How do you start your day? With coffee? Perhaps you should try a coffee cupcake. It seems that I've developed a bit of a reputation in social media circles for discussions of cupcakes. That's because I know where to get the good stuff. It's right here in Orlando, FL at a little shop called Sweet! by Good Golly Miss Holly. Don't worry, you don't have to say the entire name. We just say we're going to “Sweet” or “Holly's” and folks know what you mean.
Not all cupcakes are created equally. These are at the top of the pile. I've tried cupcakes all over the place, even Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington, D.C. Those folks make good stuff, but I still keep coming home to Holly's cupcakes. I share these with other folks and the reactions are uniformly full of astonishment. Perhaps the best line came from a wise man in Tampa:
Simply put the best cupcakes I have ever eaten!
I don't even go anywhere else now, but I do have another outstanding fallback if I need one. The next best cupcakes I've ever had were from The Dessert Lady, also here in Orlando. We're becoming a mecca for cupcakes in Central Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reported on the phenomenon yesterday and listed a number of bakeries featuring cupcakes. In other news, we're also becoming a burger mecca, but that pales in comparison to delicious buttercream frosting.
Lighting the Cupcakes
Of course, this is a photography blog – not a cupcake blog. So, let's talk about taking pictures of cupcakes. Here's an iPhone shot of my setup.
I used an Elinchom BXRi 500 studio light with a medium sized Photodex soft box and egg crate grid, angled at about 10:00 o'clock from my shooting position for backlight on the food. There's a piece of black foam board blocking the lower part of the soft box to cut down on the bright table surface for some of my shots. In front, I have pieces of white foam board taped together to provide some reflective fill light on the front of the setting.
I used my Nikon D700 with 70-200mm lens, mounted on my tripod to keep things stable and provide a consistent angle for my shots.
People talk about giving themselves self-assignments. I don't do that. At least, I don't call it that. I just wanted to learn how to do some food photography and this is one of the first subjects I tried. As a result, I made some mistakes and learned things along the way.
Chief among my mistakes was an element of my exposure settings. Apparently, I forgot my ISO was set at 1250. No wonder that light seemed so bright. I should know better, so I'll try again this weekend with some different lighting and exposure. Why am I telling you about this mistake? Because we all make them. Don't be afraid of your mistakes. Learn from them and try again. If you're like me, you'll have plenty of opportunities for trial and error.
One of the things I learned is that cupcakes are easier to photograph when they're frozen. You are less likely to screw up the frosting with your fingers when you freeze it. I know, I know – I can hear people already worrying about freezing such delicious treats. Just remember, these cupcakes are stunt models. They're still alive so I can photograph them again later.
So now you know my secret. When I come to parties, I bring cupcakes. Where's my invitation?