Overcoming creative block with your cake photography

Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.
— Don McCullin

Creative block, oh what a burden to struggle with it from time to time. So many things demanding attention or even strenuous deadlines can bring any creative to this dreadful spot. If you find yourself drained of your creativity when it comes to photographing your cakes in a way that brings them to life, don’t give up trying to get your mojo back.

If you are especially new to cake photography, you might find yourself in a creative block sooner than you expected. After nailing down details with your client, shopping for ingredients, baking, washing dishes (queue the tears) decorating and washing dishes again-- taking a creative picture may seem like an unnecessary chore. Fellow cake decorator, I am here to tell you it isn’t! You’re images speak volumes about your cake business no matter if you take them with a camera phone, a DSLR or use photos from styled shoots. Imagery defines a brand. You want to attract higher paying clients, build rapport and have more creative liberties in your space, however, it is important to convey that you are worth all of those things ( you are!) with your images and when creative block strikes, that fact still remains the same.

Give it a think, how often do you get the opportunity to have the full attention of someone willing to vest in your cake business either by purchasing a cake or investing in your mission? Everything is so digital these days, colorful social media feeds, digital billboards, flashy commercials, you get the picture. You can impress many more people with your images than you would be able to rehearsing elevator pitches, holding consultations and curating fancy captions.

I struggle with taking creative pictures of my cakes from time to time, especially when I become bored of particular colors or am working with palettes I’m not fond of at all. When I find myself in that spot, I am also bombarded with feelings of failure and wondering if I was ever talented in the first place. Of course these thoughts never come at a convenient time ( is there really a such thing?) The beat goes on, and unfortunately, there are so many things that can interfere with creativity causing cake images to fall flat. Here are a 4 tips to help get over the hump of creative block with your cake photography.

Sometimes, the most productive thing that you can do is to step outside and do nothing... relax and enjoy nature.
— Melanie Charlene

Most often as artists, when standing toe to toe with a creative block, it is a clear sign of being overwhelmed. FOMO is real and declining cake orders is hard to do! Maybe saying no means missing out on income, turning down a collaboration or not making a cake you have been dying to for months now. It is time to take a break— but don’t quit! There are lots of ways to take a break and renew your creative mind but here are a few things that I like to do

  • Take a nap

  • Eat a favorite food at home without interruption or take myself out to eat

  • Have a nice, hot cup of coffee

  • Go prop shopping or window shopping

  • Dance around my house with the music really loud

  • Call my favorite person to ask him about his day

One way to organize your thoughts is to tidy up, even if it’s in places where it makes no sense at all.
— Ursus Wehrli

Everything has a place. In a stressful situation or even a long stretch of time in baking and cake life- things can get unorganized. Glancing over into your kitchen to see a mountain full of dirty dishes or food coloring stains on your counter may be all it takes to suck the wind out of your sail of creativity. The last thing on your mind is taking a beautiful photograph of your cake but getting organized is a great step to gaining your momentum back. Organization doesn’t sound fun and a lot of the time, it isn’t, especially with deadlines looming. Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile reactive and soon to be proactive exercise to work into your creative schedule.

Getting organized in a few different phases is really helpful to breaking down the different things that are actually quenching your creativity. Start by putting your baking supplies and styling props in a designated place to open your eyes to what you have on hand, what you may be in need of and what you can do without. Storing props in section by color may inspire you in the future.

Secondly, organize your schedule. Try to make time once a month for a personal project. Most of the time when you have a cake to photograph, it is to fulfill an order. Because of that, you can’t cut into it a get a picture of the inside of your cake. If you have time for a personal project you can do just that, make you cake and eat it it too— it makes for a pretty creative picture. Here I just made a plan to write and shoot a buttercream recipe so there was more creative liberties as far as this cake was concerned. My daughter was actually feeling extra creative and asked to join in and in the end, it became her cake. Because I had scheduled time for a practice/ play cake, I not only got some fun, unique and interactive pictures, I also got a nice experience with Piper.

When I started to get more organized with my time and resources, I saw a big change in how my photographs changed. Great thing about that, it didn’t take weeks, months or years to see an improvement but a matter of minutes!

There are little gems all around us that can hold glimmers of inspiration.
— Richelle Mead

Finding inspiration seems like a simple thing to add to a list of overcoming creative block and it is, but it isn’t. Perhaps you find inspiration the same way I do, head over to Instagram and scroll your feed for beautiful cake pictures or visit Pinterest to check out new boards. Sometimes doing that makes my creative block worse. When it comes to cakes or even food, there is an emotional attachment for me so I have a difficult time finding new things to pursue. There are so many things around us that can hold inspiration and when it comes to taking better pictures of your cakes, it is no different. Exploring different compositions non cake or food related seems to really get my wheels going when I’m hoping to take more interesting photographs. Of course I have a style of photography that I always seem to come back to but I can find inspiration to tell a different story in my photographs by going on a walk. I like to call it an inspiration walk because it involves walking and just stepping away from screens for a moment. Sometimes doing something counterproductive to work actually becomes productive. An activity like window shopping or visiting a museum proves to be helpful. Often I find trinkets and props I hadn’t thought of incorporating or I even see art expressions that leave me intrigued. Exploring different color palettes probably gives me the most inspiration within my photography. Color theory is quite interesting and by mixing up colors, you could open up a new can of worms when it comes to finding inspiration. A great book to read on the subject titled Interaction of Color is phenomenal on learning how to work with color. From the bakers point of view, a few of these things might seem too artsy or really not something of interest but it can’t hurt to try. I can’t even put into words how incorporating these inspirational activities in to my routine have really transformed my cake design and cake photography.

Believe you can and you’re halfway there.
— Theodore Roosevelt

When it is time to put a good set together to photograph your cake, you only have so much time to muse about it, especially if a client is waiting for their special delivery. You know just how important it is not only for you but also for your business to get a good picture of that cake, so get yourself pumped up!

You can do it!

Don’t let discouragement creep in and steal away your creativity. As you begin to work your set, think to yourself that you can but don’t just stop there, say it out loud. Set the bar just high enough that you wont fall short as you ease back into creatively shooting your cakes. You may not shoot a masterpiece the first go around but you can surely get some awesome shots in the meantime.

You may find yourself in a creative block again in the future but out of the 4 tips I use to get over that block, being encouraged is the greatest of all. You, baker, have done some awesome things, created masterpieces and you aren’t finished yet.

Do you have tips that tips for how you have overcome creative block in your cake design and cake photography, share them below, I’d love to hear them!