It is one thing to arrange a shoot at a restaurant or a client brief for a specific project, but how do you go about preparing and photographing a project that spans a much longer time period, such as a cookbook? In this post, I will provide some of my recommendations on how to shoot a self-published cookbook; but, the information is applicable to photographing a longer project such as an e-book as well.
Get a Grip on Your Personal Aesthetic
It’s possible that after you’ve decided on the subject of your cookbook, it will be immediately obvious to you how you want the finished product to appear visually and emotionally. Start gathering visual inspiration from Pinterest, magazines, or other cookbooks to keep you motivated, and then go through what speaks to you and what doesn’t based on what you find appealing. If you’re not entirely certain about anything, do this. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself:
How should the cookbook make me feel, and what kind of atmosphere should it conjure up?
When they go through the book, what kind of emotions do I want them to have?
Does the aesthetic work well with the changing of the seasons?
- Do I want to take pictures using harsh light, gentle light, or a combination of the two?
- How much physical activity do I want to integrate into this?
Do I want to concentrate on food portraiture or also incorporate tablescapes that are more expansive?
When I began working on my cookbook, I knew that I wanted the whole thing to have a vibrant, upbeat, confident, and exciting vibe to it. This made it easy to incorporate strong light, bright splashes of color, and a variety of macro and food portrait pictures into the shoot.
Choose one of the Color Schemes.
After you have a good notion of the atmosphere and atmosphere you want to convey in your cookbook, you should decide on the primary color palette. In the event that the book contains recipes for soups or stews, the tones and colors may be designed using an autumn color scheme that includes shades of brown, burnt orange, and mossy green.
It’s possible that the subject matter of your book will inspire the color scheme you choose. Working within the parameters of a predetermined color scheme will make it easier for you to write a book that is unified and uniform in its presentation.
It goes without saying that there are no ironclad regulations, but I found it helpful to select six or seven primary colors that I would weave throughout the entire book, most prominently through the selection of vivid surfaces. After that, I included a feeling of diversity by using props, style, and composition that complemented one another.
Obtaining the Necessary Equipment
It’s possible that you already have a large collection of props at home that fit in perfectly with the style you’ve envisioned for your cookbook. If that’s the case, then you should be good to go! However, it is more possible that you already possess some pieces that are suitable, but you need to expand your collection in order to provide sufficient aesthetic variation for a full cookbook.
It is wonderful that you have the financial means to acquire more, but if you are working with a limited amount of money, there are a few inventive approaches you may take.
I went to a small home goods store in my city that had a lot of items that I was confident would fit the aesthetic that I wanted to achieve with my book and asked for their help. When I had a photo session scheduled in my calendar, I would send an email to the store with a list of the products I wanted to rent, and the business would charge me 20% of the retail price for each item.
This allowed me the option to incorporate new items for each cookbook part while yet preserving a sense of coherence between the many photo sessions. I could also pick up items that would work wonderfully for a certain dish, but they wouldn’t be something that I would necessarily want to use often in my own collection of props.
You also have the choice of contacting local food or props stylists in your region and negotiating a similar loan agreement with them. This would allow you to select items from their collection and then return them after you are finished using them.
Once you have an idea of where you want to take your cookbook, the next step is to plan out the days on which you will take photographs of the recipes. You may stay on top of things by using tracking software such as Asana, or you can just utilize the calendar that comes pre-installed on your phone or computer. It is essential to have a good understanding of your preferred method of work.
Although I understand that doing so would be helpful for some people, I chose not to shoot on several days of the week for seven or eight weeks in order to complete the entire cookbook in a single heroic burst. I acknowledge that this strategy might be successful for some people.
Instead, I attacked photography one component at a time and devoted an entire week at a time to the activity. This worked out really well due to the fact that I was responsible for everything, from preparing the food and plating it to styling it, photographing it, and cleaning up afterward.
This strategy provided me with sufficient leeway around the boundaries of my timetable to keep momentum, to sit with the photos I had shot, and to determine whether or not I was enjoying the direction, as well as what adjustments I wanted to make in order to go forward.
Make an effort to maintain some degree of adaptability in the strategy that you choose. Although the vast majority of my cookbook was photographed chapter by chapter, there were times when I hadn’t completed all of the testing for every recipe. As a result, some of the shoot weeks consisted of a combination of recipes from various chapters, depending on where I was in the process of testing the recipes.
Print Your Images
When you have finished photographing a whole portion, you should either utilize the printer in your house or take the files to a print shop so that you can see the photographs in their physical form.
You can pin them up on a wall in the order that you had imagined they would go in. This will not only help you get a sense of how the book flows visually, but it will also give you a chance to spot any details that might need your attention in retouching, such as stray crumbs or mess on the lip of a bowl that might have escaped you on the screen. You can do this by pinning them up on a wall in the order that you had imagined they would go in
You may switch the order of the photographs to determine where you would benefit from adding more white space, variety, a different viewpoint, or movement. When you self-publish a cookbook, you have the option of working according to your own timetable and reshooting anything that isn’t working out for you. This may be a huge time saver.
If you have ever taken on a more time-consuming project, such as self-publishing a cookbook or creating your own e-book, I would be very interested in hearing your strategies for how you approached the project, how you kept the momentum going, or how you implemented a process that allowed you to be as happy as possible with the end result.