Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Danie Nel INSIDE: Jenny Morris -Taste The World Shoot

Jenny Morris Taste the World Cover lr

Taste the World with Jenny Morris

Jenny Morris, the Giggling Gourmet, has launched another beautiful book. I was privileged again to be able to be a part of this amazing project.

Jenny’s previous book, “Cooking with Jenny Morris” was a blast of colours, tastes and fun.This time around, Jenny took her inspiration from her travels, and brought them to the kitchen, where myself and Caro Gardner, the stylist, were charged with making everyone see how awesome these dishes are.

First off: the cover shot. I’m not going to discuss that here, but you can read the blog post relating to that shoot (it was done prior the commencement of the food photography for this book). Herewith a video to refresh you memory, or show you how that went down.

Shooting the cover for “Jenny Morris–Taste the World”


As I’ve mentioned before, Caro Gardner took care of the styling on this particular job. For those who think styling food on a project such as this is just pushing leaves around and playing with tweezers, you’re in for a surprise. It’s hard physical labour, especially if you see how many props she had to carry into the studio!

Apart from having to make the food look good, the stylist (and her assistant, also called Caro!), cooks most of the food, sources the ingredients and props, returns it, plans and conceptualises shots and generally perform the duties of a producer. As a  photographer my job is to get what they do on the table to look phenomenal in the final image.


As you can see, Jenny realises the effort the stylist puts in!

I’m not going to bore you with all sorts of technical information on shooting the food. Rather, I’ll just show some pics, and a little home-movie style video I took with my phone during the 5 days of shooting the book.

Behind the scenes shooing Jenny Morris’s book: Taste the World


On food shoots, I don’t travel light either. Normally I have 4 lights on hand, a bunch of reflectors, tethered laptop etc etc.


…and yes, as always, we ate the food.


This is part of the team:

Caro (Caro Gardner’s assistant), Caro Gardner (stylist), Abdul (Giggling Gourmet Chef’s Playground Executive Chef), Jenny Morris and myself.

Do not be mistaken into thinking that these 5 people made the book happen by ourselves. They were just there on the day of the pic. I also worked with Ceri Prenter (publisher), Michelle Marlin (editor), Marius Roux (design/art direction) and Jenny’s wonderful team at the GGCP.

Now, go and buy the book.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shooting the G.


Recently a client made an interesting observation. She mentioned that I tend to blog only the “exciting” jobs that I do, but not the stuff that pays the bills. Those are the things she’s bound to commission me with, and thus, I should please blog those too.

First off, I was glad to hear that, because I find pretty much every shoot exciting in some way. I was just always under the impression that people wouldn’t necessarily care about these jobs. Anyways, so I’ll start blogging these too.

I do a fair amount of work in the wine industry, and pack shots and product photography is a good part of my business. Can I put a common misconception to bed, before I continue:

Shooting excellent pack-shots is not easy. You might see a Youtube video on how to shoot a product shot with just a desk-lamp and piece of tissue paper, and yes you can, but it will be functional, not excellent. Let me be clear. What’s even more difficult with wine bottles is obviously the glass-reflection factor, but also, that believe it or not, there are trends in what reflections is en vogue on wine bottles, what protocols your client has and also what people like. This can make for a really tough job sometimes, as some clients couldn’t care less about the reflection on the bottle, as long as the label is bright. Others again, are interested a soft fall-off on the label, with a soft graded highlight on the left of the bottle, and so forth and so on.

Then, do not forget, the aspect of continuity. Next year, the style and look must be exactly the same.

20130214_0120 G group

The G is a high-end, luxury wine, produced in the Helderberg area. The producer had some idea of what the wines needed to be photographed like, and then simply asked me to show that it is high-end, without getting all 1980’s cheesy. Also, these are to be product photos, not styled, in-sitieu lifestyle shots. Images that could work on a website, in print and on mailers.

20130211_0051 Echo of G 2010

The plain white wine bottle pack-shot is what a business card is to the networker. Indispensable. I cannot fathom how wine producers can send images into the media of their wine-bottles, their art, with bad lighting, perspective warped and colour infidelity. Any publication will want one of these pack-shots. And these are probably the most challenging skill I have ever mastered in photography. Strange, but true.


To find out more about 4G wines, see:

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Medi-Clinic Family Magazine Cover



So, a couple of months ago (ok, more like 6 months ago, I’m still lagging on my blogging regime for 2013) I did a shoot with Medi-Clinic’s “Family” magazine, with Wilma van der Bijl, a former Miss South Africa, who survived breast cancer and shared her story here in the magazine.

You can read the article here:


It was an early morning shoot, as these things are, at Camp’s Bay beach. The idea was to get the ocean and the beauty of The Twelve Apostles in the background, with the soft dawn light still around. I got there early and got coffee. That is a must. Then I scouted the beach in near darkness and did some tests. I got my things set up and waited for the lot to arrive. Those quiet moments before a shoot are golden for getting your mind set on the job at hand, and to take in the privilege of doing what I do for a living.

Anyways, not that I have too much to share except that Wilma is a class lady, and an absolute pleasure to work with. Years of experience shows, with the added benefit of being a really cool person.

Working with Sean Robertson, the AD, is always good fun, and we’ve done work together over the years for a number of publications. Good times.


Sean also didn’t mind to stand in as a lighting substitute while Wilma’s hair and make-up got sorted. He also recently got into Weezer. That’s cool too.


Lights up, camera loaded, tests done. Time to shoot.


I am of the opinion that all AD’s should know their way around a reflector. Especially when there is a breeze. It’s just one of those essential skills they shouldn’t be without. Knowing something about design and publishing could be handy, I suppose, but essential?


The first round of outfits got done and from then on it was just change and touch-up…


Alet Viljoen was the make-up artist on the day. She was a pleasure, easy-going and fun. I don’t like hi-intensity, stressed-out scenarios. I’m a Cape Tonian, like, we, like, want to, like, not sweat it. Like. Just do the work and get it done. With smiles and fun.



Some different angles for the inside shots. Also note Sean with the reflector, or in this case diffuser/scrim. I rest my case. Had he not know how to hold it “just so”, the shot would’ve been a disaster.

And afters it was time for the obligatory team shot, and then coffee at a Vida e Caffe across the road, as we’ve had an early morning.


Wow, and I’m totally rocking that pull-over-and-chinos-senior-citizen-vibe.