I can't count how many venues I've delivered cakes to that have terrible lighting. Either the cake table is near a window with really harsh light coming in, or the room is dim, or they're setting up lights and there are stupid patterns floating around as they test gobos.
I'm much better with film than I am with digital cameras, and even when I adjust the settings on my camera like I would with a "real" SLR, it doesn't work exactly the same way. I still need to figure out what to change to get the results that I would with film.
With that, plus the lighting issues when I take pictures of my cakes, it's rare that I get one that's exactly light or dark enough. This one is a good example:
The lighting on this was coming from the setting sun that was shining directly onto the cake from the right. The way the cake table was set up, I was shooting the photo directly into the light, so I turned it to get his shot. It was still too bright and was washing the color out.
So I used a layer in photoshop to adjust the brightness, then I used one to adjust the levels, which is just DIGITAL MAGIC!! Even a total idiot when it comes to digital photography can do that.
Doing this darkened it enough that it brought out the detail in the colors better. It still isn't as dark as the cake really was, but it's much more true to the colors in the real cake. It also shows the texture of the icing better.
So learn to use photoshop to adjust the light and you won't have to spend a ton of time trying to get decent photos at dark venues. If you don't have photoshop you can use paint.net, or any other photo editing program that allows you to mess around with your pictures. Most of them have similar options as far as changing lighting goes, so it's just a matter of practicing with them.
Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com