I've been chatting online with Kristin of Fat Girl Cakes in Fredericksburg VA for a while now, and I recently had the pleasure of meeting her in person. She agreed to write an opinion piece about the practice of using pictures of other peoples cakes on your website, so read on!
When I decided to start a custom cake business in late 2008, I knew the first thing I wanted to do to get my name out there was design a simple website. In my mind, it was a requirement and was relatively inexpensive, especially since I designed user interfaces as my “day” job and my husband has a degree in computer science. I didn’t want anything complicated, but I thought I could give potential clients idea of my menu, my personality, and most importantly a portfolio of my cakes.
Of all the things you can put on any “custom-work” website, the most important is a portfolio. I wouldn’t hire a photographer, woodworker, or muralist without seeing pictures of their work first, so why would anyone hire me without seeing pictures of my work?
Thankfully, I had a lot of friends that let me practice for their kids’ birthday parties and baby showers, so I felt I had a good start when it came to special occasion cakes. However, I had yet to complete a wedding cake, and I didn’t know if any brides would take the chance of hiring me without seeing some sort of wedding cake pictures.
My first thought was to scour the internet and use stock and other on-line photos to fill my gallery of work I felt I could comfortably complete. But alas, that paranoid side of me came out, and I started worrying about actually make the cakes look EXACTLY like the picture and somehow ruining someone’s big day.
So instead of that, I grabbed a few cake dummies, covered them in fondant, and dressed them with some ribbon, flowers, etc. I will be the first to admit these dummies weren’t spectacular, but I had pictures for my wedding gallery and I made them. Let me repeat that… I made the cakes that were in my gallery.
You may be asking yourself, where is she going with this? I recently found a website of a new cake business in my area, and being the curious person I am, I decided to go check out the competition’s website. My first stop is always the photo gallery to see what kind and the quality of work they do. What I found was a few photos of cakes they made and several stock photos that can be found on the internet. While some feel this is okay to do, I do not.
First off, I feel it is a misrepresentation of you and what you do. A client may not be able to tell the difference between the work done by the cake decorator and the stock photos, and the cake decorator may not be truthful to the client and tell them that they did not make the cake in the stock photo.
Secondly, I always find is near impossible to make a cake EXACTLY like a picture provided by the client. I even find it hard to make a cake that I designed the same every time I make it. Part of it is a learning curve, some of it has to do with not have all the exact same tools, and for me, part of it is that I have the desire to take a photo given to me by a client and doing it a little differently to add my own flare to it. On top of all that, I may not be as experienced/talented as the person who originally made the cake in the stock photo.
(Now I want to pause for a moment and state that I am not “putting myself down” or fishing for compliments on my work. I am just being realistic… I am not Buddy Valastro who was practically born with a piping bag in his hand… nor am I not going to be winning the Oklahoma Sugar Show within the next decade or two.)
Alright back on topic, my final pet-peeve with new decorators using stock photos is pure laziness. It really isn’t expensive to purchase 3 cake dummies, some fondant, ribbon, and silk flowers at the local craft store. It doesn’t take long to cover the dummies in fondant once , change out the design, and snap a picture. Sure these may not be amazing and creative works of art, but it’s something, and it’s something that you did. To me that is most important…
Thanks, Kristin! If you'd like to see more of Kristin's work (her own, not photos of other people's that she's put up for "inspiration" ) go to http://www.fatgirlcakes.com/, or http://www.fatgirlcakes.blogspot.com/.