Behind the Scenes at a Yankee Cookbook Photo Shoot

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Before I accepted my Assistant Editor position here at Yankee Magazine back in November 2011, I was a full-time office worker by day and food blogger by night…including most weekends. Blogging started as a hobby but soon grew into a passion, and in time, I slowly went from bumbling novice to comfortable baker and slightly (oh, so slightly) acceptable photographer. The more I learned about both mediums, however, the more I admired those among us that make food and/or photography their lives. I will never be a pro at either, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to learn as much as I can.

Fortunately, there are lots of learning opportunities here at Yankee. For the past few years Yankee Magazine has put out an annual “cookbookazine” with themes like Classic Recipes and Seasonal Favorites. The 2011 Homemade Favorites for Every Season was a winner at this year’s City and Regional Magazine Awards, getting kudos for both its recipes and the tempting photography. This year’s edition (coming out in October 2012) is right in my wheelhouse with a theme of Lost and Vintage Recipes. I’ve been helping Senior Lifestyle Editor Amy Traverso with the recipe testing for the cookbook, so when Art Director Lori Pedrick asked if I would wanted to help out at the photo shoot, I jumped at the chance to watch the food and photo magic unfold.

Some of the dishes I had made before, like Blueberry Boy Bait, Crumb Coffee Cake, Black and White Cookies, Fudge, Jam Thumbprint Cookies, and Popcorn Balls.

Blueberry Boy Bait, Black and White Cookies, and Popcorn Balls.

Showing up at Heath Robbins Photography for the shoot was like stepping into Narnia. The outside of the industrial mill brick building complex in Framingham, MA where the studio is housed couldn’t have prepared me for the beautiful, enormous, sun-drenched loft space inside — complete with office workspace, full kitchen, lounge area, dining table, prop tables, and studio space. Heath and his hardworking staff (like the lovely Jenna and Jason) are a talented and well-oiled machine.

Heath Robbins Photography studio, facing towards the kitchen.

Heath Robbins Photography studio, facing away from the kitchen.

My role was to bake a little and help the pros however I could, but otherwise I was a sponge. Along with Heath behind the camera, food stylist Catrine Kelty was on hand to prepare, style, and often times bite the food so it looked just right for the shot. Meanwhile, prop stylist Beth Wickwire chose the plates, napkins, linens, cutlery, etc. to best compliment the dish and achieve the look and feel Lori wanted for the shots to flow together in the final book. Watching these four creative minds hard at work — examining every angle, every crumb, every tilt of the spoon, every shade of yellow — was both mesmerizing and enthralling, especially when they finally got “the shot.”

Food stylist Catrine Kelty, photographer Heath Robbins, Yankee Art Director Lori Pedrick, and prop stylist Beth Wickwire watch the progress on screen.

When I said prop tables I meant serious prop tables. Stylists know in advance what color palettes and tone the client is looking for, and they bring masses of props that will best fit the theme.

Prop stylist Beth Wickwire had my heart fluttering with her tables of goodies.

Our Lost and Vintage theme, and a soft but colorful color palette, dictated Beth’s choice of props. Watch for those scales to show up in a fun shot come October!

Props galore — from cutlery and scales to dishes and deviled egg carriers.

Bags and bags of cheery, vintage linens were at our disposal, as were dozens of classic aluminum baking tins in all shapes and sizes. The vintage-loving baker in me swooned like a teenager with a matinee-idol crush.

Linens and tins were abundant and beautiful.

Dishes, spoons, and napkins in warm, soft colors.

Catrine knows how to make food look delicious, but also edible. It takes natural artistic talent and a good eye to achieve this, but she also has a few tools and tricks to help reach picture-perfect results.

Food stylist Catrine Kelty came armed with a wealth of energy, tools, and tricks.

Working as a team, Catrine, Heath, and Beth nudged everything into place. Yes, the food was being expertly photographed on a door on the floor, but when you see the final shot, you’d never know.

Catrine Kelty, Heath Robbins, and Beth Wickwire making food photo magic.

Blueberry Boy Bait ready for its close up with Heath Robbins.

Some shots show a dish in progress instead of the fished result.

Being behind the scenes at a Yankee cookbook photo shoot was a special and memorable experience for me — not just because it was yet another “first” in my tenure here at Yankee, but because I had the chance to flit on the edges of an artistic process I would normally never experience at that level. Working down the hall from Lori, I know how much time she spends thinking and dreaming up creative concepts and ideas for the Yankee publications, and it was a true pleasure to watch the fruits of those dreams take shape before my eyes, and then see the gorgeous images on the computer screen while the camera flashed.

Of course, some other significant perks of being on set were snacking on the leftovers after a dish had been shot, and playing with Jenna’s dog Lucy. I don’t know how she fit that enormous baseball in her mouth, but she did…over and over again!

Perks at the shoot included the 2 L’s: Leftovers and Lucy.

I can’t wait to see the finished result when the cookbook comes together. I know it’s going to look terrific, and I think you’ll agree. Look for it on newsstands in October and tell us what you think!

Thanks to Lori, Heath, Catrine, Beth, and the team at Heath Robbins Photography for letting me participate in this year’s shoot!

Want to know more about what it’s like to be Behind the Scenes at a Yankee Magazine Cookbook Photo Shoot? Check out Amy Traverso’s “Inside a Cookbook Photo Shoot” blog from the award-winning 2011 shoot.

  • catrine

    it was so nice meeting you and having you on set with us ! thanks for making us look so good in this blog!

  • Aimee, it was so very cool to have you and your enthusiasm on set. We all appreciated your help, input and patience and I’m so happy you enjoyed it. Attend a shoot anytime!

  • Aimee

    Thanks Maureen, mgw, and Mary Jane! I loved being there and sharing the experience with you!

  • Enjoyed going “behind the scenes” of a photo shoot, something rarely afforded to the everyday reader. Thanks for taking us along. Can’t wait for the cookbook!

  • I always enjoy and learn something new reading what you post Aimee. Thank-you!

  • Maureen

    This was SO interesting! What great photos and play-by-play. This is the perfect job for you.


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