Behind the Scenes of a Personal Food Photography Shoot

Pie Intro

It was a pie safe that we purchased years ago. Rustic, beat up, full of character. I could never walk by it without thinking of what it would look like filled with pies. Over the years it’s housed prop glasses, plates, beautiful ceramics, but never pies.

Eight years later I decided to do something about that.

Whenever I have some free time I love to schedule personal shoots. I get to work with friends and lovely models, create a story of my own, and shoot it the way I see fit. One doesn’t always get that luxury when working for clients as there are a variety of requirements to meet. Not that I object! It’s just nice to do something for yourself now and then, right?

The idea for this story involved a couple making pies one late afternoon. I called my dear friend Ellen at Neat Productions to handle the casting, and before long we were looking at a dozen models. I must admit I really love this part!


“Hold this. Turn this way. Use the rolling pin. Got it.”



With the casting underway, I turned to my folder of sketches and drawings I stored just in case I ever got around to shooting this story. Swatches, colors, fabrics, and inspirational images go into it, and I soon started the task of turning ideas into actions. One thing I knew I wanted to use was an old stove. Luckily there’s a shop with a wonderful collection of vintage stoves right around the corner from our studio, so after asking if I could rent one I found a mover to drop it by. Those suckers are heavy!


Once it was delivered, it met the pie safe and a lovely old farm table. I think they all got along perfectly and all I needed to do was build a shelf over the stove and start dressing the set. I pulled from our prop collection and went to town. So much fun!


The lighting for this story would be a balance of very bright directional light and dark, contrasty shadows. I wanted to feel like you were in a kitchen one late afternoon when the sun has just peaked and is on its way down, high up in the sky. Not flooded with light, but still keeping the intensity. This was done by blocking quite a bit for shadows (all the black foamcore) and keeping the light high. The two wall flats were also painted a very dark shade of brown, a departure from the dark greys I prefer. It helped to cut down reflection and light. Shadows can be your best friends.



The set was extremely minimal and only took 45 minutes to put together.




I didn’t need a wardrobe stylist for this shoot, I wanted the models in their own clothes to keep it casual. However, I did have to hunt down aprons, and eventually decided on a beautiful blue apron from Madison And Muse for her as well as a few others for him.


Shot over 2 days, we started with the skeleton crew for the food. Pies were baked (thanks, Adam!) while I photographed ingredients and process shots. Unfortunately they weren’t baked in the vintage stove, which is probably a good thing now that I think about it.



On day 2 our models and crew arrived in the afternoon. Thanks to old Xscape, 702, Inoj, Blackstreet, Brownstone and Zhane for keeping the mood just right. After a quick visit to the hair and makeup department (a/k/a Candy Corner), the models were ready to hit the set and start making pies.



Cal crimps and primps! Also, a few touch ups between takes with the amazing Aunny De La Rosa!



After a few process shots it came time for the best part of the day: TO EAT PIES. Like everything we shoot, it’s completely edible and considering Adam made these pies, well, enough said. They are legendary.

I wanted to get some action shots with hands so I crawled up a ladder and made the models eat VERY slowly. Awkward yes, but it made for a great shot!


Photographing the models went very quickly (they are professionals after all) so once we were done it came time for the editing process. I use Capture One to shoot tethered and to process my images, but I usually wait until I’m back at my home office with my calibrated monitors before working on edits or colors.  Most things can be done with Capture One so it was easy to finalize the shoot. If I have to use photoshop it’s for things like cloning or removing items within the frame (like a seam)



With the shoot done, I can now add it to my portfolio and use it in promotional materials. Now let’s eat pie! Come back tomorrow where I’ll share the final images with ya! Thank you so much for reading!

Thanks to Adam for humoring me and making beautiful pies! To Ellen, Aunny, Byron, Aubrey and Calvin… a million thanks!



  1. Debbi_s says

    Love the ‘behind the scenes’! In one picture i think i see the pie out if its container and sitting on a large plate. Any secrets on how to remove a pie from pie plate without it breaking? alos, i managed to pick up a Py O My baking sheet! I love my new prop!

  2. Matt says

    Hi Debbi!Congrats on the new prop, yay! Oh, and putting a pie in the freezer for just a few will chill it enough to make handling and removal a bit easier. It’s still tricky, but cooler always helps keep it together. Let me know how it works!

  3. says

    Have been eying your pie photos on instagram and now i can’t to see the results after this sneak peak. You are awesome Matt! Next year in Dubai and I will hunt you down

  4. says

    Wow Matt,
    Great tip on the pie removal. Never thought of that one. I am going to try the photo editing software you suggest. The pictures from this shoot are just perfect. I want to make a pie today….maybe some Colorado peaches!

  5. says

    Matt, I have learned so much from you over the years since I found your blog. Thank you for sharing your thought process and these behind-the-scene moments. I can’t wait to see the final shots.

  6. says

    So beautiful! I love that vintage stove — such a nice touch. These behind-the-scenes posts are my absolute favorite, because I get to see all the love that goes into one of these shoots. I only wish I were one of those models and got to eat pie! Really, if I were modeling for you, you could just pay me in pie. That’d work.

  7. says

    This was so fun to read! Thanks for sharing. I love seeing behind the scenes and your final photos are simply stunning. After seeing these photos, I think I know what I’ll be doing this weekend – making pie. :)

  8. says

    Thank you for sharing your insight, Matt! I’m starting to take food photography more seriously and this post has taught me a few tips already.

  9. says

    So amazing how you do your job. It inspires me to work harder and better. My blog is only one year old and my pictures are aweful but learning from good photographer like you and you showing the process inspires me to keep on going. I love your work so much!!!! Last question: Did you take photos as good as this when your blog was one year old?

  10. says

    A great look behind the scenes of a professional food blogger. Although I already find it time-consuming to make pictures for my amateur food blog with planning the perfect time to shoot (no artificial light available), decorating everything and finding the right perspective. Regardless, the professionalism behind your shoot with the decoration, modelling and actual picture taking is astonishing. The outcomes definitely speak for themselves: Perfection!



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