My girlfriend and I moved from Germany to The Netherlands in January 2015, leaving some great friends behind. As we loved cooking, eating and drinking together, we thought it would be a good idea to make them a cookbook with our favorite recipes as a Christmas present.
A cooking magazine
It all started with an idea to just buy some notebooks and write down the recipes by hand. As we wanted to add photos of our own recipes as well, this idea changed a bit when we started making photos.
It turned out that it was not as easy as expected to take great photos of food. It started with the lighting, which was done at first by using the lamps above our dining table. This made the photos have a yellow-ish tone and the colors of the food in the photos did not represent the colors of the real food that much. This had to change, so I started reading about food photography with a flash. After some experiments (see some of the first results here), the photos turned out much better using the flash as only (and fully controllable) light source.
As the photos started to get better, we started thinking about using them in a professional cookbook instead of a hand-written scrapbook. We could not just paste photos with this quality next to hand-written texts, so the overall end-product just had to be more professional as well.
A hard-cover cookbook would have been too much for the time we had (+/- 1,5 month), so we decided to make it in a bit of a smaller form and so the idea for a cooking magazine was born.
The layout design
The search for an online publisher brought us to Blurb. With Blurb, it is possible to design a layout for any kind of book and to get it printed in any size of print run. They offer a proprietary software to do the layout design with, but they also offer a plugin for Adobe InDesign.
As I was already using Adobe CC for Lightroom and Photoshop, I installed Adobe InDesign CC and started learning how to use this application to design the layout of our cooking magazine.
Of course, the first layouts looked more like a high-school essay that was done in Microsoft Word, but this quickly improved after I started to get more familiar with InDesign and the other complementary Adobe tools, like Color CC and Typekit. While I was mainly doing the layout design (partially with placeholder texts), my girlfriend was writing and translating the recipes and articles.
Because half of our friends and family lives in Germany and the other half in The Netherlands, we chose to make the magazine bilingual. This made the layout design a bit more challenging, because the texts needed twice the space.
As already mention above, taking photos of food was a new kind of photography to me. I learned that the yellow-ish light from the lamps above our dining table could not be used to create stunning photos, so I had to use my Nikon SB700 as primary light source. Because the flashlight only gave pretty hard shadows, I bought a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite to diffuse the light and soften up the shadows. Combined with one or more reflectors, the photos turned out pretty well (see my food portfolio).
Apart from the photos of the food, I needed photos for my article about the Indonesian kitchen in The Netherlands. The Indonesian food and its ingredients are sold in The Netherlands in typical Indonesian stores, called toko. For my article, I decided to take photos in the oldest toko in The Hague, Toko Toet. As I was already a regular customer of this store, I decided to ask the owner if I could come by some day to take some photos. This was no problem at all and I found myself doing a photo-shoot there a couple of weeks later.
This photo-shoot was a new photographic experience for me. The subjects were at work, so they were moving all the time. When I noticed a nice composition, I had to frame and shoot almost instantly to not miss the shot.
Nevertheless, the photos turned out great. I used them for the magazine, but I also shared them with the owner of the store, who was very happy to have my photos. He is even using them now for promoting his store on his Facebook page and he asked me to be his photographer for coming events in exceptional locations.
What is a magazine without cover photo? Right, we also needed a cover photo…
The most important page of a magazine is its cover, which makes the cover photo the most important photo of the magazine.
We had several ideas for a cover photo, one even being standing in the sea, dressed as a cook.
Because of the limited amount of time we had to deliver the magazine, we decided to re-enact a scene from Lady and the Tramp. We set up everything just like in the scene where Lady and the Tramp eat a spaghetti together and we shot several photos and chose the best one of that series to be our cover photo. This setup also required using the Nikon SB700 and several reflectors.
The end-result is a professionally designed cooking magazine with a personal touch, interesting texts and stunning photos. The print run was 30 magazines and they were distributed to all of our dearest friends and family. Unfortunately they arrived only shortly after Christmas, but we got only positive feedback on the magazine.
Below you can see some of the pages from the magazine and decide for yourself: