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Baking Basics Production Phase 5

Feb 22, 2017 | From the kitchen of Rose

Phase 5: Selecting the Step-by-Step Photos


It has been a long time dream to do a step-by-step baking book. Videos are great to see the action and the actual motion before embarking on a recipe but, while making the recipe, it is much more useful to have a page of photos in front of you for quick reference. Of course doing the steps presents a huge challenge of coordination both for the prep people (us), the person who does the steps having to stay motionless for hours at a time and yet have the final baked good come out perfectly (me), and for the photographer (Matthew) who humbly claimed he was only pushing the button, but this was far from the truth. Controlling the angle. the lighting, the depth of field, and many other aspects, requires a master.

For my previous books, some of the recipes, which were photographed, could be made ahead and others, at the studio, but scheduling the photograph of the finished cake, pie, cookies, or bread was straightforward.

During the step-by-step photography days, Matthew took thousands of photos. At the end of each day, he copied them onto a hard drive and later put folders of his best selections onto Dropbox as jpegs (smaller files). Each recipe had a select folder from which we were to choose what we felt reflected the process the best.

When reviewing the photos I was thrilled that Matthew's work portrayed exactly what I wanted to express, proving the concept that a photo can be worth a thousand words. On the last day of our photo sessions, Matthew handed me the hard drive with all the folders. This way we could search for any steps that we felt needed to be added that were not in his final selections.

The original plan was to have about 500 step-by-step photos. Matthew's photos numbered around 15,000, as he made a point to click off shots continuously. He also took many individual shots with different camera settings or positions.


One of eight pages of notes on the photo numbers and names of recipes we were selecting.

We approached our task with the following plan: I set up my computer to view a given recipe's folder of photographs from which Woody and I would choose and then make lists of our selected finals. Many of these were already touched up or modified by Matthew. Woody then went through a copy of the manuscript and matched up photos with the steps that we had originally underlined on the manuscript. Photos that corresponded to additional steps in the manuscript, which we had not underlined, were then noted.


If Matthew's selected photos for a recipe missed a step, Woody would then go into the cache of captures (all of the shots taken.) Any shots that applied to the step were then put up on his screen for us to choose. He then included the photo numbers on the manuscript as well as entering them in a massive spreadsheet for the entire book.


At the same time, I created and organized three folders on Dropbox for Matthew and Stephanie to view our final choices, alternative choices, and rejects. I also made a word document listing all the names and numbers of the photos.

Ten days over Christmas and New Years of choosing, sorting, writing, debating, and loving Matthew's work had our step photos count escalating to over 900. We sadly realized that in order to have the photos large enough and the book not overly large we would need pare them down. It took us two more days to manage to eliminate 200. Matthew kindly gave us permission to use any of the eliminated photos we think would be useful extras, as 'outbakes' on the blog, after the book is published.

The photo selection process gave us a golden opportunity to revisit how the recipes were written and to ensure that the text and what will become captions for the photos will be complete and consistent.

We are now eagerly looking forward to a phone meeting with our editor and photographer to discuss just how many step-by-step photos would be desirable and which recipes should be included for the beauty shots in April.


Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Jenny
03/21/2017 10:51 AM

thank you all for your delightful comments. Jenny, i know that in Asia the taste for sugar is much lower and i'm so pleased to hear that the recipes still worked to your satisfaction! i'm wondering what country you are in. did you know that there is a chinese edition of the cake bible and also the bread bible? i can tell that they did an excellent job based on the many detailed questions they asked during the translation. (it is a scientific publishing company so kindred spirits!)


I am glad I bought your book - heavenly cakes and am nearly halfway through trying out the recipes. Each and every one of them turned out to be a success! I do cut back the sugar quite substantially and it still did not disappoint. Friends have tried cakes using your recipes and now I am selling the goodies. I was recently commissioned to bake for a party of 100 and guests included royalty. They loved your cake too. Thank you Rose, for a great cookbook!


Tony Bridges
Tony Bridges
02/22/2017 10:13 PM

Rose, I am so excited to hear of these wonderful developments in your step-by-step baking book concept. Thank you for sharing this.


Wow! That sounds amazing. Good luck with it all! I would add a section on simple syrup :)



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