Poppy Seed Roll Cake (easier than you think) and “Point, Shoot, Score!”

Thanks so much guys for the birthday wishes for my papa!

Many of you commented about how you also laments about the dslr camera. And not to toot my own horn and I generally dont agree, but I’ve gotten compliments before on my photos that were shot on a “point-and-shoot”.

I’ll be straight up with ya’ll. I’m not a photographer. I never took that elective in high school, college, or culinary school. Most of my knowledge comes from just playing around and getting a few tips from Ashley at the foodbuzz festival. If you do have a dslr, Ashley’s sitet is a great tool for tips. But I thought I’d share with you some one my own “point and shoot” tips to help other camera newbies like myself that dont have a dslr camera.

There is A LOT I could talk about when it comes to food photography so I’ll do a little bit each week. Sound good? no? too bad!

Today I’ll focus on lighting. No offense, but sometimes, I cringe when I see some photos of food using flash. Lighting has the biggest impact on your shot. You can have the best camera, the best plates/food/props/styling, but if your lighting is bad than your picture is going to be bad. Thankfully, it isn’t crazy hard to get a lighting setup that is going to work pretty well for your shots. Heres my lighting tips:

“Shoot” for natural light: I think most modern food photographers agree – natural light really is the best to photograph food in. It is also one of the faster to setup and get going with. Here are my tips for working with natural light:

1)Shoot in the middle of the day, or early afternoon when the light is at its best. However….Pay close attention to the strength of your light. Bright early afternoon sun is lovely, but it can also be way too strong, thus it can lead to very large strong highlights, and very harsh shadows.
2) I always position my food close to a window or large opening to let the light come through.

Know your homes’ best lit areas: Identify areas in your house that would work for food photography at different times of the day. For instance – my living room has a gorgeous light during the late afternoon.

When going artificial, go with white lighting: Not all of us however have the ability to shoot in natural light all the time. Some of you I’m sure work late and most people dont have pristine weather like me in LA. So when you must go artificial, you really dont need to spend a lot (or anything if you’ve already got it). Halogen works well but the bottom line is, you want is a light that is as white as possible (halogen is good here). You would probably want it to diffuse (soft) as possible. Just using an incandesant bare lightbulb doesn’t work well (trust me, I’ve tried). What happens? You get strong shadows, overblown highlights, and a bad yellow cast to your light – not to mention making your food look rather greasy (which scares most people because they assume your food is fattening!).

Bounce it! Here comes one of the cheapest impacts you can have on your shots. A big ole piece of white card. Or foam board if you want to get extra fancy. I often use my curtains because they are thick and white. What does this do??? You can use this card to “bounce” light back into your scene, helping to gently illuminate the darker areas of your scene. As a rough starting point, it is a good idea to position this board on the other side of the food to which the light is – so: if you are lighting from behind, put the board in front (just under the camera). So if your main light from the left, place the card on the right of your food. A little fine tuning of placement to get the fill light exactly where you want it.

-NEVER USE YOUR FLASH: fancy dslr camera can have cool flash options, but with a point and shoot, its never a good result. take a look (this is one of my early photos, in my early days of blogging):


Have any tips to share? Even if this post bored you to death (I doubt it, but thats a always a possibility), do you have any crafty DIY tips for creating good shots?

Here is the recipe I promised from yesterday’s post. As I mentioned, my dad is not a cake person, but eastern european poppy-seed cakes are a different story. I wanted to be all “homemaker” and use my culinary training skills. But like many of you I have a life and little patience. So instead of making my own dough, I used this nifty secret: frozen pie crusts. Yep, those pre-made, frozen crusts work great and surprisingly, most are actually non-dairy and vegan (even though I dont adhere to those dietary laws). Most are sold in packages of two which is the perfect amount of dough you’ll need. Anyhow, on the the recipe!

2 frozen pie crusts (defrosted)

1 cup dry poppy seeds
3/4 c water
1 egg mixed with a litter water (for egg wash)
2TBS honey (or more to taste)
1 cup mixed nuts and/or dried fruit (like prunes, figs,dates, raisins or candied orange peel, I used raisins and prunes)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line several large baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them. Pour poppy seeds and water into a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times a add the honey, dried fruit and nuts (or rum if you’ve got some that on hand). Pulse a few time and pour into a large bowl. Mix with a spatula and add some more honey or other sweetener to taste. For the dough, let the pie crust defrost a bit (leave it out for maybe an hour or longer if you can) and peel it of the tin. Flour your surface and pin (if your using one, you dont have to, you can keep it “rustic” and use your hands) and roll it our so its all the same thickness.

Spread with the filling in the middle. Starting from a long edge, roll up jelly roll style (fold over the flaps over the filling).Beat the egg and add some water for an egg wash. Brush the roll with the egg wash and bake for about 30 minutes (check after twenty though, and maybe brush some more of the egg wash to make it super shiny). Let the cake cool for about ten minutes or so and dust with powdered sugar. Slice, and serve!


18 thoughts on “Poppy Seed Roll Cake (easier than you think) and “Point, Shoot, Score!”

  1. I stopped using flash when I started taking photos in restaurants because I didn’t want to be rude, and the quality of the pictures was so much better! I’m finally figuring out how to manually open up (no idea if that’s the correct term…) the ISO and let more light in. Only took me a year to figure it out!

    Glad your dad had such a great birthday! He looked very content with his poppy-seed cake 🙂

  2. I didn’t have my dslr until this August, and I think I shot decent pictures before then. But now that I have a dslr, I’m never going back. It’s just THAT good; it produces good pics even in a bad lighting area.
    One tip I recommend with point-and-shoot is to fix the pictures on your computer with a photo-edit program. Picasa allows free editing. That’s what I use. I hope to get Photoshop one day, but that will have to wait.

  3. … I am SO making that this holiday! I love poppyseed cake, and I’ve never realized how easy it is. Thanks for the great recipe Eden.

    PS. I totally agree: flash food photography is absolutely cringe-worthy.

  4. I never, ever use flash, I don’t care HOW dark it is… I hate the harsh cast that it gives to pictures. And while I am completely in love with my dSLR, I have to admit that sometimes, using a point-and-shoot is just… easier.

    ❤ ❤

  5. I’m really happy you’re sharing your photog tips, and it’s even in language that I can understand. Sometimes people give out tips, but they throw around fancy photography terms and I never took that elective either, so its all Greek to me. It is going to be difficult to use natural light in my (one tiny window) apartment in the dead of Canadian winter, but I’m going to try.
    I’m definitely going to try to make a version of the poppyseed cake. It reminds me of the poppyseed (aka moon) hamantashen that people in my family seem to love.

  6. Occasionally If I need to use a flash, I diffuse it with onion peel, white paper, etc to block a lot of the light. But I like the “white board/ bounce back” trick- I haven’t done that before. It’s hard when it gets dark at 4:30!

    Thanks for the tips for us point and shoot kids!

  7. Thanks for the tips Eden. I’ve had no formal photography training either so I’ll take all the help I can get!

    I have learned to never use flash, but I usually just don’t shoot a lot at night since I haven’t really mastered it yet. Maybe now I will give it a try!

  8. happy belated to your papa!!!

    i agree the flash is the worst thing to happen to a point and shoot camera haha i never use it! hope you’re having a great week girl!

  9. Pingback: Poppy Seed Pie and Diseases Not To Worry About | Eden's Eats

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