Category Archives: Project Bakeover

Beautiful shot of fresh pastries

5 Expert Food Photography Tips to Show Off Your Baked Goods

The true hero of every food photo is, without a doubt, the food itself. Since you’ve nailed creating the perfect baked goodies, here are my five tips to take the most enticing photos of them, whether you wield a camera or a mobile phone!

Related: Steve Hodge’s Best Tips for a Successful Bakery

Good Light or Bust

This is my first tip for good reason! The light you shoot your subject in is the biggest determinant between a flat, mediocre photo and a stellar one.

• Natural Light: The good news is, natural sunlight is a great light source for food photos and costs nothing—but you must know how to use it right. Study the light available in your home, bakery or studio and observe how the light looks at different times of day, including intensity, colour temperature (cool versus warm) and shadows. If you have windows facing different directions, compare how the light looks next to each of those too.

• Direct Light:  Strong, direct light can be edgy and dramatic, but it’s trickier to master.

• Diffused Light: Indirect light is the easiest to make food appealing. What is “diffused indirect light”?  Think of the light that comes in through your window mid-morning before the sun’s position and intensity casts shadows inside, or an overcast day when clouds disperse its rays. Another element of light is the direction from which it hits the subject: from the side, behind or above. In general, the most forgiving natural light for a beginner photographer is diffused indirect sunlight coming from the side of the subject i.e. placing your subject at or near table-height beside a window where there are no shadows or harsh sunlight.  A north-facing window, if you have one, is favoured by food photographers because of the softer, bluer light.

• Artificial Light: Be sure to turn off every artificial indoor light. No food looks good with even the faintest bit of icky yellow cast.

Related: Explore Bakeries From Project Bakeover

Gotta Hit Them Angles

There are three commonly-used angles to shoot food:  straight-on from the front, three-quarter downward angle, or overhead.  A good exercise is to look through your camera lens or screen as you move around the subject to figure out which angle showcases the attributes you want to highlight. Below are general rules with practical examples, but be sure to explore all three (and angles in between) to find the best one.

• Straight-On: Ideal to showcase height and/or interesting layers for cupcakes, layered cakes, stack of cookies or bars.

• Three-Quarter: Best for showing off items with layers or fillings in bars, macarons, filled tarts, profiteroles, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls.

• Overhead: Perfect for flat foods or foods with interesting shapes, surfaces or toppings e.g. pizzas, galettes, pop tarts, cookies, doughnuts, macarons, cinnamon rolls.

Overhead shot of a cauliflower pizza
Photo courtesy of Sonia Wong

See More: Here Are Our Favourite Bakeries Across Canada

Bring Images to Life

Composition: How elements are arranged in your shot to be aesthetically pleasing. Keep in mind:

Rule of Thirds: Imagine overlaying a grid of nine boxes over your image, then place your points of interest at the four intersecting points of the grid.

Leading Lines: Use lines to lead a viewer’s eye to the focal point e.g. a cake knife pointing toward the confection.

Repetition: Place multiples of the same item or items of similar shape. Grouping in odd numbers is ideal.  

Symmetry and Asymmetry: There is beauty and balance in symmetry, but be careful it doesn’t look boring or manufactured. Asymmetry can evoke interest. Try using negative space as well, in practicing asymmetrical composition.

Layers: Photos are two dimensional. Introducing layers creates depth and texture. Layers can take the form of the backdrop, linens, plate, cooling rack, a sprig of mint atop a cupcake or a sprinkling of powdered sugar on a tart.

Shot of a cupcake with pink buttercream icing on a plate with a mint green
Cupcake from Bluegrass & Buttercream bakery. Photo courtesy of Project Bakeover

• Colour: Different hues evoke different emotions or impressions. Blue feels calm, orange feels warm, green feels fresh and brown feels earthy. There’s also established guidance for mixing colours in visually appealing ways such as complementary, monochromatic and analogous combinations. Complementary tones sit opposite on the colour wheel i.e. pink cupcake set on a green surface. Monochromatic combos use hues, tints and shades of the same colour i.e. red strawberries on pink frosting. Analogous combo involves three adjacent colours i.e. red, orange and yellow heirloom tomato slices arranged on a vegetable tart. Think about the impression you want your food to make and choose your colours intentionally for the props and elements in the frame.

• Props: Anything that helps your image tell a complete story is a prop. You may use glassware, napkins, plates, pinch bowls, baking tins, cake stands, cutlery, etc. to add interest by way of texture, shape and height. You can also use raw ingredients from the recipe as a prop to convey freshness, such as juicy berries, vibrant herbs, a dribble of maple syrup or a dusting of flour on the table. Scatter bits of the food around it to hint at its texture, such as streusel crumbs or bits of chopped nuts. You can place utensils used in preparation, serving or enjoyment of the food to make the viewer feel part of the experience, such as a used whisk or spoon shattered through the sugary crust of a crème brulée tart. Be sure the prop makes sense and relates to the hero food.

Capture Food At Its Freshest

With some exception, many baked goods look their best when freshly prepared. Think about the shine of chocolate chips on a just-baked cookie, the glisten of freshly dripped glaze on a cake or gooey cheese on a hot pizza. These details make them inherently more drool-worthy! This means you should prepare as much of your set up as possible before the food is ready. Pull the table next to the window, set up any surfaces or backdrops, grab all the props you might need, fire up your playlist, and if you’re using one, have the tripod set up with the camera. Arrange props (sans the hero food) in a way you think will look good, and once the hero food hits the scene, ideally you only need to make a few final adjustments before you click away.

Beautiful shot of various pastries
Photo courtesy of Sonia Wong

Editing Magic

Brightness, colour saturation, white balance, contrast, shadows: these are some of the basic adjustments you can tweak in editing software to create a more professional and polished result. You don’t need to be an expert photographer or to shell out big money for software. There are powerful mobile editing apps available, some free to download (Lightroom and Snapseed for example). Taking an excellent photo straight out of camera is always #goals, but that rarely happens. Image editing can save a photo or enhance an already strong one. That said, I caution the impulse to over-edit. It’s easy to get carried away and end up with harsh, fake-looking results, so use a gentle touch!

Tune into Project Bakeover Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Steve Hodge on the set of Project Bakeover

Steve Hodge Shares His Best Tips on How to Run a Successful Bakery

The life of a small business owner can be a challenging one, with small profit margins, fickle clientele and staffing issues looming as potential issues just over the horizon. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular put many small businesses in peril, and the hospitality industry was particularly hard hit (according to industry association Restaurants Canada, 10,000 restaurants closed between March and December 2020).

Steve Hodge and Tiffany Pratt discuss renovation plans for OMG Baked Goodness on the set of Project Bakeover

Steve Hodge knows these challenges like the back of his baking pan — as the owner of Temper Chocolate & Pastry in Vancouver, he has built up his business from a single location to one that sells treats in retail stores across the country. Now, on Project Bakeover, Steve brings the lessons he’s learned from his own success to small bakeries across North America.

We caught up by phone with Steve, who shared some of his best tips from the early episodes of this season for struggling entrepreneurs and bakery owners.

Related: Here’s What You Need to Know About Steve Hodge

Think Outside the Store

The first thing Steve does before even entering a bakery is to eyeball the signage outside. If the word “bakery” isn’t front and center, customers can get the wrong first impression (at Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats in Episode 1, the word didn’t even appear on the signage, but “classes” and “parties” were highlighted. “This could be a party store,” said Steve). Often, the customer’s decision as to whether to enter the shop is based on curbside appeal and a clear sense of the store’s direction.

See More: Mrs. Joy’s Absolutely Fabulous Treats Gets a Bold New Look

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If the customer can’t see what your shop is selling, then they are less likely to buy. In Episode 2, Steve recommended that OMG Baked Goodness’ poorly organized and half-empty counters be loaded full of bright lights and inviting products. Remember to spotlight the best sellers and popular products.

Close up shot of the baked goods at OMG Baked Goodness

Bigger is Not Always Better

Sometimes customers want a big over-the-top treat, but more often, they are looking for a small indulgence. As soon as Steve bit into Mrs. Joy’s cream puff, he knew it was too large and a waste of her ingredients. “She’d get a bigger bang for her buck if she cut it down a bit,” he says. Consider that customers have varying appetites and budgets, and plan accordingly.

See More: We Share Our Go-To Bakeries Across Canada

Be Ready to Change on the Fly

Especially during pandemic times, where rolling lockdowns can mean an open dining space one day and a closed storefront with takeout only the next, flexibility is essential. At Temper Bakery, Steve and his team were ready to make some quick changes to adapt when the COVID-19 lockdowns began. “As bakeries, we can change the way we run our business — we can be a dine-in or grab-and-go,” he says. “At Temper, we now sell more frozen bake-at-home products than we sell fresh from the store. It was a matter of simplifying our business model and streamlining the elements to maximize profitability.”

Keep It Simple

In the same vein, Steve advises bakery owners to think outside the box, but not to hold onto inventory because they’re too attached to it or think they’ll need it later on. “This is a great time to simplify,” he says. “At Temper, we took 20 per cent of our menu off when the pandemic first hit, and we’re never returning to the old way.” The worst mistake he saw at the bakeries he visited was an overabundance of product choice, which led to the bakery owners being overwhelmed and working day in and day out.

Related: Watch Steve Hodge’s Video Bio

Harness Social Media

“If you’re not online, get online,” says Steve, who recommends that bakery owners use social media to identify and spotlight their hero items. “When I was in culinary school, there was no social media. Now, home cooks around the world can pick up the phone and take a picture of their baked goods. Social media changed the world of pastry in terms of who we knew were the best, and you learn more by inventing and creating.”

Take It Outside

Putting tables outside for curbside pickup is a perfect opportunity to draw traffic and boost curb appeal, says Steve. “It will draw you out of the kitchen and make you more interactive as a business owner,” he says. “If you haven’t been involved in [the] community, go outside and say hello and stay safe to your customers. Really take the chance to interact with them — they’ll remember it.”

To Make Money, You Have to Spend Money

Even if margins are tight, Steve recommends some low-cost ways to garner some publicity, such as contacting the local paper and buying a small ad, or running a contest on social media. “It can be as simple as saying ‘if you like this picture, send to this person, or recommend it for a gift and you have a chance to win a gift box’,” he says.

Put Your Logo Out There

Think beyond flyers when it comes to logos. “If you sell coffee in your shop and don’t logo your cups, go buy a $20 stamp with your logo and stamp away,” says Steve. “The majority of stuff for takeout that people carry around outside is in paper cups. You want your logo everywhere: on stickers, poles, and in peoples’ hands.”

Steve Hodge at OMG Baked Goodness

Keep an Open Mind to New Ideas, Even After the Pandemic Ends

Don’t just innovate in terms of trend chasing, advises Steve.  “We ask ourselves as business owners, ‘why didn’t we think of this before?’ — well, we didn’t always have to think of that next step,” he says. “But out of the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot of great things as to how to run a business, and we’ll keep doing them.”

Watch Project Bakeover Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Tiffany Pratt’s Top Tips for Giving Bakeries New Life

We all love freshly baked goods, but who doesn’t love a visual feast to accompany those mouthwatering croissants, cookies, and sky-high stacked deli sandwiches? HGTV Canada designer (and everyone’s favourite Queen of Pink) Tiffany Pratt gets it, which is why she’s here to help struggling bakery owners with her new series Project Bakeover. In each episode she teams with master chocolatier Steve Hodge to give new life to rundown places, tackling one bakery at a time.

Headshot of Tiffany Pratt smiling on the set of Project Bakeover

Of course, resto-design is something that Pratt is passionate about, having transformed numerous GTA eateries in the past. We sat down with the designer to pick her creative brain on what it takes to give any bakery (or restaurant for that matter) a whole new visual life.

Related: Gorgeous Restaurant Designs By Tiffany Pratt

Attract Customers at the Curb

Before a customer even walks into your establishment, it’s important to set the tone and mood with plenty of curb appeal. Go for a warm and welcoming vibe that gives patrons an idea of what they can expect when they step inside. “The space being welcoming doesn’t start when you walk in the door, it starts before you actually walk through the door, on the sidewalk from the street,” says Tiffany. “Create impact to get people inside. How I do that is with colour and shapes and textures and prints.”

Whether that’s a bright façade, a watercolour fence, or graffiti on the walls remains up to you, just make sure that it stands out and that it speaks to the vibe you’re going for.

Embrace What Makes Your Business Unique

Nothing gets customers more excited than knowing they have the option to try something new, even when you’re talking about the comfort fare featured at most bakeries. In terms of design, Tiffany says that means looking at different shapes, colours and textures that stand out and alert people that what you have going on at your space is unique and special. Of course, adding a different type of food or a daily special doesn’t hurt either. “It’s really about giving people an experience,” Tiffany adds.

See More: Mrs. Joy’s Gets a Dramatic Makeover

Maximize the Takeout Experience

These days with takeout being more necessary than ever, it’s a chance for eateries to appeal to customers on a whole new level. Because let’s face it: everyone could use a little more joy in their lives, and what’s more joyful than feeling like your regular old Tuesday night takeout is an entire experience?

“I’ve had a few people that, instead of having a door, they just did a temporary cloud window, and made it a fun little pickup window,” Pratt says. “Cafes that I’ve designed turned their diner into one of those 1950s drive-in style places. And they actually did it so that people didn’t even have to leave their cars. They brought their food outside, drive-in style. There are so many fun ways to package things.”

Put Care Into Packaging

Speaking of takeout and delivery, Tiffany says it’s just as important to think about how you package your food as it is to think about how you design your space. Because that takeout is travelling away from your eatery, with every potential to bring new and returning customers back. “We focus less on what the space looks like right now as how the food is packaged,” she explains. “How can we take pictures of this fun takeout food? This comes into the conversation about branding and stickers and bags and logos, because if people can’t go into the restaurant or the bakery, they still want an experience.”

Related: Watch Full Episodes of Project Bakeover

Take Your Clientele Into Consideration

When Tiffany designed the dining room at Piano Piano, she knew that customers would be sitting down to a long and lengthy meal—as you do at nice Italian restaurants. Add in the fact that some meals would be heavy, and she wanted to ensure that people would be more than comfortable for extended periods of time. The designer says that taking the menu and clientele into consideration when designing any space is super important, and it’s one of the first conversations she has.

“I’ll say to myself as a designer, ‘OK, well, this is the food, this is what people are expecting.’ And then what can I do that is unexpected that no one has done yet that would make more people come here instead of anywhere else?” she explains.

Create An Overall Vibe

Whatever vibe you create with your eatery’s exterior, be sure to continue that feeling on the inside. Tiffany says that she always brings samples back to the spot itself in order to see how natural light affects her selections, and then she creates her famous colour combos in order to evoke all those feelings.

“Combining colours for me is about how I want the person who’s sitting in the space to feel,” she says, pointing to her dusty pink, teal, blue and mustard yellow design at Café Cancan as an example. “I just felt like that was making a more masculine clientele feel happy by that deep teal. The orange is very playful, but the pink always no matter who you are, makes everyone feel cozy,” she adds.

See More: Explore Bakeries From Project Bakeover

 

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Don’t Forget the Instagram Crowd

These days everything is visual, and customers who are inspired to take a photo of your space to share with their social media crew creates a great opportunity for more publicity. Tiffany always ensures that she has such a space in her designs, whether that’s a fun dresser by the restrooms with inexpensive props, a colourful wall, or fun accessories on the tables.

“My favourite is to have something else to take pictures of. That’s what everybody—influencer or not—gets excited about,” Pratt says. “This is a very visual culture that we live in. If we give people beautiful things to experience, to try, and to look at and take pictures of, that becomes a trifecta of the commercial bakery industry, in my opinion.”

Last But Not Least, Don’t Focus on Perfection

Looking ahead, Tiffany predicts waste-free design trends with less expensive finishes. She also thinks people will continue to be excited by colour and things that spark joy and creativity. But she also says that we’re learning to be more forgiving with ourselves, and that extends to design as well.

“We have to be less attached to perfection and doing things perfectly and spending tons of money on things,” she says. “Often just opening the doors and creating great food and creating a fun, inviting atmosphere is more important than anything. Don’t focus on perfection, focus on fun. Focus on creating an environment that people want to be in. That’s the most important thing.”

Watch Project Bakeover Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Watch and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.