November 6, 2011 | by Lisa Mattson

In 2011, we hired legendary food photographer Matt Armendariz to capture gorgeous food, wine and hospitality photographs for the 2011 edition of our annual magazine. We loved working with him and were so impressed with his photography skills (as expected) that we have hired him back to help us develop the stories for the magazine every year since then.

Matt published a blog post with his warm and witty account of our two-day photo shoot together in October 2011. We also created the above video, which takes you behind the scenes to see Matt in action photographing the vineyards at sunrise, corralling the cows after two attempts and styling sets for four food scenes. You’ll also get a glimpse at some of his final photographs, which accompany stories that will appear in the magazine, including the art of dehydration in the kitchen, our philosophy of blending terroirs from different vineyard sites, the Jordan cattle project, our gourmet picnic and harvest luncheons (available to Jordan Estate Rewards members) and more.

We learn so much from Matt’s techniques–and get a real boost from his bottomless supply of optimism and energy. Whether it’s freezing cold outside or the models (in this case our new herd of cows) aren’t cooperating, nothing can hamper Matt’s cheery mood or awe-inspiring creativity.

A few food photography tips and take-aways we learned from Matt’s visit:

  • Shooting video is a lot easier than shooting photographs. (We already knew this, but the reminder is always humbling.)
  • Back-lighting food shots with natural light is ideal. Watch Matt’s location in our hallway, how the French doors are open and where he places the food.
  • It’s always good to have a piece of white foam core boards or scrims on hand during a food photo shoot. The foam core we’d purchased in anticipation of the shoot was used throughout our photo sessions for Executive Chef Todd Knoll’s dehydrated fruits and vegetables, as well as his favorite exotic spices.
  • Matt says never leave home without a X-Rite Color Checker Passport. One of my 2012 resolutions will be learning more about color accuracy and white balance in photography, and the tools available to photographers to master the two, which are necessary to continue elevating our in-house photography for Chef Knoll’s seasonal recipes.
  • Canon 50mm or 100mm lens are great for shooting food photography. We originally purchased a Canon 85mm fixed lens; now I’m thinking a 100mm macro would have been a better choice.
  • Canon 5D Mark II users (like us) — Yes, the mantra is to always shoot in manual mode, but there’s nothing wrong with using auto mode when composing a shot to see what aperture, shutter speed and ISO the camera thinks it should be using. After seeing Matt check shots in auto before switching to manual, I used this technique for most of our harvest videos this year. And I realized it’s actually more effective for us to shoot harvest videos in auto mode. Last year, I spent way too much time readjusting my settings between shots while shooting night harvest or sunrise harvesting when the light (either from head lamps or the sun) is changing constantly. Tons of great moments weren’t captured in 2010 while I was tinkering with camera settings. This year, we believe we captured better harvest footage in auto mode.

Time Lapse Video of Photo Shoot Images (watch us trying to escape the direct sun):

Behind the Scenes Photo Shoot Images Slideshow:

Matt Armendariz Photo Shoot (Behind the Scenes)