Cupcake Photography Lesson #4: Colors

Alright, we have learned some Basic Photography Tips, how to “set the scene,” how to get the right lighting, how to edit your photos, and now I’m going to teach you about using color.

Every food photo needs a good pop of color.  Now, this can come in a lot of different ways.  The food itself may be bright with color, the napkin it sits on, the background… it doesn’t matter, but it has to be there.  I care how delicious your oatmeal cookie is…it LOOKS bland unless it’s next to some color.

1. Establish WHERE you want the color to come from.  A tablecloth? The plate? Maybe just take the photos outside and let your garden do the work for you.

2. What color family matches the “feel” of the food? Would you put a lemon cookie with green accents?  No… you want yellow and maybe touches of blue.  But green yells lime.  Would you do a peppermint treat with orange?  No… try again.  Would you do a homemade Oreo with green?  No… Oreo means blue and subconsciously we all know that.

3. Try a lot of things out. Mix and match until you get the look you want.  All of these “rules” are meant to be broken at some point, but start safe… and then you can branch out to crazy color territory.

And YES black and white counts as color.  Use that when it’s all about contrast in your dessert.

And now for some examples.

This Raspberry Key Lime Pie has all the color you need.  The bright red filling matched with the sprig of mint is enough color without anything else fussy in the background. I just used a white cake stand and a white tablecloth to stay neutral.

Costco Makeover Raspberry Key Lime Pie

These Raspberry Chocolate Almond Cupcakes on top of a handkerchief that has red (matching the raspberries) and green (that matches the background) help the cupcakes to pop off the screen.

Raspberry Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

As I said before… when people thing Oreo they think blue.  So I paired these Homemade Oreos with a blue handkerchief and blue striped straws.

The Best Soft Homemade Oreos

These “So What I’m Single” Cupcakes don’t have anything purple about them.  They are triple chocolate with a sweet mascarpone filling.  But their “feeling” is cool.  Cool colors and a little regal.  So I went with a purple liner with an elegant pattern.  It matches the feeling of the flaked chocolate on top of the frosting but also adds a little element of surprise.

So What I'm Single Cupcakes

I used coconut M&Ms in these Coconut Rice Crispy Treats, so I used some extra M&Ms to play off the colors in the treats.

Coconut Rice Krispy Treats

Black and White.  It CAN work, but it also can be tricky to use.  Only use it when it reflects the flavor combination like in these Chocolate Coconut Cookie Sandwiches.

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

The strawberry frosting on these Pop Tart Cupcakes is fabulous, but if that’s the only color that was there, they would look too girly.  The blue Pop Tart box in the background helps to remind the eye that these aren’t just for your 10-year-old princess, they’re for your 8-year-old boy outside playing Transformers too.

Pop tart Cupcakes

15 thoughts on “Cupcake Photography Lesson #4: Colors

  1. 1
    Tieghan says:

    Such great ideas and tips!

  2. 2
    Andrea Urban says:

    After seeing all these amazing photos of cupcakes and treats I’m curious….and you may have already answered this but who gets to take advantage of all your surplus cupcakes 🙂 Being a college student, I suppose you have lots and lots of willing mouths to share with?

    Just started following yesterday…because, Ahem…I can always use another cupcake.

    On yet another note, do you sell locally?

    • 2.1

      I give a lot of it away, but sadly I have to throw a lot out since my roommates and I don’t each much. And I try not to sell too much locally because I am hard at work writing my books right now. So I don’t have much spare time.

  3. 3
    dianna says:

    Thank you! Especially for sharing all your tricks! We newbies appreciate it!

  4. 4

    Thanks for the tips! I am really learning a lot from this series.

  5. 5
    Rachel J says:

    thanks for the post lizzy!

  6. 6
    Nichole says:

    GREAT tips! Thanks for all you are sharing regarding photography. I have enjoyed reading this series interspersed with your regular, fabulous recipe posts.

  7. 7
    Dene' Swearingen says:

    Oh thank goodness you mentioned the color family matching the “feel” of the food! Some people just don’t get it when I tell them my cupcake liners and decorations have to match the flavor of the cake…

  8. 8
    Kim says:

    Thank you for the wonderful photography lessons. I have really appreciated them and been inspired. So this is probably a dumb question… do you get the cupcake in focus and everything else blurred behind? I have made many of the recipes from your book. I made five different kinds for my daughter’s grad party and they were a huge hit. Thanks for your great blog. I look forward to your next book.

  9. 9
    Janesha says:

    I can’t wait to try this with my cupcakes. Thnk for da tips!

  10. 10
    Nina says:

    Can you tell me what camera and lens you are using?

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