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.