Behind The Scenes

An Uncensored, Unashamed Look at Our Editorial Photoshoot

August  3, 2016

Last week, we told you what actually goes on at a Food52 photoshoot—and this week, we'll give you a similar recap, but one that's not quite as neatly organized.

How else to fully reflect the nature of our slightly-chaotic, always fun shoot days (and because not every photoshoot has nugget-y takeaways)?

So here's our day, unabridged and unashamed, from start to finish, beginning with toast ending with... a whole roasted fish?

Good mooooorning and welcome to our "office," where Ali, who doubles as Book Editor (can't you tell from that stack o' galleys by her feet?) is armed with a mug of coffee—and some wine?

Tuesday mornings make us SMILE! (In anticipation of the cream pie to come.)

A closer look at our "desk" (ignore my feet):

Lucky Peach, Breads Bakery, and Turkish breakfast (in a bowl and a mug). Date syrup, too.

Just a small selection of flowers to choose from (many of which were selected by our Art Director Alexis):

Burnt-ish toast for "breakfast." This melty pat of butter doesn't just happen—we torched it! (Note the supernaturally bubbling butter two photos below):

Take a wild guess as to why we shot this photo:

Hints: headphones; an iPhone (tuned into a certain podcast, perhaps?).

The beginning of cream pie, before we smoothed out the pudding (and before we piled on a whipped cream hat!):

Pudding plops aplenty. Stay tuned for the GIF!

The end of cream pie, the real version:

Best seat in the house!

The end of cream pie, the Instagram-filtered version:

I feel like this happened today but at what time I couldn't tell you!!

A photo posted by sarahjampel (@sarahjampel) on

A different kind of spill. #pie #whippedcream

A photo posted by James Ransom (@jamesransom_nyc) on

Cream pie, the afterlife:

The first cut is the deepest; the first slice is by and far the messiest!!!

Two angles on the same zucchini cupcakes, shellacked with a frosting that gets it bright-green color from an herb (to find out which one, check back in on Monday!):

And an extreme close-up by James:


A photo posted by James Ransom (@jamesransom_nyc) on

After dessert, it was time for bed. Ali nestles corn husk soup (recipe coming soon, we promise!) into its placemat blanket (and goes through a lot of basil and cheese to find the perfect garnish):

Lullaby, and goodnight, go to sleep little soupie.

A midnight nacho snack, and additional proof that Ali's hands touch every piece of food we eat:

We put off saved the day's greatest challenge for last—whole roasted fish that Test Kitchen Chef Josh Cohen filleted on set:

Hey Josh: The lemon is waiting.

What else do you want to know about how our photoshoots work? Talk to us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Crystal Cusimano Figueroa
    Crystal Cusimano Figueroa
  • ktr
  • 702551
  • Loves Food Loves to Eat
    Loves Food Loves to Eat
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Crystal C. November 28, 2016
I love all of your recipes and appreciate the different "flavor" of photography on your site. Your effort on creating beautiful photos is not lost on me :). It just makes the food look all the more appetizing.
ktr August 4, 2016
I have to agree with cv. I have found the recipes with pictures showing the steps to be helpful - especially when learning a new technique.
702551 August 3, 2016
I really wish more Food52 recipe authors would spend time documenting what goes behind the scenes (i.e., showing key steps of the process) rather than showing five or six beauty shots of the same slice of cake or pie.

This article might help someone understand what happens in the day of a professional food media person, but it doesn't help the typical home cook in any of the more immediately relevant situations happening in his/her kitchen.

But, it is well known that media people like to indulge in navel gazing, so have at it. With the Instagram/Twitter/Facebook generation coming of age, we should expect more of these kind of focus in the future.

I am OLD.
Sarah J. August 3, 2016
Hi cv,

We hear you. It takes different resources to take a beauty shot than it does to capture a process, but we're working on it.

Thanks for your feedback!
702551 August 3, 2016
Hi Sarah,

Thanks for acknowledging my request.

I'm no recipe author, but I capture some of my own key cooking moments with my smartphone (their cameras are good now) and upload to Flickr for my own personal reference in the future.

I note that this interest in providing shots of the process seem to be closely tied to the person. For example, a certain unnamed guy with the initials of JKL-A who posts to a certain website that -- oh, let's call SEATS -- seems to be pretty good at documenting key steps. This person has done so even when he wasn't as good at photography and didn't have the choice equipment.

Because of this, I am convinced that this is more of a mindset of the publication or individual in question rather than the available resources. Cooks Illustrated magazine back in the Nineties was able to do this, so my belief is that today's camera-ladened cooks should be able to provide such documentation should they adopt this mindset.

I hope Food52 endeavours to encourage recipe contributors to not just hand in beauty shots and some words, but to include other media that will enhance the educational value of their work because other sites are already doing this.

Thank you!
702551 August 3, 2016
It's worth pointing out that Food52 used to document the process much better years ago. There are old recipes and articles that show Amanda and Merrill in the kitchen doing the individual steps.

Apparently, that has been lost in your fancy NYC digs.

Just take the damned photo, don't worry about tripods, whether or not there's any empty dirty prep bowl in the background, a crumpled up paper towel, some ingredients spilled on the counter.

Remember, a large part of Julia Childs' genius was not to hide her mistakes. *THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE DO: MAKE MISTAKES*. Many of today's food media folks have lost sight of that vision, unhealthily obsessed with perfect presentation.
Sarah J. August 3, 2016
We're huge fans of Serious Eats over here, too!! But we can't all be Kenji! And if our site were the same as that one, what fun would that be? But we'll keep your suggestions in mind, for sure! Thanks!
702551 August 3, 2016
No, we can't *ALL* be Kenji, but for sure, the food media world needs *MORE* Kenjis. Amusingly, the guy most like Kenji is Daniel Gritzer.

Again, I reiterate that Food52 did a much better job of capturing the process in the past. That emphasis has been lost in recent years.

You do not need to ask your lead photography James Ransom to shoot the process. This can be adequately done by your test kitchen chef and test kitchen managers, plus any random bystander.

The underlying problem is that the senior editorial management team has let this slide, not resources or talent.

If you want it to happen, it will because the resources necessary to do this are inconsequential in 2016.
Loves F. August 3, 2016
But what is that cream pie and what is in the Turkish breakfast bowl!?!?!?!?!
Sarah J. August 3, 2016
I'm REALLY sorry to tease like that but you'll have to wait until next week to find out! It's how we'll keep you coming back (we hope).
Kristen M. August 3, 2016
Hi Loves Food Loves to Eat! Nice to see you around these parts. And I agree with your enthusiasm about the Turkish breakfast bowl!