Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Behind the Scenes at the Eating Well Holiday Cookie Photo Shoot

I have been waiting and waiting .... and waiting to show you these pics. And ta-da, now I can!

They were all taken during a photo shoot for my cookie story that appears in the brand new holiday issue of Eating Well. The magazine hit the newsstands earlier this week, and I love it, so really hope you'll go check it out. Note that just my own snapshots are posted here; the stunning photos appearing in the article were all taken by noted lifestyle photographer Helen Norman (part of her studio and set up are shown below).

Like many magazines, Eating Well prefers to keep the contents of its pages under wraps until publication.Which is why I couldn't post these images or reveal any details until now. In fact, I had to hold off for what seemed forever, because like many editors, those at Eating Well start planning issues months ahead. We first began discussing a story on how to create gorgeous, healthful holiday cookies without using any synthetic petrochemical food dyes in early 2012.

I began developing, testing, and taking snapshots of all the cookies last March. I had already come up with many ideas for easy, very doable and eye-catching all-natural decorations for my recently published Simply Sensational Cookies cookbook, but this assignment gave me the opportunity to come up with a whole lot more. All the bright garnishes and colors shown here and presented in the Eating Well story either come from fruits, juices, jams, nuts, seeds, green tea, etc., or from purchased botanical dyes and sprinkles that are totally free of  the usual synthetic petrochemical dyes (such as red dye #40 and yellow dye #5, etc.). For more on the all-natural "holiday" red and green dyes and sprinkles I bought and like to use, go here

The photo at right above and the one at left show stylist Michelle Wong setting up during the cookie photo shoot in Helen's Maryland studio. (Well, mostly you only see Michelle's hand!) She was arranging the cookies for the opening two-page spread that appears in the magazine on pages 90 and 91.

Meanwhile, out in the kitchen, I and my helper, Connie Hay, were busily baking and decorating to Michelle's specifications: "More candy canes and trees." Or, "More thumbprints filled with strawberry jam and sprinkled with green sugar," she'd occasionally come in and announce. As you can see, it took a lot of cookies for that spread. (Counting those, plus the ones we needed for the other six pages, plus those that weren't quite beautiful enough to get their pictures taken, we readied nearly 400 cookies!)

If you look closely below left, you'll note that Helen had set up a frame of the two spread pages and was shooting with her camera (on a tripod) "tethered" to the computer. This let her see in advance exactly how the image was going to look. Guided by the art director's sketch, she and Michelle left a white space in the middle of the scene where the story title, "A New Cookie Tradition," was later inserted. (You have to check out the magazine itself to see the final breathtaking results.)

 Besides providing an inspiring colorful array of cookies and three versatile recipes, the story emphasis was on how-to information. So, the pages are chock full of handy tips for easily reproducing all the looks and decorating effects shown. (I've covered many of these topics before in my blog stories and YouTube videos. My dough rolling and cutting out videos here and here and step-by step blog story here have been helpful to many. Or get my green tea icing recipe and learn how to create "marbled" designs with it here. A good all-purpose sugar cookie dough is here.)

Though it looked like December on the shooting table, and the scent of holiday baking filled the air inside, as you can from my snapshot of Helen's scenic back yard at left, outside it was a warm, breezy mid-summer day. Notice that at the corner of the porch there's a photo light set up to boost the sunlight coming in the windows and to fully illuminate the cookies and table in the shot above.

In case you're wondering, once we'd completed the shoot, Connie and I divided up the dozens of cookies and gave out care packages for everybody to take home. Our two-day bakathon was over and we carefully stashed the cutters, sprinkles, powdered sugar, and such away.

Now, I'm happy to say it's time to pull out the baking supplies again and crank up the ovens. Let the holiday baking begin!

Go here for a good sugar cookie recipe. Other stories and videos you may like
--A quick, fun demo video of my Simply Sensational Cookies book (a fab holiday gift!) is here.
--See how to make the green tea icing and do the wet-on-wet marbling (shown below bottom left).
--Learn how to add quick accent piping using only baggie, as shown at right.



Connie said...

Thanks for the mention, Nancy. It was a pleasure to work with you as always. I applaud your work in creating healthy colors and decor for all of us to use. They also taste delicious and I'm sure will adorn many cookie trays for years to come.

June Hancock said...

The photos on this blog and in the magazine were just beautiful!

Nancy Baggett on November 11, 2013 at 11:16 AM said...

Hi June, thank you so much! It was very inspiring to work with Helen and Michelle on the shoot. Plus, I ALWAYS enjoy making cookies :-)

Nancy Baggett on November 11, 2013 at 11:18 AM said...

BWT, June, are you the same June I used to know?? If so, I do hope you are well. Still in NY state perhaps?

June said...

Yes...I am! We downsized and relocated to a patio home in Hamburg, NY this summer...the town I grew up in. It has been a wonderful homecoming. My husband and I are both well. We make frequent trips down your way to visit our daughter and family in Olney.



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