Nashville, Tennessee-based photographer Maria Clark recently documented wedding cake artist Rachel Schut’s baking and decorating process. The images, which will be used to promote Rachel’s upcoming baking course, result from a collaboration between the cake genius behind RachCakes and our photographer.
We were in the same class in Kristin Sweeting’s Danger School. Every other week, we had a group Zoom call to discuss the previous course sections, and Rachel shared that she was a wedding cake artist, so I was intrigued.
Rachel was working on a class for people interested in learning commercial cake baking. Maria wanted to add more food photography to her portfolio, so she saw this as an opportunity. The collaboration came together quickly after Maria suggested working together on a project.
I reached out to Rachel, and she was thrilled! She was working on a course to release in the fall for people interested in learning commercial cake baking and decorating, so we decided to photograph her entire process.
Rachel’s work had recently been featured on a Superbowl commercial for Squarespace, and she brought the cakes she created for it with her to the shoot. Seeing her work up close gave Maria a better idea of what to expect when it came time to photograph her decorating a cake.
She created five faux wedding cakes for Squarespace’s “5 to 9” commercial, and she brought them all with her to our shoot. It was amazing to me to see what intricate designs she could create!
Instead of utilizing a traditional studio space, Maria and Rachel rented an apartment from Airbnb they thought had a fun look. The location had a great dining room area and a small kitchen where they could have Rachel bake a cake and do the prep work.
Candice Gentry, a videographer, and another colleague from the class joined them on the day of the shoot to film video content as well. The small space proved to be a challenge as both tried to capture their shots simultaneously while in close proximity to each other.
One of the biggest challenges was that the kitchen studio was tiny. The videographer and I had to maneuver around each other carefully to make sure that we both got what we needed and didn’t get each other in our shots.
Maria and Candice worked with Rachel to break down the process into steps to align on what shots they wanted to get before shooting. This allowed them to plan and quickly move from the cramped kitchen space to a larger dining room to accommodate the necessary prep work.
When Rachel prepared the tiers, we moved into the dining room in the main part of the house, where there was a larger and more elegant space. After, we returned to the kitchen for her to mix and cook the icing. Then she mixed her icing colors and iced the whole cake in the dining room.
Maria wanted to capture Rachel’s process with an editorial approach as she planned to pitch them to magazines and use them for her portfolio. She worked with Rachel and Candice to prep and style each shot, adding in some flat layouts and close-ups as they went along.
All the creative direction and styling were done by myself and the videographer. I arranged the items for flat lays, and I instructed Rachel on where and how to stand for certain shots to catch the best light and background elements.
Some of the still and video shots that Maria and Candice wanted to get required repeating an action for multiple takes, which is often difficult to do when you’re baking a cake. Baking a cake requires both perfectly proportioned ingredients, following the steps in a specific sequence, and of course, good timing to achieve the desired outcome.
For example, we needed multiple shots of Rachel adding the extract to the mix. Once the extract was already added, we had to sub water for one shot so that we could get the shot without ruining the cake!
The client, videographer, and photographer worked together closely throughout the shoot to ensure they were all happy with the direction and outcome. The final images underwent some light retouching as Maria cropped and adjusted the colors to fit her high-contrast photography style better.
I learned how to plan my shots with a project that, for the most part, you can’t rewind and reshoot as needed. I also learned more about working with a chef and how to direct my client, so she looks natural, even if it’s a staged shot.