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The Making of a Cookbook #5 - BTS at the Photo Shoot

food photography

I am now taking you behind the scenes of the photo shoot for my new book, Joy of Kosher published by William Morrow/Harper Collins, due out Fall 2013. Get excited! Get very!!! excited!

I am working again with the amazing husband wife team , Andrew and Carrie Purcell. He is the photographer and she is the food stylist. I've been working with them almost exclusively for the last few years across the site, the mag and this here book.

This shoot lasted 8 straight days (with the exception of Shabbos) and each day was about 9 to 10 hours on set, plus lots of prepping (shopping, cooking and baking) from Carrie on off hours to ensure that we were able to push out about 12-14 shots a day. Carrie and Andrew each had an assistant as did our prop stylist the lovely Paige Hicks to make sure we stayed on schedule.

Let me walk you through it.

This here (the main image above) is our actual "set". Yes that is an ice cream cone, but no, that's not ice cream, it's a surprise!

These are our prop tables, filled with bins of silverware and serving ware, plates of all manner and size and linens and glasses galore. The tables are each about 6 feet long and loaded with props. Props are also stacked underneath the tables. Paige has an ironing board set up in the corner to press the linens before each use.

Here is a step by step look at preparing my chicken sushi recipe.

food photography

The veg is first julienned and sometimes we use a mandolin, sometimes a handheld julienne peeler and sometimes a knife -- oh we have many tricks.  We also make sure our produce is fresh and vibrant -- the colors should be really saturated.

food photography

We roll up a few cutlets so we can slice and pick the best looking 6 pieces for our shot.

food photography

Paige has shown me a number of selections for the plate, chopsticks and textiles/linens. We take into consideration where the image is falling within the book when we choose the color pallete for the shot. Here I wanted a burst of bright color, that's why I chose this gorgeous blue platter with an shine and interesting edge. I need something with eye appeal. Once I've selected something we all like Paige sets all of the elements on the shoot table. She looks through the camera lens to see what the camera is seeing and moves everything just so until she is happy. Andrew the photographer then snaps and we look at it all and fiddle with it based on the camera angle until we are happy. Andrew will move things or direct Paige, I will make suggestions, it's a real collaborative effort. We also determine the camera angle based on where the image falls out in the book, for example we try not to put two overhead shots next to one another and so on.

food photography

Once we are happy Carrie starts to bring out her tray with the food and a bunch of tools. She saves the finishing touches for on set so stuff doesn't get stale. Check out her work related injury. She sliced her finger, but Thank G-d the entire finger remained intact and she just needed a little bandage. Occupational hazard.

Just like famous actors, foods have body doubles too. So we stand in a few pieces so Andrew can see how the food is photographing and can adjust the lighting accordingly. He also gives Carrie any notes at this time.

food photography

This is the back of Elizabeth's head, Andrew's assistant.  She sits by the monitor all day marking our selects and taking notes for Andrew for post production.  She also adjusts shadows and tones and more under Andrew's direction.  She has THE BEST posture I have ever seen!  I kept standing up straight every time I looked at her.  And now as I write this I just adjusted my posture.

When judging a photo and giving notes we always do so from the monitor NOT the food on set.  Because the monitor capture the image as Andrew snapped it and the perspective is entirely different than what is actually on set based on the angles and how everything on set it reacting to the light.

food photography

When we set up overhead shots the food is set on a surface on the floor.  Here is Carrie working on my Top of the Rib. I struggled so much with this recipe I wanted to do something uber traditional with just the slightest twist and I finally had an epiphany just days before we shot it -- I am so excited I love it! And I know your holiday tables will love it too!  We call this pose Carrie is in Food Stylist Yoga.  This is not even the craziest position she had to get into to style the food.

blow drying a turkey

Here we are using some crazy industrial paint/wallpaper blow gun on our chicken. When I posted an instagram pict of us "blow-drying" our Turkey twitter went nuts. So this is why we do this: 1) we are cooking about 14 things a day and the oven is going like crazy and we can't fully cook everything bc we wouldn't be able to keep to schedule and 2) this gives us a little more control over the browning process, we want golden skin but not too dark because then there is no contrast for the image.

This is our slider stand in/body double. Cute buns!

food photography stand in
food design

Here Carrie is "building" my sliders. There are 2 kinds of mayo and crunchy crispy fried onions.

Here is a link to the instagram picts I took throughout the process. Watch the photo board slowly fill up.

As always, any Qs, ask away!

If you missed any of my other Making of a Cookbook articles click here.