The Makings of a Cookbook Photo Shoot


Early last week brought longer days than usual, a bit of a commute downtown, parking garages, to-go coffees and take-out lunches. It brought a complete lack of yoga, a few more glasses of wine in the evenings, and immense difficulty sleeping. All of this thanks to the photo shoot for my cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings. I entered into the week nervous and apprehensive: what if for some reason the recipes don’t look photo-worthy? What if the many personalities on set (photographer, food stylist, Ten Speed art director, myself) don’t all mesh? What will be on the cover? What if, what if, what if. It turned out all those worries were for naught and I really could’ve slept a bit more, and perhaps had one fewer glass of wine.

The photo shoot was in downtown Seattle at Clare Barboza’s light-drenched studio. I was matched up with Clare months ago, and couldn’t feel more lucky. She gets my aesthetic — we talked about food styling and keeping everything very loose and spare with a soft, neutral color palette. I brought many of my own dishes and linens from home and Clare was happy to use them (although, as you can see, she’s really not lacking in amazing props). The cookbook itself is going to be highly visual with all of the plated/styled shots by Clare and a number of other photos by me. They’ll be of our Seattle life, our house, garden, and farmer’s market. At first, I was concerned that the images would feel disjointed and wondered why I’d agreed on structuring the book in such a way. But now, when I look at all of the images together, it’s a seamless fit — I can’t wait to show you!

Julie Hopper is Clare’s incredible food stylist and she made my recipes look stunning (for those of you who don’t know, the food stylist prepares all of the recipes and helps style them for the photo). I actually don’t quite know what she did to the tops of my Pear Muffins, but they were perfectly domed with just the right amount of nuts scattered in every little nook and cranny. Julie was a joy to work with, has an enviable collection of sweet aprons and stylish boots, and a calm disposition as she set out using her medical tweezers to move little bits of thyme around a plate. She’d often call me over to the kitchen to ask how I felt about the way something looked or ask questions about whole-grain cook times. In this way, the three-day shoot felt more collaborative than I could’ve ever hoped and, at least for me, celebratory. I left each evening smiling big.

During the shoot itself, there was a lot of downtime while the recipes were prepped and while Clare and Julie set up the initial shots. There was email-checking, tea-making, clementine-snacking, and a lot of general gawking. There were so many surreal moments like the one above where a recipe I worked on for months was being seriously discussed by two smart, talented, professional women and we were all weighing in on angles, the perfect amount of crumbs and messiness, and whether or not it was a cover candidate. Betsy, the art director from Ten Speed, would take each finished photo and plunk it into a working PDF; seeing the photos side by side in the order in which they’d appear in the book was pretty incredible — equal parts validation and relief. After all that worry, it was really all coming together.

The toughest part of the shoot was the debate over the cover image. Weeks before we all met, my editor and I talked about potential recipes for the cover and flagged them — so during our shoot, we all knew which recipes were cover candidates and they were given lots of extra attention in terms of spacing, where we could fit the type, and what would be the perfect crop. I have a breakfast cobbler recipe that I think we worked on for over 3 hours — and it didn’t end up getting approved. So there are ups and downs: moments when everyone in the room is jazzed about a potentially beautiful cover but it turns out that the publisher doesn’t think it’s a good fit. Or vise versa. We’re still working out what will be on the cover. In the meantime, I’ve decided to go back to yoga and real life has crept back in. As it usually does. I made 100 pounds of Marge granola yesterday morning and shipped out boxes to 8 different states. I’ve got deadlines and dinner plans and a hike on the calendar this Saturday. So life goes on.

For those of you who are regular readers, you know that the book is coming out this December, 2013. It’s a seasonal cookbook focusing on a fresh new approach to breakfasts featuring many of my favorite whole-grains. One of the things I’m most excited about is the organization (which my friend Shauna helped me think through): you know how what we eat for breakfast on, say, a busy Wednesday usually looks quite different from what we eat on a lazy Sunday? I wanted to recognize those differences and allow this book to be not just a pretty cookbook, but a refreshingly useful one as well. So each season is split up into sections representative of the different kinds of mornings we all have; you’ll be able to flip to a recipe that speaks to the way you want to do breakfast on any given day. 

I have to admit: I’ve been cooking from the cookbook a great deal ever since I turned it in. Sam’s started to put in requests. We’re enjoying living with the recipes and really letting them settle into our household. I’m even finding myself tweak and adapt them further which is to be expected, I suppose. I truly can’t wait to share it with you later this year and to see which recipes you allow to settle into your own household.

 

Comments

  1. nicole

    I love this! Your book is going to be so beautiful, I can tell just by these few photos. And as someone who eats oatmeal nearly every. single. day (happily, but boringly), I am very much looking forward to the inspiration to jazz up my usual standby. Congrats!!

    1. megang

      Yes, N, we are breakfast sisters ... I often think this when I look at your Instagrams. I sort of want to write a whole book on morning cereals but I suppose not everyone is equally as passionate? Happy writing to you, friend! You're almost there. xo

  2. Mark Schueler

    Thanks for the behind the scenes peek and the lovely write up. It must be exciting to have a cookbook coming out--can't wait to see the finished product.

  3. sara forte

    i just want to give you a gigantic hug. so happy.

  4. Danielle

    I absolutely cannot wait to buy my copies and share them with friends!!! I assume CA will be a pit stop on your fabulous book tour yes yes yes? So happy for you!

  5. Ashley

    Love this update and I'm so glad it went so well!! I'd love to meet up in real life soon - I have some fun news to tell you about and seek your guidance. :)

  6. thelittleloaf

    Just look at all those props!! You must have had SO much fun...can't wait to see the finished product :-)

  7. Nicole

    Love this sneek peek! Thanks for sharing some behind-the-scenes shots from your cookbook journey. :)

  8. Freddi

    This is a great post! And just confirms how I feel about my future career path! Thankyou and good luck with your book!

  9. Shanna

    So exciting! Can't wait to see the cookbook myself!

  10. Anne Zimmerman

    Congrats to you! This is such a cool, behind the scenes post.

  11. Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    There's no such thing as too many glasses of wine, in my opinion. ;) This looks so exciting - can't wait to see the book in all its glory!

  12. Stacy

    What an exciting time! I would have worried and struggled to sleep, too, so I do not fault you the extra glasses of wine. Not one bit. Congrats to you, lady!

  13. Abby

    Thanks for sharing this inside look! I'm super excited for your cookbook, since breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day. Good luck with the rest of the prep and launch!

  14. Courtney

    Thanks for letting us have a little peek at the process! I'm loving the fact that you separated the book not only by season, but by the kind of morning! Looking forward to it's release :)

  15. leela

    so proud of you and cannot wait to see the finished product!

  16. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    Sharing this post with your readers is so amazing. I love cookbooks, and whole grains, and breakfast food so much I can´t wait for it to be out!

  17. katy

    I used to hate breakfast when I was a teenager, but now I'm all about it. I find it to be one of the meals I'm most excited about--I think because it can really set the tone for my day. On that note, I'm really looking forward to your book; I recently tried your popped amaranth with grapefruit, coconut and yogurt and it's been brightening up my mornings. Thank you!

  18. Kristin

    I can't wait to start cooking from it, too! Thanks for sharing this glimpse into what must have been an incredible experience. Congrats!

  19. Kasey

    Goodness, M! The shots look so, so beautiful. It's exactly how I imagine your cookbook will look and I am so, so excited for you. I cannot wait until you're holding it in your hands :) xoxo

  20. robyn @ the freckled pie

    this post is what my dreams are made of. seriously. i can't wait to hold a copy of your book in my hands. xo

  21. Dana

    Yay Megan! So excited for you. I'm so happy that the experience was a good one and can't wait to hear more about it.

  22. eric G

    Nine months and counting! You know, for the book! So happy for you!

    1. megang

      Yahooooo!! Thanks, Eric! Always nice to see a comment here from you. Hope all is well. Miss you guys! xox, ~m

  23. Row

    Super excited! Thanks for this behind-the-scenes peek... very cool to see all the thought and work that goes into a shoot. Can't wait! :)

  24. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write)

    Megan, I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of your book. So proud of you, friend :) Loved reading about all the work that went into it and seeing these sneak peeks!

  25. la domestique

    I really enjoyed reading this post- seeing the work in progress and following your journey. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I find that my husband and I are both pretty tired come supper time, but breakfast is a lively meal with plenty of tea and great conversation about what's to come that day. I can't wait for the release of your book!

    1. megang

      Thank you, Jessica! Breakfast is my favorite, too ... didn't used to be at all, but now I actually look forward to it the night before. I completely agree that it's often filled with possibility and enthusiasm whereas in the evenings, we're just beat! Thanks for your sweet words about the book. Enjoy your weekend, ~m

  26. Chelsey

    oh wow! I had no idea that your cookbooks was going to be a breakfast one. That just filled me with joy. I am more excited than ever!

  27. Sarah Murphy

    December!!!! I don't know if I can wait that long! Well, I have item #1 for my Xmas list.

  28. Harriet

    This is such a gorgeous post! The book looks like it will be full of beautiful photos. But what I liked most in this post is the mention of wine! I think sometimes food blogs get a bit too wholesome and we forget that wine is often the best accompaniment to food - drink up (responsibly), I say!

    1. megang

      Harriet: Hooray for wine! It is a nice way to slow down at the end of the day, indeed. Enjoy your weekend, ~m

  29. Shila

    So beautiful! I'm glad that the shoot went well and can't wait to see (and eat) the results. I hope this weekend is peaceful, restful, and perfectly ordinary in the homiest way possible.

    1. megang

      Thank you so very much, Shila. So nice of you -- that's the plan for this weekend (mellow!). I hope yours is as well, ~m

  30. Gourmantine

    Lovely peak at behind the scenes, looking forward to your cookbook :)

  31. Kathryne (Cookie and Kate)

    Megan, I love this glimpse into the making of your cookbook! I'm glad the photo direction has been a very collaborative process, that must be so rewarding and satisfying (and fun and exciting to see your recipes come to life for print!). I really can't wait to get my hands on a copy of the finished product. I LOVE whole grains and I LOVE breakfast so it sounds right up my alley!

    1. megang

      Thank you so much, Kate! I wish I could've included more photos but I think it was worrisome to give TOO much of a preview ... yes, very excited to see the layout and to see the recipes in print. And it's funny because you'd think I'd be sick of breakfast food, but I can't stop thinking of new ideas and geeky whole grain brainstorms. Hope you had a great week and are maybe -- just maybe -- getting a peek of spring there? ~m

  32. Mittel Sister

    so, SO proud.

  33. jenny

    as a mega cookbook enthusiast, I love this behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make a book publication-worthy. and as someone with a bit of an obsession with detail, I loved hearing about the painstaking process. I can imagine what a joy it would be to see your recipes come into beautiful dimensions on the page. can't wait for your book, megan!

  34. Kendra Bruno

    Cannot wait for the book, Megan. I know that just like you, it will be fantastic! I have loved the classes I've taken with you and as you know, my family loves Marge...cookbook love is next! *wink* My best to you and H*A*P*P*Y S*P*R*I*N*G! -Kendra

    1. megang

      Thank you so, so much Kendra! Looks like I won't be teaching in the summer, but will be back in the fall/winter for some great new breakfast classes. Thanks for taking the time to leave a sweet comment; hope all is well with you, ~Megan

  35. Kate Leahy

    Megan, I know what you mean. Photo shoots always have a surreal quality about them, but maybe that's why I always look forward to them, even if they do require a lot of organization beforehand and long hours. Best of luck on the book! It was great to meet in person last night in SF!

    1. megang

      SO GREAT to meet you as well, Kate! So glad we got to run into each other. Do let me know if/when you find yourself in Seattle and we can grab a meal! Enjoy the beautiful sunny weather this week (today was incredible) ~Megan

  36. Deepa@onesmallpot

    Megan I just discovered your blog and glad i did as its a lovely space. Its so interesting to see behind the scenes of cookbook photography. That prop shelf is like a food photographers heaven!

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