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Behind the scenes of a Verge photoshoot

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See that image up there? It’s the photograph used for last week’s Dinner is Shipped feature. We heard from a number of Verge readers asking how it was created. Well, this is the story.

I was assigned to follow Kaitlyn Tiffany home to photograph (and eat) her cooking from five different meal-delivery services. The experience was delightful and mostly delicious. We started shooting / cooking back in March, but to sum up all the feels of the story in one picture required a studio. We created a kitchen scene out of furniture found in the office (thanks everyone) and things from our own houses. Or rather, my house. That’s how I found myself packing up my entire kitchen. Basically every pot, wooden spoon, and pan was schlepped into our New York City studio by rolling suitcases and blue Ikea bags — even my pot rack (which, to be fair, was still in its box).

Going into the studio was a change of approach from the reportage-style photography I did while shooting at Kaitlyn’s house, requiring a strobe (flash), a few lenses, and nothing else. For the studio image, James Bareham (Verge creative director) and I set up Profoto lights on c-stands with some umbrellas (connected wirelessly to the camera through Pocket Wizard transmitters), a large reflector to the left, and a blue seamless background. We also mapped out the set and props the week before. We were going for a charmingly-overwhelmed-slightly-disheveled-but-cute-chef look to represent the story. Though the exciting part of the shoot was the flour and peas flying through the air (thanks to Lizzie Plaugic), most of the time was spent arranging the cardboard boxes, stacks of pots and bowls with meaningfully placed asparagus stalks, tomatoes, gnocchi, and greens of all kinds.

After the flour was cleaned up and my pots brought home, the post processing began. The final shot is actually a composite of three frames: the main shot, some extra flour and peas, and the frame after a particularly dramatic throw where Kaitlyn opened her eyes! Because we knew we were going to comp the final shot, we shot it all on a tripod. The strobe and fast shutter speed froze most of the flour and peas flying through the air, though you can also see an element of blur. The strobe freezes the peas at approximately 1/500th of a second, but the shutter is open for 1/100th of a second which is what creates the impression of movement. That bit isn't retouched, we got it in camera!