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Better pictures of your bread – part 3

May 17, 2020 | bread

This is part three of a set of three posts.

The hobby side of my bread baking takes me often to the Facebook Group called Sourdough Nation which is run by the lovely people at Hobbs House Bakery.

On that forum during Coronavirus Lockdown I found myself offering to do a Facebook Live (which was my first – eeek!) and then blogging some of the information from that session onto here.

Give me a muffin or nuffin’

In part one of this series we looked at how the light changed around a subject. Then in part two we looked at how you can find a variety of locations around your home to take photos of your bread.

This time I wanted to start with just the light and a table and build two different images to discuss the use of props. Then quickly show some simple editing with Snapseed. All the images here, again, are taken (and now the final two processed) on an iPhone 4s.

Because this session was heavy on talking through my thoughts I’m going to start today with the finished images. One with a rustic feel. One with a travel feel.

Are they perfect? Not a chance. I can see many things I would change. But that’s what happens when you’re trying to do a Facebook Live at the same time as take photos and edit them!

photo of muffins and milk with a mug of tea
Travel photo of a toasted muffin with camera coffee and map

That is the finish point. How did we get there?

photo of two mugs

Let’s start with the “rustic” image.

The starting point for this image was actually a milk bottle. I reckon it is from the 1980s and is for a local dairy. I found it when doing a litter pick in our hamlet – it was in a ditch covered in silt and I was amazed it was in one piece.

I had in my head an image of a nice fluffy muffin, slathered in butter melting over it, and a mug of tea and a the bottle filled with milk as a secondary subject in the background.

Until I got into the Facebook Live session that was it. I had a selection of props and it was a case of choosing one at a time.

You’ve seen the background before. It’s just a throw that I have in my office on one of my chairs. I’ve gone into the loft, there’s a concrete wall behind and I’ve hung it down. I put up a very utilitarian table and draped the cloth over it too.

I took a few mugs up into the loft to consider. Here are two of them. “Keep Calm And Carry On” seems appropriate in Lockdown days.


A small Denby plate

However, once I realised that the only small plates I had in the house matched the other mug… I was rather drawn to the Denby mug.

two wooden chopping boards

As a base for the image I had in mind a bread board. I’ve got two cutting boards made of wood. One is smoother but more fancy. The other is well worn – it’s my bread board. That was the one I chose.

photo of two metal knives

Before lockdown I’d been meaning to trawl the bric-a-brac shops for old cutlery. I hadn’t got around to it. That, sadly, meant my choices of knives were these two.

A lovely ivory handled butter knife would have been much better.

Oh well. Maybe another time!

I said that I had done a demonstration of some image processing on the images. Indeed I did. However showing that “in action” would be a much longer blog post and that was an incidental part of the session really.

Instead of showing you I will tell you what I did – and let you see the two images side-by-side to compare.

I use a tool called Snapseed on the images that I put up on Instagram from my phone – personally or professionally.

Snapseed is a great little tool, quite powerful too. On this pair of images the first image is “un-processed” and the second has had a little adjustment. And I do mean a little. I’ve brightened it slightly. Adjusted the contrast and pulled the shadows up a little. Then I’ve sharpened the image and put a little darker edge in to focus the ey on the muffin.

That’s all I did to the image. It’s a subtle edit but I do think it helps.

photo of muffins and milk with a mug of tea
photo of muffins and milk with a mug of tea
Two coffee cups. One small blue one. One glass one.

On to image two.

Instagram is awash with “travel” style images. Often they are shot straight down. I didn’t want to shoot straight down but the idea was the same – a muffin in a travel coffee break.

For the first muffin shot I’d had Sheila zap the muffin in the microwave before I pulled it apart warm and steamy.

For the second muffin shot I’d lugged the toaster into the loft to get a hot muffin in the image.

Oh and Sheila was carrying tea and coffee up the ladder to me!

Coffee. I’ve three coffee cups for espresso. One is fairly rustic and I’d already done the rustic shot. That left me with these two. I favoured the blue one as it’s more “coffee served on a table somewhere at a little cafe”.

That one choice led me to several other choices.

Three maps of dorset - a new one and two old ones

Here is the first choice that I had caused by the coffee cup.

I was going for a vintage feel and whilst I’ve got a modern map of the area it was too shiny and new and well… orange. That was going to clash with my coffee cup.

The next map was more beaten and weather worn. But also orange.

My oldest map of the area (I collect maps) has some bright lettering on but is predominantly blue. That’s the map for us today then!

four colourful fountain pens

The next choice was “what pen do I use”?

I’ve quite a few pens. The top one is my usual writing pen. The bottom three are new to me. Which should I go with?


It is a case of harmonising the items in the image.

four journals to jot notes in

My choice of “travel journal” was less clear. The orange one at the back is the notebook I keep all my notes in for bread and photography. It is a classic Moleskine and I use them all the time. But it is orange.

The brown one next forwards was a possibility – nice and neutral.

The one with a map is one I carry everywhere to sketch and doodle in. It went with the theme.

The small leather one with “The World Travel Journal” and a small compass logo on it fitted very well. That was my choice.

I didn’t intend to have it or the map in “full vision”.

test shot of travel image

The final “thought” for my travel image was what background to use.

I was going to use a shower curtain but at the last moment spotted my old hammock – which actually is broken. It was perfect for the image.

Now, note some things about this image.

1. it is dark (it was a test image and I’ve done no processing).

2. the coffee cup is empty

3. the muffin is not toasted

When I’m doing a shot like this I will play around with an idea before I take the actual shot. For food shots, when I do them properly for money, I will usually ask for something to plonk there instead of the actual food simply to get some test images done, adjust lighting and so on.

That’s what this is all about. I had six muffins in the loft so I could choose which one to get steamy for the first shot and which one to toast for this shot.

I don’t have the pen positioned correctly and I didn’t spot that whilst rushing with a Facebook Live session.

Just as for the rustic shot here is the travel shot – before and after.

In this case one of my mistakes in rushing during the live session was that I didn’t spot the background was getting over-exposed. Ideally I would have put something there to stop that bit getting bleached out like that.

Once more my edits are relatively subtle. I’ve tried to rescue the burned-out background area. I’ve brought the shadows up a little (see around coffee cup), I’ve brightened the image, focussed the subject by using a small vignette and slightly warmed the image up. That’s all I did.

travel shot - unprocessed
Travel photo of a toasted muffin with camera coffee and map

There you go. My thought process from start to finish for two different looks of the same subject matter. Two looks taken in one location and then I’ve made what I wanted of that one location by carefully considering the props that I used.

That’s all for this set of three sessions. If you’d like to know more please contact me and I’ll see what I can do to help.