behind the scenes

Professional food photography shoots are complicated, a lot more complicated than some may realize. It’s one thing to spend a few hours working on a single dish in your home kitchen and take a quick snapshot for your blog. It’s something else entirely to coordinate a 3-day shoot for print publication. There’s the photographer, photo assistant, food stylist, food styling assistant, prop stylist, props, food shopping, studio rental, and photo equipment, just for starters. I love attending photoshoots, because it gets me out of the office. I get to meet new people in the business, be creative, and taste recipes from upcoming books. If I’m really lucky, I go home smelling like bacon every day of the shoot.

Okay, so maybe smelling like bacon isn’t the norm. This shoot was for the next book by award-winning author James Villas. The book won’t be out until Spring 2010, but you can check out a similar cookbook he wrote in 2007 if you’ve got a craving for Southern recipes. That’s Lucy Schaeffer behind the camera in the photo at the top, and Simon Andrews doing the food styling. This was my first project with Simon as the head food stylist, and he really impressed me. Lucy and I are old friends by now. Interestingly, if you want to see the first book she ever shot, it’s just been released — Cooking Know-How (highly recommended). As you probably know, since nobody shoots with real film anymore, we also don’t shoot Polaroids as we go. Lucy is kind enough to make little photo prints as we go along, so we can tack them onto a wall and see how the shoot is progressing.

There are Lucy and Simon at it again, as Simon slices a beautiful ham, but I didn’t manage to get a snapshot of prop stylist Penelope Bouklas. It was my first time working with Penelope, and her propping was just right. I hope we get to work together again soon.

If you haven’t guessed yet, the theme of the shoot was Southern pig recipes — ham, chops, ribs, bacon, you name it. A lot of leftovers ended up going home with the crew for dinner. I know I got some big thanks each evening. Besides tasting good, this food looks really good. It was just the right combination of great recipes and a talented photo team.

Speaking of the team, here’s a little sequence of Simon in action. Now you just have to remember to look out for this book when it’s in stores in about a year. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

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