BEHIND the COOKBOOK | the PHOTOGRAPHY of BROWN EGGS & JAM JARS: PART 1
What a whirlwind couple of weeks its been! It’s been exciting to see such an enthusiastic response to Brown Eggs and Jam Jars and we couldn’t be prouder of our dear friend Aimee. Between the launch party in Montreal, multiple sightings of the books in stores and following the her various appearances on media (social and conventional!) it’s been deeply gratifying to see all our hard work come to fruition and the marvelous recipes, writing and pictures finally be shared with the rest of the world!
In honor of this launch week, we thought we’d lift up the curtain a little and reveal a few of the outtakes from the book, some of the behind the scenes stories and explain a little bit of the process that went into a few of the shots. There are so many little backstories and so many images we love, but we can’t possibly talk about them all – so here’s the first of two instalments on the photography of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.
I’d say for a majority of the photos in the book, Aimee came to the table with a clear vision in her head – how it was going to be plated, props to be used, the concept and feel. Tim and I would think about angle, lighting, cropping. (Fun fact! Over 70% of the recipe shots were lit with artificial lighting. Sometimes the sunlight just wasn’t there or we were going for a more dramatic pop).
So there were times when a few shots in and I’d stand up and say, “Yo guys. Hashtag nailed it.”
And there were other times when Tim and I would keep working at it, moving something here, adjusting the light there until we were satisfied.
Take for example maple cider baked beans recipe on page 12. It was early spring and Aimee knew she wanted it taken outside. Originally we were thinking of having some grass in the background.
But after I took a round of frames, and reviewed them on the screen, it nagged me. The green was competing with the beans and it was the orange of the beans that I wanted to pop out in the shot.
Tim was setting up for another shot but I called him outside, we brushed off a little café table that was on the deck and off we went, into the woods:
Nope, still wasn’t buying it, and now the speckled light coming through the branches wasn’t doing me any favours – I felt the background was a lot busier than necessary. So off we went, moving the table to the top of the raised beds (which were thankfully vacant as we were just coming out of winter). And then back into the forest, but a different spot. Then dialling our aperture up and down, looking for that nice buttery bokeh without losing context. We must have picked up that table and marched that pot of beans around Aimee’s yard for a good half hour until, we got the shot we wanted.
Here’s the backstory to one of our favourites images in the book. We had just finished photographing Aimee lifting parpadelle out of a pot, with steam rising into the air. It was a grey, dullish day so I had to position our 5’ octobox outside the window to bring in some brightness with another strobe off to the side to light everything else. Between batteries failing and triggers not firing, it took a good few rounds of frames before I was happy.
By that time we were ready to devour lunch so Aimee went off the kitchen to plate our pasta. Tim stood off to the side and as I chatted to Aimee, he took a few frames – no additional lighting except for what was coming through her kitchen window. No styling – everything was left as it was on the counter and the smile was probably from a conversation about our kids (Clara and our Logan were probably close by playing on the floor). It was a great shot that ended up being used as the opener for the chapter on batch cooking.
Another one of my favorite shots was the grapefruit and pomegranate spritzers. With such a huge focus on family life and food, we had always envisioned on having the kids in the background of a shot, in the house on a lazy afternoon. So with Noah and Mateo sitting through a game of chess in the living room, we had the drinks lined up in the hallway, a strobe lighting the slices of grapefruit and pitcher from above and voila. Magic.
And then sometimes there were perfectly good images that just didn’t end up making it in. Aimee, Tim and I spent a good many hours at our office, going through the images chapter by chapter and taking votes on our favourites and weeding images out for style reasons (too many top shots in a row) and a tiny nitpick (liked how the rhubarb looked in the other shot).
Stay tuned – Tim will talk a little about our process of lighting and decisions on composition next week!