Blending Your Passion for Baking into Photography

Apr 14, 2020

This week I'm thrilled to feature photographer Lu Huang. As a photographer, Lu is passionate about documenting lifestyle images with touches of magic. Lu is also an exquisite baker. I adore how she infuses her beautiful baking projects into her photography. I know you'll enjoy reading about how Lu blends her passion for baking into her photography and how you can do so too! 

"Thank you for sharing your talents with us Lu!"

If you are reading this, it’s likely that you have a passion for photography. What about baking? Are you like me who is passionate about both? As a mom, I love baking and decorating cookies for my little guy and his friends. At the same time, I also consider myself a hobbyist photographer with a love of capturing childhood and everything beautiful with my camera. You can imagine how happy it makes me when I can combine my two favorite hobbies together. Here are some of my quick tips on how to fit baking/cooking into your photography.   

1. Use Proper Light 

I do not have artificial lighting equipment, so natural light has been my good friend. When it comes to photography with food, my first lighting choice is always window light. Window light gives you the most beautiful fall-off of the light. This image was taken in my dining room with a bunch of north-facing and east-facing windows. I moved the dining table closer to the east-facing windows and blacked out the windows on the north side. You can see the strong contrast of light in this image with the light coming from the right-hand side of the photo. You will notice that the camera settings for most of the pictures that I included here as examples share very similar settings as they were taken mostly at the same location. I do want to mention that as much as I love natural light, it sometimes limits me from shooting whenever and wherever I want. I am hoping to invest in some lighting equipment in the future to mimic the natural light.

ISO 800, 35mm, f4, 1/125SS

2. Document the Process

I love getting my kid involved in my baking/cooking process. Letting him deal with eggs, flour, cookie doughs, etc., offers not only a wonderful sensory activity for him but also great opportunities for photo shooting for myself. I found it so much easier to photograph my toddler when he is in his element than asking him to pose for me. In this image, he was helping me cracking eggs then beating them. Yes, there were eggshells left inside and it ended up messy. But I think it was absolutely a win-win with all the fun he had and the precious moments that I captured.

ISO 1000, 35mm, f4, 1/125SS

3. Bake and Shoot for Occasions 

Setting up a tradition to bake and shoot for every occasion has been my goal. We bake something to celebrate major holidays and birthdays of family members. Having a specific theme makes it easier to come up with what to bake and what to photograph. This image was taken before Thanksgiving. I made a batch of pumpkin pie cookies and had my boy help make the leaf cookies. Pictures like this, keep the tradition and the memories alive. Over the years, it will also show you how much you have changed and have achieved when comparing pictures taken around the same time of the year. I am very much looking forward to that.

ISO 800, 35mm, f4, 1/125SS

4. Get Creative 

Shooting from the looking-down perspective is one of my favorites. It keeps my work consistent in a way but can get a bit boring from time to time. That’s when I’d try to sprinkle a dash of creativity into it. These images were taken right before last Christmas. My initial thought for my Christmas cookie shot was to have my boy making snowflake cookies, which would end up being just like the Thanksgiving shot above. Then I started to browse on Pinterest where I get all my cookie design ideas and saw those funny marshmallow snowmen in hot chocolate and on cookies. That immediately sparked some new ideas because I knew I wanted to include those in my image. This final image combined a lot of elements that have been out there, such as a tic-tac-toe, a flour snow angle, marshmallow snowmen, and things Christmassy.

ISO 800, 35mm, f4, 1/125SS

And of course, I had to take a few images of these snowmen, that formed a humorous series. My boy laughed so hard at them. For me, creativity often roots from inspirations that could be images on Pinterest, your fellow momtog’s work, other genres of photography, or simply everyday life outside of photography.

ISO 800, 35mm, f4, 1/125SS

 5. Just Showcase the Food

When my kid is not interested in joining me, I find it fun to take pictures just for the food itself. I am no expert in food photography, so I tend to keep things simple. Almost all my cookies get a “head shot” like these Halloween cookies. The colors of decorated cookies or other bakeries are usually rich and vibrant already, so they pop up very well against the white background.

ISO 800, 35mm, f4, 1/125SS

You can also try setting it up to be more relevant to the occasion. For example, I took this picture of the Snoopy gingerbread house that we made last year right in front of the Christmas tree. That beautiful Christmas light bokeh served as a great backdrop.

ISO 2000, 150mm, f2.8, 1/100SS

I hope these quick tips are helpful for you to start blending your cooking or baking work into your photography. It is so much fun and I know you will love it!

About Lu Huang: Lu is a full-time engineer and a hobbyist photographer. She lives in southeast Michigan with her husband and their 3-year old boy. Her journey into photography started just over a year ago. She considers photography her artistic outlet and a wonderful way to keep all the beautiful memories alive. She loves shooting lifestyle and adding magical touches to her images. Most of her images are in color but she is also drawn to black-and-white. If you are interested in seeing more of her work or getting connected, you can find her on Instagram @luv_luluuu. And if you would like to see more of her cookie/baking art, you can find her on Instagram @thesweetsideup.