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My Cookbook Photography Experience

Since I have been able to post photos and info about the cookbook I photographed this year, I have been asked a lot of questions about how it all came together. It wasn’t easy and over the next couple of blog posts, I’ll go into some in depth behind the scenes info. From working to land the deal, to figuring out a look and feel and actual creation of the food and photos.

This whole project started about a year ago. I was emailed through my website by the publisher of the upcoming cookbook to discuss the book in general. They loved the work on my website and it just so happened that I was local to them. During the initial meeting, we discussed other cookbooks they had created in the past, my background a bit and what it might look like to photograph about 100 recipes. With the details we discussed at that point, I then created a proposal for them. It included cost for a chef, stylist, food shopping, props and of course my time.

Then for some back and forth discussions dealing with the cost, amount of plates to be shot, whether or not I would be hiring the chef and some other details on location before we finally had an agreement. In November, we had a large meeting in my office with the chef that they ended up hiring, my stylist, their art director, the publisher and writer. We went over the look and feel that I worked on for a few days to show them some ideas of what we had in mind for the look of the photos. I had even done some test photos with some lighting ideas I had created to show them. When everyone was on board with the direction of everything, we set a date in December to create 4 dishes as well as some ingredient photos so they could create a cover and a couple of inside pages to be printed so they could use to sell the book to some large suppliers like Walmart, Target and Kroger to name a few.

At this point, it was in he hands of the designer who was working out of Canada. He came back with a little design change around early January 2020 that would mean some reshoots for just the ingredient photos. But in the end, it ended up looking great, and I think he made the right call. We then set up dates through April and May of 2020 to photograph what would be the rest of the plates and ingredient shots, about 49 plates and 250+ ingredient shots in total.

Ingredient Photos that didn't make it into the book because of the style change.

Fast forward to mid March 2020. COVID19

We had set the dates, we had shopped for props, we had confirmed dates with the chef, stylist, art director and everyone else who was going to be at my studio to work on shooting these plates in April and May. Then, Pennsylvania was shut down and all non-essential businesses were forced to shut down. I had to pull everything out of my studio because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get back in to get things if I needed equipment. This proved to be a very good decision for what was about to happen. We were hopeful that things would open back up in May so we pushed dates into May that worked for everyone and just waited. Early in April, things were not looking good and I was getting worried that we wouldn’t be able to come together in May. So, after a discussion with my wife, she suggested that I suggest to the publisher that I create, style and shoot as many plates as I could from my home until we could come back together and finish things up. I have a bit of a food background with my mom being a high school foods teacher and me having worked at several food establishments during college, as well as working to photograph and along side with food stylist for the past 18 years of my professional career. I felt confident I could do it, and honestly, I had no other work coming in, so I had the time.

Everyone agreed and I was able to use technology to show the publisher photos for their approval as much as possible. The main challenge was getting ingredients. Since my family felt at that point it wasn’t safe to be going into grocery stores, we used delivery options to supply the groceries I needed to make the dishes. However, people were purchasing their normal groceries and some items were becoming hard to get due to people stocking up on food. The other challenge was that delivery options were not very good because grocery stores hadn’t really been equipped for the major influx of people ordering online and wanting delivery. So, I had to plan 1-2 weeks of groceries to shoot knowing I was only going to be able to average 2 plates a day because my wife was still working full time from home and we didn’t have childcare for our 2 year old. Those first couple of weeks were very challenging.

Working in my home office had it's challenges, for sure!

Once I got into a rhythm however, I got things moving and was able to everything from about the second week of April through the first week of June. Meanwhile taking the time to process and edit the photos to get ready for the designer. I still had to get all of the image files through my post production process to send to him by the second week of June so he could finish design and get it to the printer by late June. The last thing on my list which took almost 2 full days was to photograph the ingredients that were not being used in the recipes that I was photographing. It was about 150 ingredients I believe.

Somehow, I managed to create all of them within the original timeframe, and get the photos over so the publisher could keep their timeline and get the book published. You can find the book available on all major retail sites that sell books. It’s title, “5 Ingredient Natural Recipes”. I’m sure you will find some delicious recipes for you and your family inside. Just know the story and work behind the photography that went into it was all done during the pandemic quarantine lockdown of 2020, from my home!

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