Behind the Scenes on 'The Spark Solution' Recipe Photo Shoot

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of my favorite parts about writing a book for SparkPeople is the recipe photo shoots. Those days start early and end late, with nary a moment to rest, but it's some of the best fun I've ever had while "working."

Today I want to take you behind the scenes of the photo session we did for The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health.  (Available for pre-order now!)

Talking to the team before the day got started. It was already hot under the lights!

The book contains 70 recipes, all created by Chef Meg, plus additional tips and swaps to vary those recipes based on what's in season and your personal preferences. And all the photos are in full color! The inspiration for the recipes, which we call "Spark Swaps" is the standard American diet--and all the comfort foods we love to eat. Ours are lower in calories and fat, and quite low in sugar and sodium. All of the meals were designed to fit into a 1,500-calorie meal plan, with no more than 2,300 mg sodium a day.

A delicious quesadilla in the making, with a delicious pesto in the background. We measured all the ingredients that went into every recipe to make sure they were true to the serving size.

Peek behind the scenes of the recipe photo shoot!

We worked with an amazingly talented photographer, Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen, who not only is an expert behind the camera but also has years of experience in restaurant kitchens. Rather than hiring a food stylist, Chef Meg did the work herself, with the help of two of her culinary students as assistants, Peggy Beebe and Peggy Neal. Peggy Neal tested every recipe in both our cookbook and The Spark Solution, and Peggy Beebe has helped us with shoots in the past. Becky Hand, the book's co-author and SparkPeople's head dietitian, came to the set to help out for a couple of days, and she ended up being recruited to "model" the Lean Philly Cheesesteak. (That's her arm below!)

I oversaw the shoot, doing everything from fetching coffee and lunch, to coordinating with our editor on the West Coast, to helping pick out props--and being a hand model for the Inside-Out Burgers and the serving size photos you'll see in the book.

The finished product... that's only about 4 ounces of meat. There are some secret ingredients stuffed inside! I was laughing at the pressure of hand modeling a hamburger.

The set, which might be familiar to SparkCoach subscribers, is a gorgeous urban loft owned by a Cincinnati food blogger we know, Julie Niesen Gosdin of Wine Me, Dine Me in Cincinnati, and her husband, Terry. We had used their loft as the set for SparkCoach videos, and we thought the bright, open vibe would be a great fit for the book.
Becky, Peggy N., Meg and me prep a recipe

We shot almost 25 recipes in three days, with very few disasters in the kitchen. We burned some breadcrumbs, rescued a bee who got too close to a sweet sauce, and dirtied quite a few dishes, but everything went off without a hitch. Did I mention it was over 85 degrees in September when we shot these photos?
Hand modeling is harder than it looks! You have to hold perfectly still and contort your hand just so...
The Peggys, our talented sous chefs and food stylists. (Peggy Neal on the left is now working as a food stylist in Cincinnati!) They're both real pros and great workers. They never get flustered!

One of our favorite lunch recipes from the book--a tasty twist on tuna salad. That's my hand again.

We're sharing five recipes today, and the other 65 are available in The Spark Solution, available May 7 wherever books are sold. If you pre-order now, you can take advantage of SparkPeople's thank you offer: $45 in free gifts!

Huevos Rancheros

Lean Philly Cheesesteak

Meg's Pan-Fried Chicken with Hot & Sweet Rainbow Slaw

Strawberry Crunch Sundae
Are you excited for the release of The Spark Solution on May 7? Have you pre-ordered your copy? Will you? Which of these recipes look the most appealing to you?

All photos by Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen