It’s a wrap!
It’s so fun to see how this…
Some of my favorite cookbooks include no photos or just very few in the centerfold. Of course, cookbooks like this haven’t been published in the last 10 years. With the rise of access to free recipes online, cookbooks have become more like precious objects. They’re expected to be beautiful, with plenty of lush photography, and perhaps, multi-textured covers you just want to hold.
Originally, I was jealous of all of the bloggers who have the skills to style and shoot their own books. Photo shoots are expensive, and in my case (and in many authors’ cases), I was paying for the photos from my advance.
Of course, the shoot ended up being the most fun part of the process for me. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, and it was an incredible experience to collaborate with people who are so good at what they do. By the end, I viewed the shoot as an investment in the book that I hope pays off!
If you’ve never been to a food-related photo shoot and wonder why there are so many people, here is a little summary of all of the jobs.
It takes a village to shoot a cookbook, especially when you’re working outside of a studio.
Photographer: Pretty self explanatory. This is the person who takes the pictures and is often the person who assembles the team.
Photo assistant: Does a wide range of jobs to help the photographer, like setting up lighting and props and breaking down scenes after the shot. When we did a day of shooting at my house, there were two assistants plus an intern to help with all of the moving parts.
Art director: In the case of my book, the art director came from the publisher. This person gives general direction in the beginning about the types of colors and textures to include and creates mood boards to help guide the rest of the team. On the shoot, the art director often comes to watch how the shoot progresses and gives feedback on the shots as they happen.
Food stylist: The stylist does so much more than just add a few sprigs of cilantro to a cooked dish! He or she figures out the best order to cook and shoot the food; shops for all of the ingredients; cooks the food and finally styles it. Most stylists spend time working in restaurants and then years assisting before taking on their own high-profile jobs. And while they have a few tricks for keeping food looking photogenic (for example, they often spritz food with water or brush with oil if it starts to lose its sheen), editorial food photos these days show completely edible dishes.
Food styling assistant: The assistant helps the stylist in any way possible, including shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning.
Prop stylist: You know all of those plates, utensils and napkins in a photo? Prop stylists source all of the non-food items necessary for a shoot, including the background surfaces. Oftentimes, the stylist stays on set to choose the items for each shot. In my case, the photographer, the photographer’s assistant and food stylist all chipped in on this task. Prop styling sounds glamorous but often involves a lot of wrapping, unwrapping and schlepping. (For larger budget jobs, the prop stylist often has an assistant or two).
This looks like a ton of props but we used all of them!
The food styling essentials.