Today photoshop is the friend of the cake decorator... But not of the bride. If you're a bride looking at bakers' portfolios, you might want to start asking them if their pictures have been retouched. I got photoshop elements, and I stink at using it, but I figured out how to smooth out some fondant with it. If I can do that, then people who really know what they're doing can probably make a picture of a cake out of nothing. In the top photo I have a car cake that I did that had to travel to Pennsylvania. Because of that, I built it flat on the cake board so that it would be less likely to collapse on the way. The tires were flatter than I'd have liked, and I had some little imperfections on the top and the back of the car as far as how smooth the fondant was.
In the second photo, I've added a little bit to the tires to make them look rounder, and I smoothed out the appearance of the fondant to get rid of some of the little bumps. I also messed around with the windshield, so it looked smoother too. Like I said, this is a pretty lousy photoshop job, and if someone really knows what they're doing, they'd be able to retouch cakes to make them look completely perfect.
So when you're shopping for wedding cakes, ask if your baker has retouched their photos. If they start sweating and mumbling, you might want to hire someone else. I'll say it again, the best way to get referrals is to ask your friends, or the reception site coordinators. You want to get someone to make your cake who has a good reputation, not just fancy pictures.