Jan 09, 2013 • By

Photo books beyond the norm

Sometimes all we need is a nudge to get us outside our comfort zones. And once we’re there, we’re rewarded.

Staff members in the General Mills Photography Studios know what I mean. For the past two years, they’ve been assigned to create photo books, and the results have been astounding.

Nanci Dixon, photography and food stylist manger at General Mills, was seeking a “stretch” objective that would push the team beyond its normal, day-to-day work.

“[I was] looking for something kind of out of the ordinary that would be creative, that people did not have to do what they do all the time,” Nanci explains. “So how do you stretch out of what you always do, which is doing something to please the client, and give people the ability to reach out past shooting food photography, or styling food photography, or managing files and really have another opportunity?”

Patty Gabbert, a food styling assistant who helps prepare food for photo shoots, put together a book of family recipes for her granddaughter.

She says the assignment definitely challenged her.

“I never take pictures, so this really took me out of my comfort zone,” admits Patty. “One of the staff photographers showed me how to use the camera and take nice pictures. I have progressed, and I am now taking pictures with my iPad!”

The photo books can be on any subject. One was done using pictures only taken with an iPhone. Another one focuses on night photography. Others capture travels to faraway places.

Photographer Andy Swarbrick worked on a book all about salt. For him, designing the book was the tricky part.

“Actually putting the book together with where I wanted each photo and the type that went with each image and even choosing the font I wanted for the type – all of that was new for me.”

In addition to being a stretch objective, the assignment is a chance to compare price, quality and ease of use among various publishing companies. Employees can choose any publisher they want and can spend up to $100. Shutterfly, Smile! and Blurb are just some of the companies that have been used.

Carol Grones is a food stylist whose role is to make food beautiful under camera. She created a book of images from her backyard – her sanctuary. The photo book experience helped her see things in an entirely new way.

“Photography is full of nuances. So many subtle factors can change a photograph, but really most of all, I love the fact that photography makes me look at the world in a different way. I tend to notice things that I may not have seen otherwise,” says Carol.

Eventually, the photo books go on display in the Photography Studios. There’s the potential for commercial publication, too.

“They’re absolutely stellar,” says Nanci. “I think every single one of our people have created incredible books.”