From the Design Desk: Q&A with Photographer Leigh Beisch


Today’s post starts a new Design Desk series, where we’ll be checking in with some of our favorite collaborators—photographers, illustrators, stylists, designers—and getting the inside scoop on how they work.

To kick it off, I chatted with Leigh Beisch, a photographer who has contributed gorgeous photographs to our books for years. Some highlights: Perfect Pops; Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey; Ribs, Chops, Steaks & Wings; and Whip Up Mini Quilts. She works out of a Victorian studio in San Francisco’s Sunset district with her team and a highly photographic pug named Bella.

You’ve photographed many Chronicle books. What has been your favorite project and why?
Gosh, that is a hard one. I have really enjoyed shooting all the books for Chronicle. My favorite book would have to be Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey because we really got to have fun with the props and playfulness of it all. It has been fun to see the great response to that book too—people have contacted us because they just love that book—we even had a baker contact us because they wanted to paint their new bakery one of the colors used in the book! It is easy to take photos when you are inspired by your subject.

Color plays a big role in your work—what inspires your palettes?
Color is a very important part of picture making because of the inherent emotional impact of it. I am usually inspired by a few things—current color trends, the color of the subject and how I think another color (or lack of it) would enhance the subject or concept (i.e., icy, warm, playful, sophisticated…).

What low-tech tool could you not live without?
A great crew/team. Great food styling, great props, great assistants—and a great client who understands how to be part of a creative team—all very critical in my opinion.

Was there a moment that made you want to be a photographer?
Not really a moment. I grew up with a father who as an art director had worked with some of the most amazing photographers of our time—Irving Penn, Joel Meyerwitz, Bruce Davidson—he even had conversations with Diane Arbus about a commercial shoot. Being around my father’s passion for great photography and my natural propensity for art led me down the path to photography.

What music best sets the mood for a photo shoot?
We tend to like Pandora and we shake it up a lot. My crew says I play the “Band of Horses” station on Pandora a lot but I also like putting on the “Beck” station because it ends up being fairly diverse. It really depends on the client, what we are shooting and how much energy we want to pump into the room. Sluggish afternoons sometimes warrant some coffee and some funk—maybe even 80’s rock.

Thanks, Leigh! To see more of Leigh’s work, visit her website and blog.

Allison Weiner

Allison Weiner

Allison Weiner

Senior Designer at Chronicle Books and weekend crafter.
Allison Weiner

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  • Travis August 1, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Love Your work Leigh!


  • Carol Alm August 1, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I value the comments you made about your work, Leigh, and the influence of your Dad, Chuck. Also interesting – your mention of the music you and your staff use. Kudos!


  • Susan August 2, 2011 at 4:44 am

    Fantastic! Keep up the great work! : D


  • Laura August 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Great interview- love the post and samples of Leigh's work.


  • mary nelson August 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Leigh, I can't believe how much success/fame you have achieved at such a young age! The list of your clients – 57 (I counted them) are almost all Fortune 500 companies. What the creative director of McDonalds said about you "OMG – the most beautiful food Mcd has ever seen!" says it all. Your photographs are so beautiful – even the milk bottle made me thirsty for milk.


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