The thing about food on the internet is this: it's gotta look good. Cos you know what? You can describe a decadent brownie or a creamy gelato all day and all night as poetically as you can, but when it comes down to it, what will draw people in is the sexy picture.
And one person who knows how to engage viewers is Seattle-based Angela Boykins, a budding food photographer whose stunning shots make you wish you were having was she's having, and right now. Curious about some of her secrets to food photography success? Read on:
CakeSpy: First things first. What is the last dessert or baked good that "wowed" you?
Angela Boykins: My boyfriend and I recently ate at Dahlia Lounge, and finished with a Creme Caramel that I am still thinking about. Seriously, so smooth & flavorful. A perfect ending to an amazing meal. Tom Douglas, you brilliant genius.
CS: Do friends find it annoying to go out to eat with you because you must compulsively photograph everything before eating? Cos you know, mine do.
AY: Totally! But also they're really interested in how I get a good shot with problems like dim lighting, and less than perfect styling. I often cook at home for friends and it's always like I am torturing them, because I lay the food down, then take 10 min to shoot. "Can we eat now? Now?"
CS: Can you share a favorite food photograph of yours and tell us why it's your favorite?
AY: I gotta be honest...I love taking photos of baked goods. They often last longer in a shoot and have more possibilites. One of my faves is a pear cookie I did for a self published cookbook. As I was making the delish cookies, I had the top of the pear sitting in front of me. It was this brain explosion moment. I stacked three cookies and placed the pear top on and it was magical. I feel like that was my first idea that I had to keep photographing food. (aforementioned photo pictured at the top of the post)
CS: I find that brown-hued items (chocolate cake, brownies, or savories such as meats, etc) are very hard to photograph in a way that they don't look like, well, dog poop. Any tips for making them a bit more attractive?
AY: A light colored linens or textile have a great opposites attract. Also, be simple with the styling. Place your protein with some color (leafy greens or veg sautee) on a white colored plate. Focus not only on the meat, but something that gives a little extra depth. With cakes and brownies, think about adding powdered sugar or a light dusting of what's already included in the recipe. Plus, a good cake stand will be genius.
CS: Are there any foods that you don't like to eat but you love to photograph?
AY: I am not a huge mushroom fan. It's a texture thing, I can't lie. However, there is such a huge variety of neat looking mushrooms, it's exciting.
CS: When it comes to food photography, do you have any secrets to success? For instance mine is always shoot in natural light.
AY: I primarily shoot in natural light. Which, totally makes for tricky business in Seattle. I tend to shoot in the brightest parts of the day, near a window and use a tripod.
CS: I hear this rumor that a lot of the foods you photograph you've also cooked or baked. So, basically, what I am saying is that I know you've got a sweet recipe to share. Yes?
AY: Do I! I found a recipe for vegan cupcakes 3 yrs ago from a now defunct blog and I can't stop making it. I usually adapt it to a cake and layer it with my Mom's killer peanut butter frosting. It needs to be said, I am not vegan. But dang, vegan baking is super fun! So far I have had good luck with vegan baked good recipes tasting light and moist, all without the major gutsmack of butter and eggs. Thanks Vegans! Here it is, enjoy! My Mom says hi!
Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes
- 1 C. soy milk
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 C. sugar
- 1/3 C. veg oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 C. flour
- 1/3 C. cocoa powder
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
Whisk together soy milk and vinegar, add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Beat on med high until foamy. Sift together dry ingred and add to soy mixture; mixing in batches. Pour into cupcake papers and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 min. Ovens vary.
Mom's Peanut Butter Frosting
- 1/3-1/2 C of peanut butter
- 2 C powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk (CS Note: Obvi, non dairy to keep it all vegan)
Beat together until smooth and creamy. Use Immediately.
What's next for Angela? She's working on building a website (in the meantime, check out her photos via Facebook) with a very talented up and coming graphic designer, sarasmileygraphics.com, and is also focusing on devolping a studio space, hitting up restaurants to update their websites and cooking up a storm. And of course, "taking pictures of what the guy next to me ordered."