*Behind The Scenes* :: Meredith's New Book


Last week was a big week for me. I had the photo shoot for my first (official) book – although I am not a novice to the book shooting process, it is always a rather intense process. We are always trying to push the envelope for the next best thing- constantly and consistently making each book better than the last. Conceptually that can be easy, but when you start taking the photos and immortalizing your ideas – well… its tricky and kind of scary. Fortunately I have been lucky in having always working with an AMAZING team.  I was lucky enough to work again for the fourth time with photographer Adrian Mueller - who’s photography is totally a work of art and always better than I could imagine. Maybe fourth time is a charm? We totally got in to the flow. The results are stunning. When you first work with someone you don’t know their style and they don’t know yours – it really helps to have mutual respect and understanding when it comes to the creative process. Good communication helps- it makes things much easier! (duh) On the past three books our team has consisted of my good friend Jessica Acs (we missed you!), but this time it was one of my other most dear friends, Simone Powers. (I actually met both of them at Living Light Culinary Arts)  I feel pinch me fortunate to have good friends who will donate a week of their time to work their asses off. A week of shooting isn’t exactly a vacation. Last but not least of course my co-author and partner Matthew Kenney was always around for words of wisdom and guidance. He is an expert. The good thing about this team is that we are all friends so at the end of the day, we get to eat, drink and be merry!

So, I thought that I would share with you what a day of shooting a book looks like.


At the point of the shoot most of the recipes have been tested. If they haven’t been tested, I have a clear understanding of how they will turn out. Weeks (months) before we shoot I go over the outline multiple times and imagine what each dish will look like, and how it could be styled. Because we don’t shoot every recipe in the book it is important to be picky and choose the best looking dishes, what colors will fit well together etc. We also have to have the same number of photos for each chapter so it important to divided it all up so that it visually makes sense. If you have commitment issues, this can be a challenge ;-)


Props are huge. If you think that you have a lot of them, you probably don’t. Each year I am getting better and better at making sure that we have a variety of props and surfaces. We focus on a clean, modern look. Although I might be drawn to a gilded goblet to put on my table at home, I have to curb my enthusiasm. You have to make sure you can see the food, and that it looks attractive. Adrian and I always co-piolet the styling, and Jessica and Simone are always been hugely helpful in helping realize the vision.

The Day.

Each day before I plot out what dishes we will shoot. This involves coordinating ingredients, garnishes and trying not to waste ingredients. If we are doing a beet juice, we will probably do other beet dishes that day. The schedule also depends on the weather and lighting. Typically we try to shoot dishes consistently with the time of day they would be eaten. A smoothie in the evening light doesn’t have the same feeling as a smoothie in the natural lighting of the morning. (And of course we eat the leftovers so it’s nice to have things for breakfast and lunch!) All of these aspects are very important. 

So…. We wake up. Adrian brings the coffee, and we get started with the first dish by 10am at the latest. I will tell Adrian what I’m thinking and he will set up the shot while we make the food. Each shot takes about 45 min on average. Adjusting the lighting, tweeking the plating- it is all very precise. The reason that the food you make never looks like it does in a book is because you probably aren’t putting your mushrooms in your miso with tweezers. Not that the food is ever inedible or hyper styled, but you can’t make smudges, splashes or any mess. Blobs and globs of food look terrible behind the lens even if they taste good. Once the shot is set up, the surface is virgin territory and you can’t violate it. At this rate we aim for 6-8 shots a day. Some shots are easier than others.

In the midst of all of this is keeping the kitchen (and yourself) clean and organized. Super important.  

About 4-5 shots before a lunch break. We eat the goodies. After lunch we will get 2-3 shots in, but the lighting starts to fade and everyone’s eyes get tired.

Seeing the shots is the MOST fun. Gathering around the computer screen to see the days work is hugely satisfying. It actually makes me squeal with delight. HELLO. You are making food porn. How fun is that? Good times.

End of the Day

After we are done with the days shots it is back to planning for me. I go through the outline every night to make sure we are staying on target for the number of shots and how they will be represented in each chapter. We usually need extra ingredients and a few props, so this is when I’ll do my shopping. I have to stay organized. If we do 6 shots and I realize they are all from the same part of the book it is a total screw up. I’ve just wasted a lot of time and $.

Good food and wine is always on the menu after each day. We hang out, relax, look over the days work, and get inspired for the next day. It helps having 3 chefs in the house and great restaurants nearby. We usually eat dinner super late so that everyone has had a chance to unwind. 

Generally speaking it is a lot of work, and a lot of fun. Seeing published results is pretty incredible. I actually don’t look at the books much after they come out, because it is like looking at pictures of yourself, you see what you can do better. I guess that is the nature of achievement and improvement.

The calm after the storm of the book shoot is finishing all of the book writing which is a much different task- and needs be happening as we speak!

The book is titled Design Your Detox. It is about eating healthy foods as it suits your lifestyle. All of the recipes are easy and clean. I am super passionate about everything that this book is about. I promise that its not a book full of colon cleanses and starvation! I really can’t wait to share the message with everyone. It will be out Spring 2013.

{the lovely chevron rug print above courtesty of pinterest photo}