How to Photograph Your Own Cookbook

It’s one thing to plan a restaurant shoot or client briefing for a particular project, but how do you go about planning and shooting a much longer project, like a cookbook? In this article, I share my tips on how to photograph a self-published cookbook, but the tips also apply to a longer project like an e-book.

Be clear about your aesthetic

When you have decided on the subject of your cookbook, you may already know very well what kind of look you want to create with your cookbook. If you’re not so sure, start collecting visual inspiration from Pinterest, magazines, or other cookbooks to inspire you and sift through what resonates with you and what doesn’t. Some questions you might ask yourself:

  • How do I want the cookbook to feel and what mood should it evoke?
  • How do I want people to feel when they flip through the book?
  • Does the aesthetic align with the seasons?
  • Do I want to shoot with hard light or soft light or a mixture of both?
  • How much movement do I want to incorporate?
  • Do I want to focus on food portraits or include larger tablescapes as well?

When I created my cookbook, I knew I wanted the whole book to be colorful, fun, bold, and dynamic. This naturally lent itself to harsh light, pops of color and a mix of macro shots and food portraits.

Choose a color palette

Once you have a clear idea of ​​the mood and feel of your cookbook, clarify your primary color palette. If it’s a book of soups or stews, perhaps the tones and colors will be set in a fall palette of browns, burnt oranges and mossy greens. The subject of your book may lead you to a particular color palette. Working within the confines of a specific palette will help you create a cohesive and cohesive book. Obviously, there are no hard and fast rules, but I found it helpful to choose six or seven main colors that I would weave throughout the book, mostly through my choice of colored surfaces. I then added a sense of variety through complementary accessories, styling and composition.

Supply Accessories

You might have a huge collection of accessories that match the aesthetic you’ve set for your cookbook. In that case, you are good to go! However, you are more likely to have suitable existing pieces, but need to expand your collection to provide enough visual variety for an entire cookbook. If you have the budget to buy more, that’s fantastic, but if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of ways to get creative.

I approached a local home goods store in my town that stocked a lot of pieces that I knew would match the aesthetic I was aiming for with my book. Whenever I had a shoot scheduled in my calendar, I emailed the store a list of what I wanted, and rented the items for 20% of the selling price. This meant I had the flexibility to bring in new pieces for each cookbook section while maintaining a sense of consistency between different shoots. I could also choose pieces that would work perfectly for a certain recipe, but that wasn’t something I would necessarily want to use over and over again in my own accessories collection.

Another option could be to contact local kitchen or accessory stylists in your area and arrange a similar loan deal where you can choose from their collection and return it when you’re done.

Time limit

Once you have an idea of ​​where you’re going to take your cookbook, it’s time to plan your shooting days. You can use software like Asana to stay on track, or just use your phone or computer’s built-in calendar. It is important to know how you like to work best. Personally, I didn’t want to film multiple days of the week for seven or eight weeks to tackle the whole cookbook in one heroic salvo, although I appreciate that might work just fine for others.

Instead, I approached photography section by section and blocked out a week at a time to photograph. It worked especially well because I was doing everything myself, from cooking and plating to styling, filming and washing up. This method gave me enough space around the edges of my schedule to maintain momentum, to sit with the footage I had taken, and to see if I liked the direction and what changes I wanted bring to move forward.

Try to keep some flexibility in your approach. While the majority of my cookbook was shot section by section, sometimes I hadn’t completed all of the testing for each recipe, so some weeks of filming would be a hybrid of recipes from different sections, depending on where I was at arrived with my tests.

When you’ve photographed an entire section, use your home printer or take the files to a printer and get the images in front of you in real life. You can pin them to a wall in the order you imagined them in, and it will not only help you get an idea of ​​how the book unfolds visually, but also a chance to spot any details that might need your attention. as touch-ups, such as scattered crumbs or mess on the rim of a bowl that you might have missed on screen. You can swap out the images, see where you might need more white space, variation, new angle or movement. The luxury of self-publishing a cookbook is that you can work on your own schedule and redo anything that doesn’t work for you.


If you’ve tackled a longer project like self-publishing a cookbook or creating your own e-book, I’d love to hear your tips on how you tackled it, kept your momentum going. or implemented a process that allowed you to be as happy as possible. possible with the result.

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