Do you want to do chocolate photography that looks elegant, beautiful, and mouthwateringly delicious? If you’ve ever tried to photograph chocolate, you probably realize that making it look good is not an easy task – unless you know a few tricks, that is!
In this article, you’ll find some tips and techniques that’ll help you on your next chocolate photoshoot; they discuss handling your subject, picking the perfect gear, editing your images, and more.
So if you’re eager to improve your chocolate photography, keep on reading.
1. Work with a dummy
Chocolate still life photos don’t come together instantly. You need to move and reposition the different elements until you find the right composition. Then, once you have everything organized and framed, you need to arrange the lighting and get the correct exposure.
All these manipulations, while necessary, can damage the chocolate you’re about to photograph. In fact, the heat from your fingers can soften the chocolate enough for your fingerprint to leave a mark, which looks bad.
Plus, when handling chocolate, there’s always the risk that it’ll scratch, chip, or otherwise become damaged.
So what do you do? To avoid any of these potential problems, prepare your shot with a dummy.
Your dummy can be another object with a similar size and shape, or it can be a second piece of chocolate. Once everything is ready, you can replace the dummy with your “hero” piece (making sure to handle it with care – if you can, wear latex goves!).
2. Watch the temperature
If you’ve ever eaten chocolate – and I’m guessing you have! – then you know how sensitive it is to temperature.
Now, in the previous section, I talked about the dangers of touching chocolate with your heated hands. But you need to think about the environment as a whole; what is the temperature of the room? What is the temperature of the photoshoot surface?
When you’re preparing for a chocolate photoshoot, I recommend you keep the temperature of your studio around 20 degrees Celsius and keep the chocolate in a dry area.
I’d advise against storing the chocolate in the refrigerator, as the moisture can cause condensed drops on top, plus the changes in temperature can cause fat bloom or sugar bloom (which looks like a layer of white on top of the bar). However, if you have no other options, carefully inspect the chocolate before your shoot (after the chocolate has been removed from the fridge) and fix any problems.
Fat bloom can be fixed by heating the chocolate; you can use a hairdryer, but be careful not to melt it. And sugar bloom can be cleaned with a bit of water.
Finally, when setting up your equipment, check the heat generated by the light source. If you use a flash or a strobe, you shouldn’t have any problems, but if you’re using continuous lights, avoid halogen lamps or direct sun, both of which can melt the chocolate quickly. Instead, use LEDs or indirect sunlight.
3. Choose the right background and props
There’s no hard rule that tells you what props you can or can’t use for a great chocolate photography shot, but I do have some advice that should make things easier.
First, play with color. If you photograph dark chocolate, try white or bright-colored props and backdrops – and for white chocolate, do the opposite. (Alternatively, do high-key or low-key images by maintaining a similar tonal range.)
Think about the mood you want to set when you’re choosing the props. Do you want a homemade, cozy feeling or a high-end chocolate design store? This will help you to tell a story.
Also, if you’re not photographing pure chocolate, think about using other ingredients as props. For example, if the subject is a chocolate mint cake, think about adding a mint leaf or a mint plant in the background.
4. Lighting can make or break the photo
You can use any type of light for chocolate photography; however, in my experience, natural light is best.
Of course, you shouldn’t expose the chocolate to direct sunlight. Photograph early in the morning or late in the evening, in the shade, or on an overcast day to reduce heat and melting.
Note that using natural light doesn’t mean that you can’t control the results. You can determine the direction of the light and use light modifiers to shape light quality and direction exactly as you want it.
Side lighting with a reflector on the opposite side is a good starting point, and it will help you enhance the texture of the chocolate, too.
5. Think about composition
Composition refers to how you position the elements inside the frame and how you use space. This is important in any type of photography, including chocolate photography.
In other words: You must carefully consider how you arrange your chocolatey scenes.
Start by determining how your image will be used. Are you shooting chocolate for a magazine? For a fine art print? For personal satisfaction?
This matters because the final use will determine the composition.
You need to decide if the photo should be be portrait or landscape oriented, which will change depending on magazine formats, social media formats, printing sizes, and more. Then think about the negative space you’ll want for different uses; does the client need to incorporate a logo, text, or a graphic?
Finally, once you know all about your images and how they will be used, you can work with composition rules and guidelines to capture ultra-compelling results.
6. Choose the best lens
You usually need to work with very small scenes in chocolate photography (unless you’re doing an environmental shot, that is).
A standard 50mm lens works very well. Telephoto lenses can be useful, too, especially if you want bokeh in the background and a shallow depth of field.
So if you have an APS-C camera, you could use anything between 35mm and 60mm (and if you have a 35mm to 60mm macro lens, even better).
As for a full-frame camera, you can use a lens between 50mm and 100mm. Again, macro capabilities can come in handy when you’re shooting such small subjects!
7. Use a gray card
White chocolate isn’t actually white, dark chocolate is not black, and milk chocolate can have all sorts of tones. This makes it difficult to adjust the white balance when doing a chocolate photoshoot.
To avoid problems and save yourself some time when you’re editing your photos, always use a gray card or a color checker during your shoots. All you have to do is put the gray card in the scene and capture the first photo, then take the gray card out and shoot away. Do this every time the lighting changes.
Then you can use the photo with the gray card to adjust the white balance in all the similar images you took. Lightroom is an excellent program for white balance adjustments because it allows you to sync your edits, though feel free to use any basic editing software.
8. Post-process your chocolate photography
Each photographer has a different workflow, but regardless of how you like to work and the program that you use, there are a few steps you should always consider when post-processing chocolate photography.
For one, make sure to check your image’s color and exposure. If you photographed in RAW (which I highly recommend), you’ll have lots of information to work with at this point in the process.
Next, retouch any imperfections on the chocolate. For example, if the piece was a little dented or scratched, you could use the Healing tool to make such blemishes disappear.
And you can always finalize the editing by applying a filter or using presets. This can help keep consistent results across several chocolate photoshoots.
Chocolate photography tips: final words
Well, as you can see, capturing chocolate can be tricky – but hopefully, now that you’ve read this article, you feel a lot more confident about your chocolate-shooting abilities.
So grab some chocolate and start photographing!
Now over to you:
Which of these chocolate photography tips is your favorite? Do you have any chocolate images you’re proud of? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!