Washington, DC-based food photographer Laura Chase de Formigny recently took on the challenge of producing, directing, and photographing a recipe-driven lifestyle shoot inspired by the arrival of her newborn daughter, Frances Clémentine. The bright, summery images were used to create a promotional mailer that brings to life Laura Chase’s fresh photography style and showcases her creative abilities to prospective clients in an exciting physical package.
The idea for the promo came from my daughter. When I went back to work in January 2021 I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate her arrival — and to show the world that yes, I had a baby, but I’m VERY MUCH still working!
The package she assembled included a custom-designed box with printed postcards, a branded tumbler, a recipe card, and some of the ingredients needed to make a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail appropriately named “Clementine Skies.” Laura Chase saw the mailer as an opportunity to not only showcase her photography work to new clients but to also create a treatment that would resonate with cookbook authors and publishing houses.
One of my goals is to do more cookbooks. I felt like my portfolio was missing the lifestyle side of food work so I wanted to show that I can do the lifestyle side of cookbooks, in addition to just food and beverage.
For the project, she assembled an all-star crew of professionals in the food and drink space including prop stylist Giulietta Pinna of Limonata Creative and food stylist Nichole Bryant. She also partnered with James Beard Award-winning writer Carrie Allan to develop a special non-alcoholic recipe for the project that would tie everything together.
She writes the “Spirits” column for the Washington Post food section, which I frequently photograph, so it was a no-brainer to reach out to her to bring her talents and prestige to the project.
Laura Chase gave Carrie some general guidelines to get started on the recipe: 1. It should be a non-alcoholic beverage that played off her brand colors (pink or orange) and 2. It needed to include clementine as a key ingredient. The rest was up to her, and Laura Chase encouraged her to get creative with the development and naming of the recipe. The clear creative vision for the project ensured that the resulting recipe, styling, and branding all worked together in a cohesive way to communicate Laura Chase’s personality.
As someone who rarely drinks alcohol, and to be inclusive, I opted for a non-alcoholic beverage. Since the inspiration for the project came from my child, I wanted to create a drink that could be kid-friendly, but that an adult could add a little splash of something to if they wanted.
Prop stylist Giulietta Pinna of Limonata Creative served as the art director on the project and helped Laura Chase hone in on the shot list. She also provided Laura Chase with free reign to her beautiful kitchen as a backdrop for the shoot.
We’ve had a successful partnership for about 3 years now, and I knew she would be able to take my creative direction and develop a cohesive mood and color palette through props and backgrounds, which are her specialty.
This self-produced shoot was Laura Chase’s largest shoot to date and she handled all of the logistics herself. This included scouting locations, casting, and hiring a make-up artist, wardrobe stylist, and photo assistant all on her own.
Needless to say, I definitely see the benefit of hiring a producer for large projects! However, I’m glad to have gone through this process on my own, not just for the production experience, but also to feel a better sense of preparedness for very large commercial shoots.
I’ve been a professional photographer for 12 years but I still get butterflies going into a big shoot. The minute I step foot on set, I go into “work mode” and the confidence that comes from years of experience just kicks in. Knowing you’ve hired the right crew for the job and that everyone has the same goal for the day is such an exciting feeling.
While the production was time-consuming, Laura Chase’s biggest creative challenge was deciding on how she would approach the lighting. Since it was a personal project, she had the flexibility to experiment but it was important to her that the images visually reflected her brand voice and aligned with her vision for the project.
Some of my clients prefer hard light. Other’s prefer soft, natural-looking light. It’s taken me a long time to define the lighting style I want to achieve when left on my own.
After looking through countless sources and cookbooks for inspiration, Laura Chase was able to find a common thread in the images that best spoke to her and landed on a direction for the shoot. The lighting in all of the images she chose was what she describes as “punchy”.
To me, punchy photos have crisp shadows, vibrant colors, and plenty of fill. The light is contrasty, but not necessarily high key. It also means that every little detail matters because sometimes it’s the littlest thing that makes a photo pop.
Laura Chase and the crew’s attention to detail can be seen throughout all of the final images. From their choice in surfaces, props, and clothing, down to the matching pink lipstick and orange nail polish worn by the model — every aspect was intentional and meticulously considered.
We even purchased an actual clementine tree to have on set! Nichole Bryant used the leaves and stems from the clementine tree and glued them onto store-bought clementines to create a “freshly picked off the tree” feel to the fruit we used on set.
After the shoot, Laura Chase shared the images with her rep, Stacy Swiderski of Philly Reps, so she could pull selects and edit the final images. Three of these images were later handed off to graphic designer Nicole Yang to make into postcards for the mailer.
Stacy put together an edit that made me feel more proud of myself than I’ve ever felt in my work. My heart filled with a wave of pride. After months of planning, organizing, and envisioning I could finally look at the final product and think, “Yes. I did it!”
Nicole designed the custom mailer box as well as the three postcards that were contained within. Each printed postcard had a photo, a unique piece of copy, and a purpose. One served to share the recipe for Clementine Skies, the second contained the crew’s credits and the third had a QR code linking to a page with additional images and a behind-the-scenes video.
Nicole and I had worked together in the past when she created the logo and brand identity for Laura Chase de Formigny Photography. I remember during that process, we used the word “aspirational” a lot. Coming back to her with this work made me feel like I’d finally created something that lived up to the awesome branding she’d created for me!
In a world where most people are glued to their digital devices, receiving a captivating physical mailer like this is a treat that leaves a lasting impression and sets photographers like Laura Chase apart. The simple bold design and brightly colored hues of the exterior package create anticipation while the striking images and the ingredients contained within encourage participation by providing everything to make the recipe at home.
Photographer, Director, Creative Director: Laura Chase de Formigny
First Assistant: Matthew Dandy
First Camera Assistant: Alex Papalitskas
Prop Stylist and Art Director: Giulietta Pinna, Limonata Creative
Food Stylist: Nichole Bryantt
Videographer: Jimell Greene
Hair and Makeup: Kim Reyes
Wardrobe Stylist: Alyssa Sadler
Model: Veronica Mitchell
Recipe Development: Carrie Allan