Lucy Schaeffer: Endless Summer Cookbook

Apr 28, 2015
Photographer Spotlight

Shooting delectable food is nothing new for Brooklyn-based photographer Lucy Schaeffer. In fact, she's photographed about 50 cookbooks at this point in her career—from a book about wedding cake design to a cookbook filled with recipes involving bacon. Her latest work appears in celebrity food critic/cook Katie Lee's, "The Endless Summer Cookbook," which hit the shelves earlier this month. I caught up with Lucy to chat about making the book and working with Katie Lee. Read more below!

How did you get involved with this project?

I've shot close to 50 cookbooks and Katie Lee's Endless Summer is one of my all-time favorites! From the start, the scope 100 percent fit right into my photographic style: loose, fun and colorful with lots of natural light and casual moments. It was also a mix of food and location shooting, and those are always my favorite stories to work on. Katie Lee was a dream to work with. She was down-to-earth, fun, beautiful and at ease in front of the camera. She cared about the shots just as much as I did and worked hard to get them. The stylists were also a dream team: Leslie Siegel, Nidia Cueva, Paul Lowe (Sweet Paul) and Mariana Velasquez. I was hired by Holly Dolce, a fabulous editor at Abrams Books who I have done other projects with in the past. I'm so glad she thought this one would be a good fit for me!

Were there any challenges involved with this project? If so, how did you overcome them? 

There were actually some unusual challenges! Freelance photographers and stylists often joke about how we are not allowed to get sick, as there are no sick days in our business. For some reason bad things happened to everyone on this—on our first studio day we lost our prop stylist to a family emergency and had a last minute substitution (who did a fantastic job), and on our third studio day we lost our food stylist to an equally unforeseen emergency and had to get a new one on-board for the last two days (who also stepped right up seamlessly). The worst challenge was yet to come and I was almost taken out as well. On the Sunday before our last location day I suffered a serious injury playing street hockey. Determined to finish the job I hobbled through the last day in the Hamptons on one foot with a cane and my awesome assistant, Biz Jones, carrying everything. I found out when I went to the doctor the next day I had actually snapped my Achilles Tendon and had to go right into surgery. It was two months before I could return to shooting/walking again! I probably wouldn't have done the shoot had I known it was so serious but I'm glad I did!

What was involved in planning/preproduction? 

The scheduling of this book was a bit unusual as we actually shot it over the course of a year. We wanted to be sure to catch the beautiful beach summer weather so did a long location day in the Hamptons before the recipes were ready. Then the following spring we did the studio food shots as well as one more location day at Katie's home in the Hamptons. For cookbooks there isn't the luxury of a producer so I do most of the preproduction work myself. I was a photo editor for years so enjoy that side of the business as well. The most important things are getting the right stylists on-board and managing a limited editorial budget.

Did you learn anything through the creation of the book? 

I learned that you can take day-old donuts, press them in a panini press and drizzle Nutella on it and be in HEAVEN. She's brilliant, right? I also learned that farm stands in the Hamptons save their freshly laid eggs for the locals... you have to be in the know to get those!

The book has been a hit so far, and currently sits as the #1 Bestseller in the U.S. Regional Middle Atlantic Cooking category on amazon.com.

To see more of Lucy's work, visit lucyschaeffer.com.

Tags: brooklyn photographer cookbook endless summer cookbook food photography katie lee lucy schaeffer