Michelle McSwain Photographs Unconventional Wine Pairings for “Big Macs and Burgundy”

Oct 13, 2020
Photographer Spotlight

It all began over a glass of wine. In 2017, Los Angeles-based photographer Michelle McSwain was rekindling a childhood friendship with New York City sommelier Vanessa Price when the two decided to do a casual shoot together revolving around wine. A few years later, when Vanessa produced a coffee table-style book called “Big Macs and Burgundy,” she commissioned Michelle for over 100 images to be included in the book.

Since that very first shoot together, which was purely for fun, we've had two solo gallery exhibitions, sold numerous pieces of our artwork, and been hired by incredible brands like Wine Spectator, Minuty, and Reidel to capture imagery for them.


Michelle McSwain Big Macs and Burgundy Front Cover


The two women worked together seamlessly on their first ever book. Vanessa provided creative direction using her wine knowledge to inform the shots, and Michelle employed her lifestyle photography background to capture and edit the images.

We pulled several images from our archives that we had shot together over the years and included them in the book. However, I also probably shot around 100 or so specifically for the book. It was quite the endeavor!


Michelle McSwain Big Macs and Burgundy Two Wine Glasses Pink


Michelle and Vanessa set aside a week to shoot new imagery for the book around Los Angeles and in the photographer’s home studio. With a tight deadline due to the fixed publication date, the duo had little time to produce a lot of content. In the end, a week was not long enough, and Michelle had to shoot some of the images while receiving creative direction remotely from Vanessa, who was quarantined back in New York City.

It was hard to stay organized because chapters were constantly getting cut or changed so we had several re-shoots which got a little frustrating towards the end, but, overall, it was a smooth process.


Michelle McSwain Big Macs and Burgundy Behind the Scenes Wine Bottles


I don't think it's possible to fully appreciate just how much time, energy, and effort goes into capturing images for a coffee table style book ... or writing a book in general, without fully going through the process yourself.

Each image that Michelle shot required not just the time to set up, shoot, and adjust with creative direction but also up to three rounds of retouching. The majority of the photographer’s time working on the book’s images was spent editing, sizing, extending, converting, and color correcting in post-production.


Michelle McSwain Big Macs and Burgundy Wine Glass Dirt Clover


The only other issue we encountered was that because of COVID-19, the printing house did not do a physical printed proof. This was really tough because I was unable to see how the color and contrast was going to look on each image when printed.


Michelle McSwain Big Macs and Burgundy Wine Bottles in Suitcase


I think if I were to have an opportunity to take on a project like this again, then I'd suggest we save all the photography for after the book has gone through one of the most final rounds to avoid reshoots and big changes ... however, because of deadlines, I know this is not always possible.

Even with the tight deadline and multiple re-shoots, Michelle was able to deliver all of the necessary images in time for the book’s publication. Between the photos in her archives and new shots, more than 100 of Michelle’s images were used in the final version of “Big Macs and Burgundy,” which is available for purchase on October 13, 2020.


Author: Vanessa Price

Check out more of Michelle's work at michellemcswain.com.

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