Behind the Book: Shooting the Cover.
With the launch of The Pretty Dish coming so soon, one of the questions I’ve been constantly asked is “who designed the cover?!”
So I figured I’d give you a sneak peek!
When I was shooting my first book, Seriously Delish, I was so clueless. I never even THOUGHT about a cover shot and I think I just figured (or maybe was told? I can’t remember!) that we would use a photo from one of the ones I took while shooting the recipes. I mean, most cookbooks (at least at that time) had a photo of one of the recipes on the cover. I figured that’s how it would go.
If you’ve ever been to an event where I talked about the book or have listened to a podcast I’ve done or something, then you know: I did not like the cover of that book at first. To this day, I still get constant questions about the cover. The recipe isn’t clear (like what IS it?) so it’s difficult to find in the book and many people think the recipe isn’t even in the book! I have some of the most hilarious facebook comments and reviews because “the recipe on the cover isn’t in the book!” BAH.
Anyhoo. Since then, I have learned to love the cover. There’s something about it just being YOUR book that makes you love it.
But! This time, I had a big team from the publisher behind me and we talked about the cover from the beginning. We wanted something that brought both the recipes and beauty DIYs (even though they use food) on to the front. Books and photography have changed SO much since I did my first one. I knew I’d be shooting a very specific cover from the get go.
Also. GUYS! There is a photo for EVERY SINGLE RECIPE in this book. I am so, so, so happy! I never thought there would be a photo for every recipe, but I still shot every recipe, just because I wanted to have a visual. I figured that the recipes that didn’t have photos could go here on the blog so you could see what they looked like.
And then, I was surprised with a picture for EVERYTHING!! It’s amazing.
Shooting the cover was super difficult for me. I do not love photography and I like food styling even less. It’s just very hard for me. It takes me a long time to set up a shot. I rarely have a vision to start. It doesn’t come easy, it takes a ton of patience (which I don’t have) and I often end up shooting something because I’m just OVER setting up the shot and want it done.
I knew that we were possibly going to end up using a recipe from the book, but that I’d have to reshoot it to fit the cover if that was the case. This is a GREAT THING. This meant that we could experiment with fonts and titles and colors and everything. As opposed to having to choose a mediocre photo just to try and get a title to fit. I really really really wanted some sort of cheeseboard photo for the cover. You guys love those photos and they are some of my favorites too!
If you read my first behind the book post last year, then you know that I had Erin help me with styling the book. SHE IS AMAZING. She seriously saved me in 2017 from losing my mind. If you ever need food styling help or want food photography done, I could not recommend her more.
So back in May, the very first shot Erin and I ever took for the cover was this one of the ingredients. We did the beauty DIY ingredients on top and some recipe ingredients on the bottom. I never discussed this with the publishing team, aside from telling them we were going to try this shot on a phone call one day.
This was also during my kitchen renovation (kill me) and I was also in the early stages of pregnancy (sick as a dog), so I was just a PEACH. Here’s a behind the scenes pic! Massive mess, the microwave and fridge across the room, my actual kitchen ripped up, plywood for countertops and a secret ultrasound pic on the fridge. HA.
Funnily enough, this is pretty close to the final cover, huh? Totally unintentional! I didn’t shoot the final cover picture until five months later and we went through MANY other photos in that time period!
This is where I started with the next photo I did for the cover. Basically tried to fit any and all ingredients into the cover shot, make it LIKE a cheeseboard… but not an actual cheeseboard?
For a while, I ONLY wanted this picture as the cover. It wasn’t happening though. And after shooting it off to a few friends and getting their opinion, it became clear to me too – like, what is that a photo of?! It’s ingredients, but it’s just random ingredients. It’s not a cheeseboard I’d put together, even though it has cheese on it.
I still really like this picture because of the color and you will find it in the book. Just not on the cover.
Back to square one! A few weeks later the team had me shoot a watermelon “pizza” and a salad. You might remember that the watermelon photo was in the running for the cover!
I didn’t want to tell you at the time, because I wanted YOU guys to pick. But I did not want the watermelon cover. I mean, yes, I’m as basic as can be and I love the watermelon wedges. But they felt too trendy to me. Too seasonal. And also didn’t really depict what I wanted the cover to show.
[I was thrilled when the vote came in and over 75% of you voted for the current cover. I was pretty much doing cartwheels in the kitchen.]
The salad photos didn’t speak to me at all. And as much as I love a good salad and share a ton here on the blog, the salad didn’t feel right to me on the cover either!
A lot of you said that you felt like the blue background was my signature since I’ve used it for so long. I absolutely LOVE that background, but there are only certain colors of food that really pop on it (yellow, orange, brown, white) – otherwise I feel like things tend to get lost in the blue.
This was a crazzzzy day of shooting. This cover shoot day took me about eight to ten hours from start to finish, because I would be shooting the photo and texting the team pictures of it, then moving certain pieces and texting again – etc. I didn’t have Erin with me this day either. Now that I’m removed from the process I can say it was enjoyable. But at eight months pregnant, it was insane.
Below is just a quick screenshot of what my phone looked like that day. It was probably that times 50. Ha.
That takes us to the final photo! While there were a few other random cover shoots throughout the months, I wanted to show you the evolution of the final cover. The team suggested that I shoot something with the beauty foods on top and some recipe ingredients on the bottom. Similar to the very first shot Erin and I ever did! I started there, then would progressively move ingredients into the center. This shoot took about eight hours too, from start to finish.
I started with ingredients on the top and bottom.
Then moved ingredients down the sides, gradually.
We tried a few photos with plates.
And then moved ingredients inside, gradually – again! I can’t even TELL you how many pictures of this I took. Every single piece of food here was moved in one by one and I basically took a picture of it every single time.
Annnnd a behind the scenes pic below. For the third or fourth time, I reshot the watermelon picture AGAIN so we could have a final vote on the cover.
That’s how we landed on the final cover of The Pretty Dish!
This was such a completely different experience from my first book. All in all, we probably spent six months going back and forth on the cover, reshooting things constantly. Even though it could be frustrating at times (and with me being so pregnant, I just wanted it DONE), I was SO happy and grateful that there was this team behind me that wanted to make sure we had the perfect photo and make sure we had one that everybody loved. It was the best experience ever!
Now, having it in my hands? It’s incredible.
You can see a sneak peek flip through of the book right here, and I would be forever grateful if you would preorder your copy here! xoxoxo
34 Comments on “Behind the Book: Shooting the Cover.”
I love these types of posts! It’s always so interesting to see all the work that goes into a project. After all, all we see as readers is the final photograph. The cover is gorgeous and I’m so stoked to receive your cookbook in March!!
thanks so much jen!! xo
I respect you so much for always keeping it real and sharing the “bad/trying/frustrating” experiences along with the good! It makes everything so relatable. It’s fascinating to see all the hard work someone puts into something- yet you always make it look so beautiful, effortless and easy in all you do and share on your blog. Can’t wait for the book!
thank you, thank you melissa!! xoxo
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I love seeing the behind the scenes and reading the backstory! I voted for this cover too. I like the idea of not just having one recipe on the cover. It sounds like it was quiet the process!
thanks amanda!! :)
I’d love to know how you made the backdrop! It’s so pretty with the varying colors <3
i buy them all at erickson woodworks! https://ericksonwoodworks.com/
This is SO great! Just goes to show the hard work you always put in – can’t wait for this book (and I selfishly hope you’re still coming back here for your book tour!!! Come on!!! Haha).
thank you!! def coming there. :)
LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!! ahhhh i’m sitting here with the dumbest smile on my face because i’m so genuinely happy for you and cannot wait to see what’s behind that cover!!! i KNOW KNOW KNOW it’s going to be amazing!!! forever in awe of all you do! xoxoxoxo
thank you love!! xo
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I adore you! Can’t wait for March!! Oh and that secret ultrasound picture on the fridge? Dying.
hahaha thank you! every time i took photos i was like oh crap, can’t share that yet! xo
LOVE behind the scenes posts! Thank you for sharing this process with us! Soooo fascinating. Can’t wait to receive the book; preordered it months ago. Please come to Miami on book tour!
thanks so much jamie!! xo
i would loooove to come there!
I LOVE the cover of your book and I also LOVE that there’s a picture for every recipe! I’m basically a child and need pictures for all the recipes or I’m just not as interested in making it! can’t wait for your book!! I literally preordered as soon as we could!
i am the same way courtney! i think the internet has made us that way – haha. i was so surprised and thrilled. thank you so much for preordering!
I’d love to know what, if anything, happens to the food that is used for this? I am sure some of it goes to waste, it’d be impossible for it not to, but do you try and reduce what goes to waste by either freezing the cut fruit, or saving the oats, etc.?
Ooh, good question! I was drooling over those tiny tomatoes, imagining gunning them into my mouth as soon as the photo was finalized.
I loved this post. Gorgeous from start to finish, even the messy counter tops!
omg i try to save as much as i can! things like the oats, coconut, culinary flowers, etc – those can all just be scooped up and saved (which is good because they are so expensive), with the exception of a few things that get soaked in the honey or oil, etc.
if the fresh food wasn’t sliced, i obvi saved all that (or we ate it as soon as we were done) – sliced citrus can be saved but things like avocado or plums or berries that have been sliced and sitting out for 10 hours… not really. it just depends! the last shoot i ended up spritzing a lot with olive oil so we lost some of that towards the end.
this isn’t a regular food shoot though. this is a one time thing that has a lot of waste. for regular recipe photos – that all gets eaten always. for things like this, it might be half eaten/half waste. it really sucks, but it’s also how the business side of this portion works for a shoot like this. i don’t ever use any crazy food styling tricks (i.e. using elmer’s glue for milk, sticking piles of playdough or instant mashed potatoes under salads to make them bigger, brushing foods with bacon grease to make them shine, etc) so we can usually consume everything!
Love love love this behind the scenes post! just goes to show that you didn’t just wake up randomly one day and throw some ingredients down.. makes me feel better when my kitchen is a disaster and not ‘insta’ worthy at all. You put so much hard work into it.. it’s not just rainbows and unicorn dust. Love the cover
thank you phaedra! xoxo
i sure wish i had unicorn dust… bahaha.
I loved reading this and watching the process unfold. I hate both of my book covers, didn’t like them very much at the time, but it was one of those hurry up and just pick a photo from the book that you can live with because we are out of time and no time for more shooting situations. It is awesome that you thought about your second cover from Day 1 and had this amazing team behind you. Bravo Jessica!
I HEAR YOU!! that was the exact issue with my first book.
thank you so much! xoxoxoxoxo
This is SO interesting. I briefly worked in publishing, though it was children’s lit so the cover/illustrations were different since they weren’t photos. I didn’t know much about current practices or different generas! I remember voting, though I can’t remember what I would have voted for. They’re so lovely. I enjoyed hearing your preferences!
thank you emily!! xo
I love that you could explain this process. I probably never would have though so much could go into a cover of a cook book, but after you explained it. I totally get it now. I am glad that you found a cover you are happy with before the book came out. :-) I have to say, since I have started reading your blog you are one of the few that is so candid, its refreshing to hear what its really like behind the scenes.
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I’m Chef Andy of andysbites.com. I’m a fairly new blogger and I am seriously inspired by your website and how much great content you write. I just pre-ordered your new cookbook for a couple friends and clients. Your style and creativity is so amazing! Thank you for being you!
Have a great day!
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