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The Making of a Cookbook #5 – BTS at the Photo Shoot *Giveaway*


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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Win a set of 3 Lekue Ovos (to cook eggs and other foods in seconds with no mess ease).

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About Jamie Geller


Jamie Geller is the only best-selling cookbook author who wants to get you out of the kitchen – not because she doesn’t love food – but because she has tons to do. As “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” Jamie found her niche specializing in fast, fresh, family recipes. Now the "Queen of Kosher" (CBS) and the "Jewish Rachael Ray" (New York Times), she's the creative force behind JoyofKosher.com and "Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller" magazine . Jamie and her hubby live in Israel with their five busy kids who give her plenty of reasons to get out of the kitchen - quickly. Check out her new book, "Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes."




85 Responses to The Making of a Cookbook #5 – BTS at the Photo Shoot *Giveaway*

  1. Thank you so much for this behind the scenes look! It’s so awesome to see what goes into the making of a cookbook (especially one’s as great as yours!). Very excited indeed!

  2. I am so amazed how much work goes into the pictures! I thought the little bit DH and I do is diffucult! So excited for this new book-cannot wait!

  3. avatar says: mink

    It’s nice to know I can’t expect to replicate the image in the book!

    • TV, Movies, Books – it’s all “Hollywood” but I do try my best to make food that anyone can recreate AND to go to overboard with any of the styling — but really the camera and lights make things look different — like when you are under TV lights you have to wear ALOT of makeup just to look natural bc the lights wash you out — also note here — the right plate/platter helps food pop/look pretty – it’s all about presentation :-)

  4. I wonder how expensive it is to do all this. I can’t wait to get the new book :)

  5. avatar says: Sizzling

    Wow! Can’t wait either….thanks for the sneak peek! a whole lot of work….How do you manage this along with making aliyah!?☺

  6. avatar says: Leens

    I always wondered whether the food in the books was made by the actual cookbook author/chef! Thanks for inside look!

    • sometimes it is – but usually not — even and usually with real restaurant “chefs” you have to know how to style for the camera — some food bloggers who take their own picts do as well as some cookbook authors are natural stylists – but it is two different skill sets

  7. Loved this post (but of course I did)!

    Who brings the cooking equipment — the cutting boards, knives, baking trays, mandoline, etc. — and the appliances (oven, etc.)? Is everything that you shoot kosher?

    (I know all the ingredients are kosher, of course, I’m just wondering how this works at a professional photo studio that probably shoots images for tons of other food projects.)

    • hi Tali! of course I know you would. The stylist brings all his/her tools — they tools are not kosher of course bc it’s their tool kit BUT I am not tasting/eating the food so that is not an issue.

  8. avatar says: jkershen

    Really interesting.

  9. This is my favorite post! Love seeing the action behind the lens.

    I’m assuming all the food isn’t kosher, after all it’s made purely for the pictures. So I’m assuming it doesn’t matter where the ingredients/utensils come from

  10. i always wonder how you keep things from melting or wilting.

  11. avatar says: hindyg

    I love seeing all of these behind-the-scenes photos! Fantastic!

  12. avatar says: miriama59

    What is the hardest food to photograph for a cookbook?

    • ice cream, ices, etc… anything that melts and chicken — I think it’s hard to make chicken on the bone look really pretty (but that’s just a personal pet peeve of mine)

  13. avatar says: ohyoucook

    Thanks for the tips! Now all I need is the ability to “build” a image. I keep forgetting that the background props are important to enhance the food.

  14. For the hobbiest photographer & blogger, what is the best lens zoom and aperture settings to get good food photos?

  15. cant wait to host you in my home for a cooking demo

  16. avatar says: ruchie

    What is the hardest thing to get perfect to photograph?

  17. This is very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  18. very very cool!
    love the blown dried turkey!

  19. Do you ever use shaving cream instead of whipped cream etc or is everything always real?

  20. avatar says: julis55

    What is the hardest food to photograph?

  21. avatar says: telcon

    I didn’t know it was so complicated

  22. avatar says: tsk11230

    How do you decide what to put in the cookbook? What would you do if you had a great recipe but it just didn’t photograph well?

    • to me that’s backward – I don’t worry about the photographs — all good food will look good – not perfect but downright good. I make sure the recipe is fantastic and that’s my criteria for including it.

  23. avatar says: Leez

    Wow! Very impressive! Looking forward to the new cookbook!

  24. avatar says: anngeri

    The picture is a rally important part of a recipe for me. How the finished item looks lures me to making the item and when I, finished I want it to look like what I saw. Thank you for always using such great expression to e tice me to keep cooking!

  25. Thanks for taking us behind the scenes, it’s awesome! I love that sushi photo, it’s beautiful! I can’t wait to see it in print!

  26. Does any of the food get eaten at the end or is it all just thrown out?

  27. avatar says: Ava

    Thanx for taking us behind the scenes! Loved all the pics. I would like to go into food styling, so it’s interesting to see. I love how there is so many interesting ways to food style.

  28. avatar says: gina

    What other tricks & techniques are used to make the food look more perfect & mouth watering?

  29. avatar says: Aisling

    After intense prepping, cooking and photo shoots like this, do you take a break from the kitchen for a few days?

  30. avatar says: Dianeba53

    Lots of Questions
    You said you worked on the shoot for 7 days, how many hours a day? Have you lived in Israel before? How many times did you have to cook the recipes to get them ready, for the shoot? What do you do with the food at the end of the shoot?

    • lol ok here goes. 1.8 days of shooting (plus 1-3 pre shoot prep days), about 14 hour days if you count all the shopping and prepping 2. have never lived in Israel before studied there once for a semester in high school 3. we cook/test the recipes 3 times before they make it into the book then we cook them one more time for the shoot. 4. we eat most of it or give it away

  31. can’t wait for the new cookbook!

  32. avatar says: tamarw

    can I go to the next photo shoot? ;)

  33. How would a person go about do this kind of work.

  34. avatar says: le_monet

    no questions but the photos look great!

  35. is it bad news to shoot under fluorescentlighting?

    brich22 at earthlink dot net

  36. avatar says: Bonni

    I really want to know if there is some kind of regulation in case your cookbook has recipes that are very similar to another cook book?

  37. I don’t really have any other questions that weren’t answered, but this was a great post – especially since the photo is always the most important thing to me when making a recipe – I love to see what the product should look like.

  38. avatar says: irene

    Wow! Very interesting. Thanks for the behind the scenes look.

  39. Amazing! It food easier to work with then people?

  40. Love the food. What happens to all of that afer you take the pictures?

  41. avatar says: jagar0047

    i wonder if all of the food is the real thing? Are there non food products used to make the food look prettier? For instance, some things have so much shine they almost appear to be shellacked!

    • nope in my books all real!!! all edible – every once in a while we dab on some water, oil or glycerine to make something shine if its been sitting out too long and dries out BUT we want it to look real!

  42. avatar says: ferriz

    did you actually use the correct products for each item, or something that photographs better? was everything still edible?


  43. avatar says: Atreau

    Is the food on the shoot even edible and what’s done with it after the shoot?

  44. avatar says: gkran

    How long does it take from start to finish?

  45. avatar says: dvice

    How do you check for typos (teaspoon/tablespoon)

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