My sister-in-law will be starting up a hobby cake business. Nothing too serious, but she will be making specialty cakes to order. I was very enthusiastic about this, and offered to help her by taking pictures of her cakes to put on her new website. Currently, the only decent pictures she has of her cakes are from me anyways! (I have a niece and a nephew…and their birthday cakes are always awesome!).
The prospect of learning something new about photography gets me really excited…but also really nervous. I am self-taught, so I always have this feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing and I will mess everything up. Certainly my technical skills are lacking, and I usually get a decent picture by fiddling around without really know if I’m doing it right.
I decided to read up on product photography to get a general sense of how to do it. Key ingredients are good lighting, a good camera with the proper settings, and a non-distracting background. I’ve got everything taken care of except the “proper settings”. I usually struggle with this. How often do I think I have this amazing image only to get home and realize I missed something crucial. Under/overexposed, too high ISO, focused on the wrong thing, wrong aperture, wrong shutter speed etc. So frustrating!
I set up a little “studio” to practice. Here are the results!
I set myself up in front of my biggest window (for the best light). I used a (wrinkly) white bed sheet as my back drop. I was using my 35mm lens. I had my camera on a tripod because I had heard that the “best” settings are to have a very small aperature (f22 instead of f1.8) which would mean that I would have to have a slow shutter speed to let in enough light.
This is my first image. As you can see, the back drop is pretty distracting (I need to iron my sheets!). It’s also blurry.
0.5 sec at f/22 ISO 800
In this one I slowed down shutter speed, increased aperture, and decreased ISO to get rid of the blurriness.
1.6 sec at f/16 ISO 100
I had read that using a diffuser can help warm up natural light. I put up a white plastic shower curtain sheet over my window. It definitely warmed up my picture.
1.6 sec at f/13 ISO 100
For this one I added a flash and slowed down the shutter speed to make it brighter.
3 sec, f/13 ISO 100
I wanted to see what it would look like if I went to my biggest aperture. Moving it up to f/1.8 allowed me to speed up my shutter speed. As you see, the background, though more blurry, is still distracting. However, I was pleased to see that the image is still crisp even though the depth of field has changed!
1/30 sec, f/1.8 ISO 100
I moved my display further away from the back drop and it fixed that issue!
1/30, f/1.8, ISO 100
Something not to be ignored is the perspective. The image above is great, but this one shows off more of these cool mugs. A winner!
1/30, f/1.8, ISO 100
Overall, I prefer the bigger aperture. It creates a more modern “bokeh” look by blurring the background. Some of the image crispness suffers in the places that are a different distance away from the camera. However, I do not need to shoot at 1.8 to achieve the blurry look. Simply changing it by a few stops might solve that issue!