Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Secret Life of a Blog Photograph

The sorts of blogs I enjoy are beautiful. They're like delicious birthday cake for my eyeballs. And, though I love useful things and entertaining things and informative things, I secretly mostly love beautiful things. It's why I paint. And, it's why I desperately want to learn to make my own blog beautiful. 

Obviously, there is a lot more to having a beautiful website than merely taking nice photographs. But, it's a pretty good place to start. And, I've learned some good basic lessons to help guide my efforts in the future. Maybe they'll help you on your endeavors too!

The Secret Life of a Blog Photograph

A handmade life, a crafty life, a delicious life, or an adventurous life can be messy. Making a cake, for instance, is a messy business, as is making the dinner you might eat before you enjoy your first slice of cake. And, if you're graced with a quaint little kitchen with a sink, a stove, and about two feet of counter space between them, you'll realize that the reality of your cake is a bit unattractive and would make for pretty much the worst blog photo ever.

But, that's not all. In spite of having colored your cake a lovely shade of pink with charming blue icing, even the cake itself is pretty gross-looking in a photograph. 

So, you clean up and try again. The dishes are clean, the leftovers are in the fridge, the counters have been scrubbed!'s still not awesome. Suddenly, you realize that your coffee pot, bless it's caffeine-making heart, is hideous. Your pepper shaker looks inappropriate. Suddenly, you're self-conscious about the state of your stove-top burners. And...

...It's still a gross-looking half-eaten cake.

This is when all of your crafting and cookery skills fail. You've made something lovely and perhaps delicious. But, it sure doesn't look lovely and delicious on your blog. Now, you must begin the process of artful arrangement. Or, posing, if you will.

The secret of good blogging photographs can be found in the artfully arranged crumb and sprinkles on the plate of a cake. You wipe off the natural smeared icing and bits of cake crumbs, because it looks gross. You replace it with a purposeful and neat little crumb and sprinkle. It no longer looks gross. It looks inviting. Like magic. That is artful arrangement. The Italians call this sprezzatura.

Next come the props. I don't have room for flowers on my kitchen counter and there is no reason whatsoever to keep a tea towel under my cake stand. I did it because it adds color and texture and interest to the photograph.  The spatula practically calls out, "Come! Eat a piece of cake! Help yourself!" And, I discover, it might be time to rethink the glass dome.

I have much better lighting closer to the window above the sink, so I drag everything over a bit, chasing the light. It's looking nicer already.

What is the perfect perspective for photographing a cake or a craft? There is no rule. One must experiment. Some angles will show great detail or form, but the light might be wrong, or maybe the light is best from the precise angle that shows the worst view of the object. Experiment! It's not like we have to pay for camera film anymore...

And, do remember that not every photo must be taken with your object front and center. Play with cropping as well! I took 77 photographs in 30 minutes of this silly cake. Most of them were unattractive for one reason or another -- blurry or weird-looking -- but with that many pictures, something is bound to look nice.

You can't tell from these photographs, but the walls in my kitchen are the prettiest shade of butter yellow. It gives all of my photographs a yellow tint, unfortunately. I've used Photoscape to remove the yellow color cast, making my photo look a bit more like my cake does in "real life."

Before you put away your camera, don't forget to maybe try some close-up photographs. They're often quite cool.

At last, you're ready to sift through your photographs and pick your favorites.

It's quite the process, but no one ever said beauty was easy.

The moral of the story is that there is a difference between making a beautiful painting, craft, or culinary concoction and photographing that painting, craft or culinary concoction. It's an entirely different beast. But, having an awesome and beautiful blog requires both.

Here's to trying harder!


  1. This is a great post and so true. I often find i will have taken 100+ photos just to have 4 to 5 that I think are okay... Thanks for the new perspective.

  2. What a helpful post to help us all get inspired and educated to take better photos! Thanks for taking the time to explain the process in such lovely prose and pics.

  3. this is so true... :) Thanks to explain all process to take better photos... :)

  4. And now the truth is out there! ;)

  5. Hilarious :), I had to smile so many times while reading this post. I like to take photos of my food, too - that's why I eat cold lunch often ;).

  6. hehe, this made me laugh AND I learnt a lot - GREAT POST! Have been looking for some good 'still life' photography tips for ages to show case what I'm making without it all looking gross! Katie. x

  7. Thank you for this post! This has some great tips I can't wait to use.