Photography Exercise with Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

by Urvashee on May 22, 2012 · 5 comments

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Last night I decided I was going to make some chocolate chip muffins . On a whim at the last second I decided to add a little extra flavor with some espresso. So I replaced the milk in my muffin recipe with a cup of strong coffee and added in some instant espresso powder. The results? A ridiculously moist muffin with a nice combination of coffee and chocolate flavor.  It’s quick and delicious.

If you clicked on my chocolate chip muffin recipe link above, you may have noticed that it’s a really old post and the photos are not so great. I like to think I’ve come a long way in my photography but I know I still have much to learn. I spend hours trying to get the right photo and it’s mostly because I don’t have a good grasp on all the technical aspects of photography. (Food styling and getting the right props is a whole other problem!) So when Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen invited her readers to join in on a series of food photography exercises, I jumped at the opportunity.

The first exercise is all about aperture. Aperture is the opening size of your lens that lets the light in. You can open and close it to whatever size you want. Anyone trying to get better shots always wonders how you get that wonderful blurry background. That’s all aperture too because it also controls your depth of field (DoF) or how much of your photo is in focus. Here’s what the numbers mean:

Small Aperture (Ex. F2.0) = Small DoF (more blur in the back) and big opening (more light)
Large Aperture (Ex. F5.6) = Large DoF (less blur in the back) and small opening (less light)

Left, F2.0 with shutter speed 1/40s. Right, F5.6 with shutter speed 1/5s. Both shots were taken with a 50mm 1.8 lens with ISO 100.

The set up had natural light coming in from the left and I used a white board on the right to reflect some of the light and eliminate shadow. I like both photographs. I love the blurry background on the left photo because it puts less focus on the sharpness of the glass rim. However, I like the right one too because you can see the colorful straw more. Doing this exercise made me start noticing a lot more things besides the aperture. For example, I realized that the photos just have too much white in them because of the plates and napkins and milk. You can see in the photo at the beginning of the post that I changed my napkin color. I like this much better because I can still use the milk glass but not distract from the muffin too much. Then I noticed the back wall has a shadow on half of it… Of course, I can go on and on with flaws but I’ll save it for another photography exercise. Thanks Aparna for this little lesson on aperture. If you want to learn more head over to her post or join us and link your own.


yield: 12 muffins


2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs instant espresso powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup strong coffee, cooled
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375 F and line your muffin tin or generously butter. Mix the flour, sugar,  baking powder, salt, espresso in a large bowl with a whisk. Whisk the eggs, vanilla, butter and coffee in another bowl. Add the liquids to the the dry ingredients mix until almost combined and then add the chocolate chips and mix until combined. Fill the muffin tins evenly with the batter. I used an ice cream scoop to keep it from getting messy and get a more even distribution between the 12 muffins. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked in the center.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nandita May 23, 2012 at 3:08 am

These muffins look way too delicious. Loved the recipe and photographs.

beti May 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

they look really beautiful! I made them once but I added frosting, they look pretty good without it

Srimathi May 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Awesome photos. Pops up and makes the food so appetizing.

Aparna May 25, 2012 at 11:02 am

Thank you for joining us this month and am happy you enjoyed the exercise. Yes, I also liked the one with the blue napkin better because of the colour contrast. On the other hand, I liked the shadow at the back and don’t see it as a flaw. Feel it adds to the glass of milk in front.
Lovely muffins too. 🙂

Baker Street May 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I think your evening was well spent! Your pictures look great and the muffins are just the perfect midnight treat.

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