If you’re a longtime Woks of Life reader, you know that our “headshots” (i.e. the blurry, grainy photos of us lifted from my iPhoto library 6 years ago) have long been due for a refresh.
Chalk it up to my innate inability to take nice-looking photos of us while we’re cooking. I may know how to photograph bowls of noodles or platters of dumplings, but photographing ourselves? Not so much.
Long story short, Sarah comes to your house, you and your family cook a meal together, and she captures the whole thing on her camera in the most relaxed way possible. You choose your favorite family recipes to include, and she puts it all together into an incredible book that’s part cookbook, part family photo album.
I loved the idea immediately and jumped at the opportunity to work with Sarah, not only to create this incredible keepsake for our family, but also to get some high quality photos to replace our dismal, sorry-excuses-for-headshots.
Since we rarely share photos of ourselves, the faces behind The Woks of Life, I wanted to write this post to share the experience with you all, our readers!
Also, with the holidays around the corner, you can get an idea of what the experience was like and decide whether this could be the right gift for a friend or family member. (Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a special Black Friday Deal on gift certificate boxes for a photo session with Sarah!)
Prepping for the Session
It was pretty challenging to choose the 20 recipes to include in the book, considering we have nearly 900 recipes on the blog as of this writing!
That said, we decided to choose some of the recipes we cook most often ourselves at home, including my mom’s braised turnip rice bowls, my sister’s Mapo Tofu, and my personal favorite––my dad’s recipe for Roast Chicken with Sticky Rice.
All we had to do was upload the recipes to a Google Drive folder for Sarah, which admittedly was a piece of cake since all our recipes are already available in printable PDF form!
For the day of the shoot, we chose a mix of recipes we thought would go well together for a single meal. We also chose recipes where it made sense for multiple people to pitch in, like our Simple Wonton Soup. Also on the menu that day? My mom’s braised pork belly, vegetarian Singapore mei fun, and a few other dishes.
The Day of the Shoot
We gathered for the photo shoot at my apartment. When Sarah knocked on the door, we were a tad nervous. We’re used to the chaos of the four of us in the kitchen remaining a private family event!
Sarah quickly put us at ease, however, and the vibe became that of having a friend over for lunch. We all chatted and cooked, talking about our travels, home cooking habits, and family stories, while Sarah unobtrusively snapped photos in the background.
It was honestly a relief to just be able to cook and spend the day with family, rather than having to run around with my own camera in hand, making sure everything was properly documented.
Sarah also helped us take those dreaded headshots, and while we’re all PRETTY awkward in front of a camera (except, perhaps, resident digital-native/selfie expert Kaitlin, who coached us all through it), we got through the process with minimal pain and more than a few laughs.
At the end of it, we all dug into the meal we’d prepared, with Sarah as guest of honor!
Creating the Book
Just a few weeks later, Sarah sent us a gallery of the photos she’d taken so we could pick our favorite 50 to include in the cookbook.
It was a super easy process, as we were able to “star” our favorites within the gallery interface. We could all log in separately and didn’t necessarily have to be in the same room to review everything, so everyone was able to pick their favorites whenever they had time to take a look.
Not long after that, Sarah had a proof of the book for us to review, along with a form to fill out in order to easily customize our font preferences, cover design, book spine design, and binding material/color.
Our final book was shipped to us a few weeks later, in a beautiful box with tons of amazing local products from Sarah’s home base in Portland, OR.
Some of the goodies in there included tea, a scented candle (it smells like a forest and I’m obsessed with it), and a bag of dried porcini mushrooms that I have big plans for!
The quality of the book––the weight and feel of the paper, the quality of the printing, and of course Sarah’s beautiful photography––was really above and beyond. We’ve printed photo books before as gifts, but this one was exceptional!
The book captures the dynamic of our family in the kitchen, and it was a thrill to see some of our most treasured recipes documented on paper. If you have friends or family who love to cook and share food with loved ones, it really is a unique and memorable gift idea that can be enjoyed for many years to come.
I’m happy to report, we also ended up with some pretty amazing professional headshots for the blog!
If you’re interested in booking a family cookbook session with Sarah, or giving one as a gift, check out the special offer below.
Sarah’s offering a special Black Friday Deal on a gift certificate box that you can give to loved ones for the holidays.
If you reserve a gift box today, tomorrow, or Sunday (Nov 29-Dec 1), you’ll receive a box that includes a gift certificate for the Family Cookbook experience we described in this post, a prep guide detailing how the process works, local goodies from the Pacific Northwest, and a free bonus copy of your cookbook when it’s done!
Note, while Sarah is based in Portland, OR, she travels for sessions (we were able to schedule a session in October, when she was in New York!). Check out more examples on Instagram.
Happy Holidays everyone!