How to make a book part 5
What cook book nowadays doesn’t have its photography done by Simone and her team? And her team deserves a quick shout out, because Alex and Esmee are also simply amazing. But honestly, Simone has worked on a lot of Dutch cook books, and they were also the first ones to start giving workshops in food photography and styling. Keep in mind that they also have a great blog and their own cook book on top of that, so you can probably understand why I follow Simone’s work with so much pleasure and asked her for a couple of tips.
Below you can read more about her work. And also, please ask us your own questions about the making of a cook book.
1. How does the creative process work for you when you are given a new assignment for the photography of a new book? Do you create your own concept, or perhaps a Pinterest board? How do you plan this within your schedule?
I don’t really have a standard process, and prefer instead to let the assignment guide me in that. Depending on the briefing, I often start off with an image in my head. I then gather further inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram. I always have a board with food photos and for certain books we also work with secret boards to collect specific materials for the book we’re working on at that moment.
2. How do you remain inspired? And do you see images in your mind beforehand or do you only start developing those in cooperation with the stylist?
For me, inspiration is a continuous process. I gather inspiration from looking at other people’s work, but also by having dinner at a nice restaurant to see what they do there in terms of lighting and the overall experience of a meal. I also often take styling and photography classes. But the images and build-up that I create are pretty much always in cooperation with the stylist. Unless I am the stylist myself, of course, in which case, I will have a specific mood in my head, but let the final product depend on the dish itself the moment it comes out of the kitchen. For example, I can easily imagine what courgette spaghetti looks like, but what the author wants with that dish, could be completely different from what I had in mind myself. Then, it’s important to be adaptable.
3. What was creating your own book like in comparison to working on the book of someone else’s? Is it more exciting, or perhaps less so, because it’s all your own work and ideas?
That was a completely different experience! Of course, it helped that I had already gone through the entire process of doing photography for a book before and knew what to expect, and that I worked together with Alex. But even then it’s so different, because now I was also responsible for the recipes and dishes themselves. That gave me a lot of extra stress and of course a lot more work to do than usually! But it was also a lot of fun to look at the whole process from a different perspective. Additionally, I was also still confined to my wheelchair while I was working on my book, so that gave some extra difficulties as well. Creating my own book has given me plenty of frustrations, and without Alexandra and Esmee, who helped in the kitchen, the book wouldn’t have been written…
4. What does your dream cook book look like? Have you created it now?
Hmm… that’s a difficult question. Have I created it…? Erm… I always considered Sarah Wilson’s book, ‘Simplicious”, to be close to my idea of an ideal cook book, and I would love to work on a similar project again. But then perhaps in a way that I would have the absolute freedom to do whatever I want. Haha! “Simplicious” distinguished itself mainly because it’s such a personal book, filled with small notes in Sarah’s own hand, and the photography itself is beautiful and just ever so slightly different from what you would usually see. It was hard work. I also love cook books that have ‘body’. That is, one that has been thought through, instead of being just another book among a dozen others. And there are a lot of cook books that belong to the latter category, which I think is a shame.
5. What is the most important aspect of a cook book in your opinion? What do you look for?
Originality is very important in a book, but considering the massive amount of cook books that are out there, it’s become nearly impossible to come up with anything original anymore. This is difficult. For me, there has to be a connection with the idea behind the book. This might sound a little weird perhaps, but I think it’s important that a cook book doesn’t only have amazing photography, but also recipes that are well put together, and that there is a hint of the author’s personality in it. Again, “Simplicious” is a great example of this. If you don’t know the book yet, you really should look it up.