photo is scroll stopping, while the first is, well…lacking.

A cake showing a girl with a hat on.  This version is in dim lighting with a harsh overhead light illuminating the photo.  In the background, you can see a kitchen.
Before implementing cake photography hacks
This is a cake of a girl with a floppy hat on.  In this photo, the background is a bright, crisp white.  The photo is clear and well lit.
After implementing cake photography hacks

The Cheap Cake Photography Hacks

Now, let me start by stating that I am not a professional photographer by any means. I am only sharing what I have found has worked for my cake photos as well as the cheap cake photography hacks that I have picked up along the way. I am not sharing expert level photography instruction here today. What I’ll be sharing in this post are just some basic things that anyone can do to make their photos look better. You don’t even need a fancy camera. Most phones have high quality cameras that we can use, built right in!

If you are wanting to dive deeper into the world of food photography and get professional insight, I would highly recommend the book, “How to Photograph Food” by Beata Lubas. This book is full of wonderful photography tips and gorgeous photographs. For now, I will share some beginner cake photography hacks that anyone can do!

In this article, I will share:

  • inexpensive photography backdrop solutions
  • totally free photography lighting solutions and tips
  • inexpensive food photography props that you probably already have
  • & more!

Cheap Cake Photography Backdrops

There are tons of photography backdrops that you can find online. You can find patterned backdrops, colorful backdrops, backdrops that stand on their own, and backdrops that are spill proof. There are truly some fabulous options out there that you can find with a quick Google search. I have not personally purchased any backdrops that I have found online. Not because they aren’t great products, but because I have found a simple backdrop solution that works for me and only costs me a couple of bucks.

My Solution

Poster board! Yes, the backdrop in nearly all of my cake photos are 1 to 2 regular white poster boards from my local grocery store. They typically cost about a dollar a piece and they work great! I don’t have to worry about spills because they are so inexpensive and easily replaceable. In the past year, I have only needed to replace my white poster boards once because of a spill. And it only cost me a couple of bucks and a trip to the store.

I prefer the clean, simple look of a plain white background, but you can be creative! There are lots of different color poster boards. You could attache patterned contact paper to your poster board. You may even consider painting the poster boards.

How I Use Poster Board as a Background

There are three positions that I use my poster boards in for different photo types. One for flatlays, one for large cakes or scenes, and another for smaller cakes.

Flatlay Poster Board Position

The first position, the flatlay, is the most basic set up that I do for my photos. It is also the least common position I use because most cakes don’t photograph from the top down. I only use this set up when I am photographing cake tops. I simply lay my poster board flat on the table and place my cake on top. While flatlays aren’t used as often with cake photography, it is a great choice for other desserts like cookies, cupcakes, meringue pops, etc!

This is a small cake with a buttercream iris on it.  There is part of a cutting board in the top left corner and palette knives in the bottom left corner.
Flatlay with 1 White Poster Board

Large Cake or Scene Poster Board Position

The second setup is what I use with larger cakes or photography layouts. For this position, I will lay one poster board flat on the counter or a table that is pushed up against a wall. The other poster board will lean against the wall behind the cake. (You can add a small piece of tape to the top of the poster board to hold it in place if you need to.) When I use this position, I usually cover the seam with a prop or edit it out in an editing app.

There is a white cake with pink and black florals on a blakc cake stand.  There is a cheese clothe draped behind the cake stand.  This is on a white background.
2 Poster Boards with Hidden Seam

Small Cake Poster Board Position

The third position is also the most common one that I use. For this position, I take the poster board that is leaning up against the wall and turn it vertically so that it is taller than it is wide. Then, I slide the bottom down so that the bottom lays flat on the counter or table and the poster board creates a curve between the counter and the wall. I like this position the best for taking photos of the front of a cake because it doesn’t show a seam in the photos so that we can focus on the cakes!

There is a black cake with rose hips on top and the right side.  There is a wasp nest on the cake.  There is a white background.
Sweeping Backdrop

Free Cake Photography Lighting

There are a lot of great lighting options out there. But, in my opinion, you have access to the best photography light source for free. The sun! Natural light is (almost) always available and fairly simple to use, but there are a few things to remember when taking your photos using natural light.

  • Turn off all artificial lighting
  • Find the best natural light sources (think large windows and doors)
  • Consider the time of day, weather, and whether the lighting is soft or harsh

Turn off Artificial Lighting

Turn off all of the artificial lighting in your house. Artificial lights tend to cause your photos to look warm or yellow and they can also mess with the shadows in your image. I learned this tip when my son’s newborn photographer showed up to our hospital room to take his newborn photos.

When she arrived, I turned on all of the lights so that it wasn’t so dark. She immediately asked me to turn them all back off. Even the tiny one that I was using in the corner. I was shocked!

It was cloudy outside and the room was only illuminated by the light from the hospital window. But, the photos were perfect. They turned out so beautifully! I have used that little trick from then on and it has made a world of difference in my photos. What seems dim as I am taking photos can be lightened up in the editing process.

Find the Best Natural Lighting Spots

Take a look around your house. Find the biggest window in your house. This is often a great photography spot! Maybe you’re thinking, “but I only have tiny windows, this won’t work for me.” Well, swing your front or back door open and let the sun shine in!

One of my favorite photos was taken as the sun was low on the horizon and I wasn’t getting much light. The only place I could capture any was at my front door, and it still wasn’t much. I was surprised to see that the lighting resulted in a very moody look which was perfect for the dramatic design of this cake.

navy blue cake with white  rice paper sails, white and silver sprinkles, and snowflake cutouts on the cake.  There is a hand with nails painted blue holding a snowflake as if it is placing the snowflake on the cake.
Cake photo with moody lighting from my front door when the sun was low in the sky.

Other Lighting Considerations

Once you have noted the possible photography spots in your home, you may need to determine which of those spots is the best on a particular day or at a particular time. For example: I have three main photography spots. The first is at my front door. My front door is glass, so it works as a large window.

The other spots are in my bedroom. It has the biggest window in my house, so it is perfect! I have two spots in my bedroom that I like to use. One, is directly in front of the window. This is great on cloudy days. Being directly in front of the window allows me to get more light onto my cake.

If the sun is shining brightly, however, I need less light. To acheive this, I use the spot on my dresser. This spot is roughly five feet from the window. On sunny days, this spot gets plenty of indirect sunlight to create a bright photo and I avoid the harsh lighting that I would get directly in front of the window.

Cheap Cake Photography Props

The most inexpensive thing you can use for cheap cake photography props are things that you already have in your kitchen or decorating supply cabinet! You can use a cooling rack, tea towels, plates and cups, cake stands, silverware, measuring spoons, measuring cups, whisks, spatulas, palette knives, paint brushes, carving tools, ingredients, and my personal favorite… sprinkles! If you are taking pictures of cakes, it is a safe bet that you already have many of these items.

But will the items that you are already using in your kitchen look nice in your photos? Here are some things to consider. What are the items made of? If you want to use measuring spoons as a prop, nice stainless steel measuring spoons have a much cleaner look than, say, a white plastic set. What color are the items? I personally prefer neutral colored props so that my focus is on the cake. I also like neutrals because I can use those props with multiple photoshoots without having to worry about whether or not they match my cake.

My Cake Photography Props

Sometimes what you already have in your kitchen isn’t the best fit for your photos. In my case, what works in my farmhouse style kitchen doesn’t always work with my more modern cake designs. Because of this, I have purchased a handful of items that I use for props in addition to plates, mugs, and ingredients (including sprinkles).

Remember, you don’t have to have props and you certainly don’t have to buy anything new to use. However, if you are interested in what I use, here are some of my favorites! Keep in mind that these are items that you can use for years and years to come. Think of these photography props like a capsule wardrobe for your cake photography. Just a select few items can really add a lot to your photos.

I chose 3 neutral cakes stands for my cake photography. Neutral cake stands are a great option because they will pair more easily with more cake colors and styles than say, a bright yellow cake stand. I don’t always use a cake stand either. Often times, I photgraph my cake on the cake board sitting directly on the poster board/backdrop. Below are a few ways that I have used the above photography props.

This is a mauve and pink cake with sprinkles on it.  There are sprinkles and cheese cloth uses as props in the photo on a white background.
Props: cheese cloth and sprinkles
There is a gray cake with a pink heart and an arrow on a white cake stand.  There is a slive of chocolate cake on a plate with a fork.  There is a cheese cloth draped behind the cake stand and sprinkles sprinkles around the base of the cake stand.  This is on a white bakcground.
Props: cheese cloth, rose gold flatware, cake stand, plate, and sprinkles
There is a square pink cake with the writing "TC" in white, and "thrifty cakes" in black.  This cake is on a marble tray.  There is a fork to the right of the tray and there are white and silver sprinkles sprinkled around the cake.
Props: marble tray, rose gold flatware, sprinkles

In Conclusion

The main thing that I want you to remember is that you can create beautful cake photos without spending a lot of money on supplies. All you need is a camera (a phone camera works great!), poster board, a little sunshine, and maybe a few props to add a little extra to your photos. So, what do you think? Will you try these cheap cake photography hacks? Stick around for a step by step editing process in totally free phone apps. Coming soon!

Do you have these hacks down and you’re ready for more? Here are some great food photography pages that I enjoy following on instagram. First of all, @edibleartphotography is always sharing some fabulous tips. Secondly, @Bealubas is the author who write the book that I suggested at the beginning of this article. I love seeing her work. It is so inspirational.

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8 thoughts on “Cheap Cake Photography Hacks”

  1. Love this! My sister loves to bake and I am her photographer. This definitely helps! Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to take photos soon

  2. 5 stars
    Good blog post. I definitely appreciate this website. Keep it up! Heddi Nikolas Karlow

  3. Julia Ricarte

    Thank you sooooo very much for your time and valuable information. I love taking punctures and sad to said that I purchased a cannon camera many rears ago and hardly use it… Now that i want to learn more about the world of creating / baking cakes this would help me to star posting without risking a lots of money. One question where did you purchase your pallets knives ?
    Thanks once again for your time in helping us to explore more and learn along this new adventure..
    Sincerely,
    Julia

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