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Behind the scenes … of a professional photo shoot

March 4, 2009

pancitcanton2 
Has pancit ever looked so good? (Photo courtesy Lara Ferroni)

Two weeks ago, I was back in Seattle to assist with the photography shoot for my cookbook. Never having participated in a photography shoot before I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I loved it!

Often, a food stylist is hired to prep and cook the dishes as well as decide on the “look” of a shot which includes tableware, cutlery and linens. (“Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” cookbook author Andrea Nguyen offers her experience here). In this case, it was just me and photographer Lara Ferroni working in her kitchen and home studio.

Lara’s studio was a light-filled space on the second floor of her gorgeous brick house. Her camera was set up in one corner of the room while on the other side she had two closets packed with tottering stacks of dishes in every shape, material, hue and pattern. Next to them sat a chest of drawers filled with linens, cutlery and silverware. One of the perks of being a food photographer is being able to buy items in singlies and on sale; and you don’t have to feel guilty, says Lara with a smile.

Twenty-five dishes and a host of ingredients were on our shot list. We cooked and (Lara) shot over the course of about a week. Despite what you may have heard about food photography, we used and cooked real food, and even gobbled up the dishes after. (I was, however, very amused by her acrylic ice cubes.)

pumpkin2

 Things can go wrong too! Here’s a shot that didn’t turn out because the custard didn’t cook all the way through. (Photo courtesy Lara Ferroni)

 Lara strongly believes in portraying the dishes just as they would look prepared in your home kitchen–simply styled and no fussy arrangements or details. (I second that!). Her touch-up tools include oil and a brush and perhaps a brulée torch to give a burnt, crackly glaze when required. She uses only natural light, varying the exposure depending on the light available at any given moment, which can be quite tricky since this is Seattle. For the most part, we had to stop work around 4 p.m. when the sun started to dip. 

One of the biggest lessons I came away with is just how important communication is between author and photographer, especially when dealing with a publication that has cultural context.

Lara would look at me and ask, “Chopsticks or …?” And I’d say, “Fork and spoon.” Yes, not all Asian-especially Southeast Asian-dishes are eaten with chopsticks. And speaking of chopsticks, Japanese and Chinese chopsticks are shaped differently and made from different materials. Some dishes are served family style while others are dished out individually. Details really do matter.

It was a fabulous learning experience and I’m thrilled to have work with such a talented photographer. I can’t wait to see the final results, and you will see it too in full Technicolor come October 2009.

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21 Comments leave one →
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  2. May 18, 2009 7:44 am

    can’t wait to see book! had dinner w/lara last night – she’s lovely and so talented…

  3. May 4, 2009 9:27 pm

    salam kenal Pat,
    I’m a fans of Lara. She take beautiful food shot everywhere and great thing about her is she loves to share it.

    Very great to know she’s working with fellow Indonesian. Look forward for your book!

    • May 7, 2009 4:51 pm

      Hallo Suhadi, apa khabar? Please check in in October when the book comes out!

  4. March 12, 2009 10:56 pm

    Congratulations on the cookbook! What a great premise. It’s fun to see what goes on behind the scenes of a pro shoot. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Good luck! Todd.

    • March 22, 2009 1:37 pm

      Thanks, Todd! YOu guys take such gorgeous shots too without all the major set-up.

  5. March 11, 2009 11:46 am

    how wonderful that both of you collaborated. lara is amazing1 i dream of working with her one day

    • March 22, 2009 1:37 pm

      Yes, it was a fun experience and Lara was so easy-going. Thx for stopping by!

  6. March 10, 2009 4:21 pm

    Thanks for the insight, very interesting :)

  7. March 10, 2009 12:30 pm

    Lara is completely awesome, you are so lucky working with her! Great photography too.

    • March 22, 2009 1:38 pm

      Hi Matt, yup, I can’t wait to see the final book!

  8. March 10, 2009 6:41 am

    Hello, I’ve just come over here from Lara’s site. Thanks for sharing a bit of an insight into the photo shoot process. I’ll look forward to seeing the finished article hit the shelves in October

  9. Annalisa permalink
    March 5, 2009 9:07 am

    Congratulations on your cookbook coming along so well! It must be a dream come true to see it come to life!

    • March 22, 2009 1:45 pm

      It is a dream come true, Annalisa and I’m so glad to have great supporters like you!

  10. Tuty permalink
    March 4, 2009 10:59 pm

    Good to see you post again… I know that you’ve been busy.

    • March 22, 2009 1:46 pm

      Hi Tuty, apa khabar? it’s great to be back :).

  11. March 4, 2009 9:30 pm

    This is great insight, Pat. I’ve never been to a photo shoot either but you’ve completely piqued my interest. So exciting!

Trackbacks

  1. Behind the scenes … of a professional photo shoot - All type of RECIPES!..
  2. Still Life With : An Author’s View of a Photoshoot

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