Behind the Scenes: Valentine’s Day Cookie Photos

by Melissa

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Love Day is coming up and since I love you readers, I want to share something I’ve been thinking about.

One of my goals for this year is to give you some behind-the-scenes of So Festive. While I really love to capture the perfect image to share with you, I am constantly fighting the balance between being real and also sharing something beautiful and lovely. Photography is one of my favorite hobbies and this blog is an avenue where I get to document my journey.Of course, I could post any old picture on here, but what’s the fun in looking at something ugly?


Yet on the other hand, I want to be very realistic and have you know that we are not always partying and eating, although it might seem like it from what you see here.  We love to make life enjoyable by celebrating even the littlest things.  However there are days around here that we are onery and barely feel like we are keeping up. Of course, you never hear about those days. And I don’t purposely try to hide them.

My goal for this blog is to share real and simple ideas that will inspire anyone to make life a little more festive.  And just because I share the best images from a shoot, I can promise you that we have plenty of messes, meltdowns, and moments of real life that should be shared here, but since I’m the one behind the camera, those times don’t always get captured because I am in the middle of them.  When I do happen to get the perfect photo, it’s because my children are napping and I choose this blog over a nap. Which is saying a lot. Because I love my sleep tremendously.

Okay. Glad to have that out there. Don’t want you getting the wrong idea about us over here.

Since photography is one of my favorite aspects of blogging, today I’m going to share a few of the things I have learned throughout the years. I”m in no way a pro, but maybe something I’ve learned will help you, too.

It’s kind of embarrassing that this was one of my first photos I posted on this blog. Skor Cake  is delicious, but this picture doesn’t do it justice.

skor cake

^^Lighting is terrible. And the green place mat? Not sure what I was thinking. But, hey, there is always room for improvement. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t catch on to this overnight.


Food Photography Tips

Again, I’m no expert. But I wanted to share a few aspects of what goes into a photo shoot for a post for So Festive.


1. Props

I pull out my props and food. My favorite props are things I have around the house or things I get from yard sales and thrift stores. Since it would be boring to use the same things over and over, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on props because then I can get new ones and not feel guilty.

For this particular shoot, I used:

-a thrifted white cake stand

-small glass bowls from the dollar store

-an extra wooden shelf we took out of our closet

-white foam board also from the dollar store


Textures are the key. I knew I would have color and textures in the sprinkles and food, so I kept everything else simple. Since I wanted a white background for this shoot, it was nice to have the wooden shelf to break up the monotony.

Get creative. You will be surprised at how many props you already have around your house!


2. Lighting

After I have selected which props to use, I find an area with good, natural light. All of the images in this post have not been edited for light. And I’m sure if there are professional photographers out there reading this, they may pick up some photos that should be edited. But can I tell you a secret? I don’t like to edit photos, so I try to get it as perfect as I can straight from the camera.


-Even though I have a white table and white walls, I like to use foam board on the bottom and back to give it a perfect white look.

-Choose a spot in your house that has good natural light. Natural light is the key. Avoid using the flash like the plague.

-Watch for the time of day when you get good light that isn’t too harsh. Even when we lived in our basement apartment for 4 years, there was one area I could get decent light.

-My favorite time of day is in the morning when both of my children are taking their morning naps.


3. Set-Up

I play around with the food and props until I find an arrangement that you like. This is what the set-up looked like from far away. But don’t be afraid to change it up if isn’t quite clicking. (Pun intended. Haha.)



^^And look who my little helper was? Miss Evelyn who was just waking up!

Tip: Pick your best looking food. For example, see how some of these cookies weren’t great looking? I purposely chose different ones to use.




4. Shoot Away. And then shoot some more. 

The beauty of digital cameras is that we can take hundreds of photos and delete the bad ones. At the end of a shoot, I have way more photos than I need. I delete probably 90% of them because the lighting isn’t quite right, I changed the set-up, it was too close or too far, etc. It’s better to take plenty and then delete later. Just keep clicking.


-I love standing on a chair and shoot looking straight down.



-I love zooming in on the details.




See how these next two photos are similar, but slightly different?


^^This one focuses on the cookies, but also has the sprinkles visible.


^^While this one just shows the cookies. Both are great, it just depends on what look you want. So I take both and decide later.


^^I also move around the props to get something a little more fun.


^^There is too much extra space in this photo. But no problem–I can crop it later.


^^The Evolution of Photos. It started with #1 and got better until I was happy. Which is your favorite? So many different styles and angles to choose from.


5. Practice. Practice. Practice. 

I’ve practiced a ton. And then practice some more. My husband often says, “can we eat yet?” I’m working on getting faster.

– I have read my camera manual. And learned a ton. Do it.

-If you  need some help with styling, check out a cookbook from the library or jump onto a food blog. Ever seen Mel’s Kitchen Cafe? She has amazing photos and recipes! Soon enough, you’ll learn how to make food look good.


6. Post-Editing and Posting

After I have taken enough photos and the children are in bed, I sort through all of them. I delete the bad ones straight from the camera card so they don’t get lost on my computer’s hard drive. It saves me from deleting them later.

I pick a handful of my favorites, with different orientations and angles and use those for a post. If I have the time, I’ll add some fancy text to the images using Photoshop. But before I learned Photoshop, Picasa was my best friend!

And then I post it to my happy space, this blog for you to enjoy.


Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies




 For this Sugar Cookie recipe, click here


Well, that was a lot longer than I ever planned on it being. I hope you learned a few things. I’m excited to share more Behind-the-sofestive-Scenes with you soon! If you ever have questions, feel free to ask! I’m happy to share.

Have a great Valentine’s Day! I’m signing off until after my little guys’s 2nd birthday which is next week, but when I’m back, I’ll have some new things to share.

Sure you love readers!




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Marcelle February 13, 2014 - 12:25 am

Great photo tips and photos!! So many options with camera angles on the cookie-I like #5. Bless white foam board–it’s my fave!

Mel February 22, 2014 - 7:42 am

#5 was one of my favorites, too.


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