Behind the Scenes of a Food Photography Shoot

This past Monday I had the pleasure of working with food stylist, Leslie Orlandini on a test shoot. Our explorations included healthy food options such as a honey vanilla roasted lemonade, a root vegetable pancake with poached egg, a panna cotta made with cashew milk and others. The shoot took place in a lovely home in Somers, NY with beautiful natural light in the kitchen and a great country/rustic vibe, set off in the woods. Prior to the shoot, we discussed and brainstormed several ideas for the meal plan and what our goals would be for the day. We decided upon a combination of recipe demos and “beauty shots,” as if we were working on a cookbook or editorial piece.

The morning started off with the demo shoot of the lemonade drink – which is made by roasting lemons and then soaking them with water, fresh vanilla and honey. For our images, we decided we’d do a still life with the ingredients, a shot to illustrate the roasting, and a final shot for the finished drink. We ended up with two varieties of “final” shots of the drink in a glass – for variety. I shot tethered to my laptop, so we could see each image at a large enough size to determine what was working and what wasn’t. We worked very collaboratively to determine which props to include (or not) and what food should be placed where, etc.

After we finished the lemonade, I worked with the panna cotta dessert – which Leslie had prepped beforehand and was all ready to go. I used a different lighting set up and location than the lemon shots – for which I had used a mix of natural/available and artificial light on the windowsill in the kitchen. For the panna cotta’s, I moved to a different window and stuck with the available light, modifying it with a reflector, to get some fill light into the shadows. Once I had the lighting and basic setup ready to go, Leslie and I worked together to come up with a good combination of composition and story – such as props, partially eaten cups, etc.

By this point, we’d been working for about 4 hours and it was time for lunch! While we ate, we talked about our own experiences and goals, while watching the snow begin to fall outside.

After lunch we worked on a demo of the root vegetable pancakes – determining which steps should be shown and which would be clear when in combination with a recipe. Ultimately this wound up including about 5 images, including a still life, the process of julienning the veggies, “blanching” the veggies to soften, using a towel to strain the water, frying the pancakes on the stove and finally, a plated version of the dish, complete with poached egg and yolk running down the front!

The day finished and, all said and done, we came out with 10-12 images. Not a bad day’s work. We packed up and set off for a snowy and dark drive home.

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What is “healthy”?

I just learned that KIND Snacks (the company that makes KIND Bars) came under attack by the FDA for its use of the word “healthy” on its labels. I find this ridiculous.

If any of you know me, you know that I’ve been cutting out most processed/prepared foods and processed sugar. This is a rather difficult task – not only because sugar tastes good, but mostly because it’s in EVERYTHING. It makes it super hard to find suitable and convenient snacks. Sometimes I just want to eat something that’s not a piece of fruit, yogurt or vegetables, but also is nutrient dense and either sugar free (not with sugar substitutes or corn syrup) or low in either unrefined or less refined sugar (ie honey or maple syrup). I found the KIND bars. I was absolutely impressed that the ingredient lists were short and the sugar content low, and from honey, mostly. They are very nutrient dense, being that they are made mostly from nuts, and they are also generally low in grain-based carbs. This makes them awesome (at least by comparison to the majority of other mass produced snack foods on the market.

I eat them as part of a healthy diet.

I am happy to call them healthy – in spite of the fact that they are sweetened/have added “sugars”.

But, why is the FDA up in arms? Because these bars – which are made mostly of NUTS – contain “too much” dietary fat to be considered “healthy”. This is crazy, since it’s generally known that nuts are considered to be healthy (i.e. beneficial to consume) and that they contain a high relative percentage of nutritional fat.

Sure, if all you ate were KIND bars all day, every day, it might not be a good choice and could lead to undesired results. But, that’s the same with anything – too much is usually a bad thing. If all you ate was fruit, that wouldn’t be good for you either. But the fact that we can’t call a bar that is nutrient dense and made from real foods, which is minimally processed, “healthy” … I just can’t. We’re doing something wrong.

In response, KIND not only agreed to change their labels, but they also submitted a very detailed citizen petition that the FDA change it’s rules. And, they also shared this infographic which illustrates how messed up the definition for “healthy” is in terms of food labeling.

I needed to share this because I like KIND bars and if I – someone who is obsessed about food and health (I’m not perfect and I do sometimes eat the wrong thing, but I’m very aware and read labels and all this) – can call them healthy…. but the company can’t label them that way, something is wrong.

Photos Published in Upstater (Including On the Cover!)

So excited to share that I was comissioned to work for Upstater magazine and my work is featured throughout the fall 2015 issue – including on the cover! 🙂

Check out the screen shots below or view the digital edition here.

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