Behind The Scenes Of A Shoot (a/k/a It Takes A Village)

If there’s one topic on this blog that generates the most interest and comments (all of which I am thankful for!) it’s behind the scenes of photo shoots and my day job. Quite often I can’t really instafacetweetpin a darn thing from photoshoots for my clients because, well, it’s their shoot and we all do our best to wait for whatever it is we are shooting to hit the streets first. I actually have several cookbooks in the queue that won’t come out until 2014, and they are some titles I am super duper thrilled about, too! But this shoot? It’s all mine.


In an effort to add some variety to my portfolio, I self-assigned a party scene at home. The story? Some friends get together for pizza, some wine, some treats, with lots of laughing and maybe some more wine, keeping it all very So-Cal in spirit. Assigning a story for yourself, producing it and paying for it isn’t easy, but as a photographer I find it imperative to keep working and trying new things. So let me take you through the process of a photoshoot!

The Producer

On some of my larger shoots I’ve learned to appreciate the role of a producer. They are the glue that holds the entire shoot together, acting as the keeper of the job. They bring art buyers, art directors, clients, prop stylists, make-up and wardrobe stylists, set designers, caterers, models and talent, photographers, photo assistants, studio folks, digital techs and vendors together, all the while managing the shoot’s location and shot list. An important position, don’t ya think? For this job I turned to my friend and wonderful producer Ellen Herbert of Neat Productions who helped me pull it off. She is a dream, an angel. Literally.


After an initial casting notice, we narrowed our list down to around 30 to 40 models we’d see at my studio (a huge advantage of living in LA is that there’s SO! MUCH! TALENT!) Casting is a blast, as you get to see the models in person and see how you vibe with each other. Since I was shooting this at my house, it was important that we got along. And get along we did! Such great smiles and talent.
The Stylists

Now that I had my selection of models I wanted to work this, they also needed to be styled. Since I had a very specific idea of how I wanted people to look, Ellen put me in touch with stylist Elwira Miezal. There were emails, phone calls, pre-production sessions and lots of images sent over with ideas of how I wanted the models to look. Of course, when you work with professionals you give them space to do their jobs and perform their magic, and Elwira had everyone looking amazing from head to toe. Plus she’s gorgeous and stylish, which always helps :)  My driveway became the wardrobe closet as tons of beautiful fall items appeared. Oh how I wanted to go shopping so badly!

photo 1

And how to keep the models looking gorgeous and fresh as I MADE them eat pizza and drink wine? With make-up artist Aunny De La Rosa, of course! Can I just tell you how much I love this woman? LOVE.  LOVE.

As the models arrived and got dressed, we started with food beauty shots that would eventually become food props for the models. Of course when it came time for them to eat and drink we gave everyone fresh pizzas, and I managed to sneak in a few bites as well. But it was a race against time, as I only had 2 solid good hours of sunlight to get it all done.

So how about some photos?


Our kitchen became the prep space for the food stylists. There’s really nothing happening in this photo, but I’m running it because a) Alexis looks gorgeous and b) I know it will irritate her to include it. SCORE!



Adam, Food Stylist Extraordinaire, became the impromptu pizzaiolo.  But I must say that ever since we installed a wood-burning pizza oven in the backyard we really are practicing our pizza chops, ya know. And you already know how crazy I am about making pizzas, right? Also, Alexis you better not be Grindring in those photos.



We kept the styling to a minimum. After all, backyard pizza party shouldn’t be overly fussy, right? Here I am contemplating the shot while trying not to fall over.


My assistant Crystal checks out some shots while I try to peak over. Also, when I stand on apple boxes I’m almost as tall as a normal man.


Speaking of tall, here I am on a ladder trying to get an overhead-ish table shot. I’m also apparently really confused about something. I have no idea what it was.


Part of the story I created involved the hosts getting things ready for the partay. Bring on the beautiful people!





I could have photographed her smile for another 8479273898 hours if I had the time.


I just let them do their thang while I moved around photographing them.


Adam made more pizzas…


…while we review the images on the computer in the midst of very dramatic smoke


The lovely stylist between scenes



Oh Lord Jesus It’s A Fire!


Time for another set-up, you can see some of the crew behind the models. For realism I wanted everyone to stay put, after all this was a party! Except for the big computer cart, which has no place at a party.


Even while working 10 feet in the air I still have time to Instagram. I have priorities, damnit.


Quick touch-ups before moving to the next shot.




Speaking of Aunny, what a smile! ALSO:  Stretch-Tite has a way of sneaking itself into photos and you cannot blur it enough! UGH THAT YELLOW!


More models in different areas, and please, avert your eyes from that bit of sneaky flesh I’m showing if you know what’s good for you and your ocular health.


Another shot of food for a close up.


Because I had the models, I also wanted to get quick portraits. I love working with professionals! And there’s that magic smile again!


Many thanks to the crew, and big giant hugs and kisses to Ellen! Please visit their links!

Ellen Herbert of Neat Production

Elwira Meizal, Stylist

Aunny De La Rosa, Make Up Stylist

Adam C. Pearson, Food Stylist

Leslie Armendariz of Pixies Petals for the gorgeous flowers

A special thanks to Niko Misafiris for the behind-the-scenes photography!


  1. says

    WOW! I really enjoyed this post! Seems so much fun! – especially more so with wine and pizzas. Love the “behind the scene” photos and your humor in the writings.

  2. says

    So freakin’ cool!!! Thank you for taking the time to do this post and write about the blow-by-blow of what was happening. Love this behind the scenes stuff! Reminds me of your summertime post about the Hollywood Prop House. That one and this one are among my two faves of yours, Matt!

  3. says

    What a gift you gave us all, Matt! Thank you so much for the opportunity to do good work in a simply wonderful environment with a top notch crew. The images are, of course signature Matt Armendariz Magic!

  4. says

    Wow – it’s incredible to see how much goes into a shoot like this! I mean, I already knew it could be a big production, but it still seems a little mind boggling. I wish I lived in LA so I could be in one of your shoots! Not that you would necessarily pick me, but I would totally make you pick me. 😛

    When will we get to see the finished photos from this pizza party? They look gorgeous from that preview on your computer screen!

  5. Matt says

    Thank you Willow! Are you kidding me? I’d pick you in a second to come over and enjoy it :) I’ll have the final shots up shortly!

  6. says

    I loved seeing all this–so many beautiful peeps in LA!! Now I can’t wait to see the finished shots–what you choose, etc. Thanks for sharing this Matt–it’s very informative, and it looks like you’re having fun, too!

  7. says

    Oh, Matt, I love your posts, but this one resonated. I’m glad we can see what working is like! And WOW her smile IS incredible. I’d love some of Adam’s pizza…

  8. Debra Earnest says

    Thanks for sharing Matt, love to see you and Adam behind the wonderful to have a job you love and to enjoy the people you work with. Just a great post I really enjoyed it.

  9. says

    Thank you Matt
    Always so funny and interesting, also love seeing bits of your outdoor kitchen Can’t wait to see the rest of the photos!

  10. says

    Matt what an awesome post!! It’s so true that it takes a village and this post definitely shows everyone just how a shoot really is, going to forward this to a few people. Can’t wait to see the final images! And your writing is hilarious as always. Now I want pizza!

  11. says

    Wow!!! This was an AMAZING recap. I felt like I was there, going through the make up and the smoke and the pizza eating with you! Thanks for sharing–this is so awesome and inspiring!

  12. Bangkok Jay says

    Great behind the scenes post! Photo gear question: does shooting tethered get in the way of your shooting sometimes? Have you considered any wireless options (suggestions)?

  13. Matt says

    Hi Jay! I’ve tried a wireless feature in the past but it didn’t work as well as I wanted it too, unfortunately! Since I’m a studio shooter mostly, being tethered doesn’t get in the way. And for travel assignments or location work I usually just shoot to card and then download later.

  14. says

    I don’t even know how I found you, but OMG am I happy I did. I LOVE, LOVE and did I mention LOVE this article and I love how you write….. I was cracking up, literally out loud (while I’m at work…shh don’t tell anyone, that I am not really working). Your photography skills are great, and I love how you had an entire production for this shoot. I am trying to learn more about photography, so that I can implement it into my writing/website. I look forward to more of your articles.

    kristin nicole

  15. says

    Beautiful shots Matt!

    Really interesting to see what went into that shoot.

    The models you cast have the most gorgeous smiles. Los Angeles has a “nice-teeth-obsession.” You notice it on the rare occasion that strangers smile at you.

    And your pizza oven area is awesome!

  16. Ally Winn says

    This is fantastic – so jealous of your pizza oven (any chance you’ll share the recipe?!?)!! I found your blog through, and when I clicked on this post….I realized that we used to be next door neighbors on Locust! Love your blog! :)

  17. Matt says

    Hi neighbor!!!! Thank you so much, I’ll be posting some pizza stuff soon. Hope all is well! And thank you, Joy :)


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