Behind the Book Cover: Welcoming Readers to the Table

April 4, 2024Food Photography

It’s no secret that a lot rides on a book cover. When it comes to food photography, that image is the first opportunity to whet the reader’s appetite for what’s inside.

"Nourished" book cover

We really do judge a book by its cover.

That’s because a book cover does so much heavy lifting. It has to catch potential readers’ eyes in a bookstore or (more likely) online, conveying the book’s spirit at a glance. It has less than a second to entice you to look closer.

How to Pick a Winning Cover Recipe >>

A Book Cover for Food and Faith

My client Lia Huber knew cover photography and design would be crucial when her book, Nourished: A Memoir of Food, Faith & Enduring Love, was released.

The book’s cover had to telegraph how Lia’s passion for food was intertwined with her personal journey. Travel was another central theme in the book, as Lia’s globetrotting adventures influenced her cooking and ultimately led her and her husband to adopt their daughter from Guatemala.

Her publisher tested several covers for Nourished. One highlighted the book’s travel theme, while the others focused on the food.

“I wanted to ‘set the table’ with foods I’d truly serve.”

The winner was a white wooden tabletop ringed with fresh fruit and cheeses with hands reaching into the frame. “The tablescape concept of the cover tested really, really well,” Lia recalls. “We had over 2,000 people respond in just over two days!”

It was an inviting concept, but she craved food that was a better reflection of her seasonal approach to cooking. “I wanted to ‘set the table’ with foods I’d truly serve.”

Capturing the Book Cover

Luckily, we were already scheduled to photograph dishes for the book’s accompanying recipe e-booklet as a marketing incentive to drive advance sales. Lia’s publisher agreed to let us add the cover to our shot list.

It was perfect timing, because we’d have a boatload of gorgeous summer produce on hand for the recipes.

The food selection for the cover came together naturally: glorious, colorful heirloom tomatoes, herbs and lemons from Lia’s garden, and fresh-baked bread from a local bakery.

To anchor all of that and make it feel like a summer meal, I suggested adding her Zucchini Frittata sneaking into the frame. (I have this recipe on repeat all summer long.)

The Mediterranean-leaning vibe echoed Lia’s connection to Corfu, where she lived for a time. The props are her own dishes, there’s a blue Greek napkin stretching across the lower lefthand corner and flakey sea salt in a little Israeli pinch bowl.

The result was light, bright, and seasonally cohesive–literally a repast Lia would serve for an impromptu gathering. It’s a pretty book cover, if I do say so myself, and one that reflects her story.

Even better, it was such a great meal that we ate it for lunch (after the publisher approved the shot, of course).

A Hatch Chile Makes Great Content Strategy >>


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