The Weekly Edit – Who Shot it Better?

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Cooks Illustrated/ Holiday Entertaining

Design Director: Amy Klee
Photo Editor: Steve Klise
Photography: Keller + Keller
Styling: Catrine Kelty


Better Homes & Gardens / Holiday Recipes

Art Director: Gene Rauch
Photographer: Andy Lyons
Food Stylist: Jill Lust


Martha Stewart Living

Creative Director: Matthew Axe
Photo Director: Jennifer Miller
Photographer: Marcus Nilsson


Art Director: David Weaver
Photography Director: Chelesa Pomales
Photographer: Michael Kraus
Food Styling: Penny De Los Santos

Heidi Volpe

There Are 41 Comments On This Article.

  1. I specialize in food images and I prefer the Martha Stewart images. It’s clean, well styled and the overhead perspective is in fashion.

  2. I appreciate the simplicity and cleanliness of the “Holiday Entertaining” photo, but the food choice is unappetizing. Perhaps I am a traditionalist but the meals, other than the roasted turkey, don’t make for intriguing subject matter.

  3. They’re all good given the subject matter. Duck is fatty and should look juicy with a little red in the meat so Saveur’s shiny duck makes sense.

    For me it’s close between the Cook’s and the MS… but I think I’ll give MS a nudge to the front because its clean and tasty looking. The Cook’s reminds me a little too much of a pinterest picture.

    That said, if I were assigned to shoot the crown roast, I would probably do it similar.

  4. As Craig said, Eor, the duck should be pink. It really doesn’t need more time in the oven.

    For me the choice is between Cooks Illustrated and Martha Stewart but I’d give it to the Cooks Illustrated cover. The MS shot lacks appetite appeal for me (perhaps it’s just that it feels a bit more “fake”) and whether overhead perspectives are trendy or not doesn’t affect my view of things (though in this case I think it was a good choice).

    I find the “it’s a bit Pinterest” comment interesting. I’ve heard similar criticisms along the line of “it’s a bit Instagram”. Isn’t it interesting how these popular modes of image presentation are sullying certain styles? Both seek to emulate what was in one circle or another considered good photography (assuming that the Pinterest comment refers to food bloggers attempts at food photography where they emulate magazine food photography) but in doing so they seem to taint the very styles they emulate and aspire to. Where do we go next?

    • It was a joke, dude. I don’t think underdone would get past the army of stylist and editors, ya know?

      • Good to hear. I know the stylists and eds know what they’re doing. There’s not much in concise writing to indicate sarcasm or irony and you’re obviously aware how many people might state that seriously?

  5. bill sitzmann

    MS. If you stripped away all the only image I would continue to visually investigate. Good shape and color balance. I dig it.

  6. Stripped of all the cover blurbs and text, I think the MS shot is the prettiest due to the styling and color treatment. However, as a cover I like the Cooks Illustrated cover the best because they have the least amount of text and give the image lots of breathing room. I’m totally over the crowded covers crammed full of text and buttons.

  7. bill sitzmann

    Let me correct my comments above. It should read:

    MS. If you stripped away all the text, it’s the only image I would continue to visually investigate. Good shape and color balance. I dig it.

  8. I think I agree with both Bill and Terence: the food portion of the Martha Stewart cover is aesthetically the most pleasing. But the overall cover design of Cooks Illustrated (simpler, cleaner, fewer words/blurbs) is the best — in my opinion.

  9. Saverio Truglia

    I noticed the inside image of the Martha Stewart cover showed the turkey less belabored, more natural and juicy and less meticulously styled. I preferred that look. Never the less, I’ll take more crown roast please!!

    • Belaboured is a good way to describe the problem I had with it. I prefer a little looseness to the styling.

  10. Mmmmmmmmm pork products, gotta go with the Cooks cover. I could die happy never seeing another photograph of a traditional holiday meal.

  11. The design in Holiday Entertaining gives the impression that there is something more to Christmas than lots of bits of carcass on a plate…hard to comment as a vegetarian.

  12. “Perfect” is so over-rated. Busy, loud, bold san-serif typography on 3 of the 4 covers that exploit the traditional holiday meal. They all look the same. Boring. Too many things compete for your attention.

    Much quieter and more appealing is the naturally lit, non-traditional recipe with a soft, textured blue background and lovely typography. A standout, the Cook’s Illustrated image is the hero here. It feels like “ahh” in all the clutter of the season. My only criticism is that the meat looks dry. But that could be the scan…

  13. ^^^ Agree with Kristina. Cooks is my favorite bcs of its simplicity, color, subtle contrast and depth. I didn’t realize overhead shots were vogue as some of you are saying – I think they’re boring visually. What I love about the Cooks is the table/plate depth and the use of the square plate aligned with the bottom edge of the mag. And I love the table color and subtle contrast levels. M-Stew gets 2nd place. I’m neutral on Saveur. I think it’s nice but gets 3rd place.

    I hate the Holiday Recipes cover. The lighting is blown and I can’t stand the way they cut off just a tiny portion of the turkey along the left edge. If you’re going to include that much of a turkey, include all the turkey. Don’t show me 99.99% of a turkey.

    • You can’t really shoot the crown roast from the top, it would lose all the dimension of it.

      BHG’s target market is a bit more pedestrian than the Cook’s. Hence the big bold type for HOLIDAY RECIPES !!! and probably very traditional ones at that.

      • That’s a good point about the roast…. Couldn’t the same be said of the others as well though? Or to say it a slightly different way, that bringing the camera angle down would *add* dimension to the others?

  14. It is a cover shot so in my opinion Holiday Recipes. In the time a magazine cover amongst all the others on a newsstand has to attract the eye of a potential buyer that is the one that will most quickly tell the reader about the contents.

    Maybe not necessarily the best image creatively or technically but for me it is the one that does its required job the best.

    (Martha Stewart second (little too involved with no single subject to hold the eye), Saveur third (similar comments but spoiled by losing part of the image behind the black block), Holiday Entertaining (photographically nice enough but feel it is too flat for a cover)

  15. Darrell Eager

    The Cooks shot looks like something MS would have done 15 years ago. I prefer the Cooks shot.

  16. Personally, I like the MS image best. I find it a compelling photograph in the tradition still-life style – I really do get this “life and death” feeling in the way its styled, making me fully conscious that this was a bird, that has been killed for me to eat, and I feel it more fully than the other images. I find as a photograph, it stands best on its own. The Cook’s Illustrated cover photo, almost feels too simple for my personal taste – I feel like it needed something else, either in composition, or in styling, I can’t fully put my finger on it, but it just feels empty. But then again, if I was choosing between these 4 mags to buy, I know I would buy the Cooks Illustrated…

  17. scott Rex Ely

    I think they’re all really well done. Unfortunately two of them are ruined by horrible type.

  18. Who shot it better? Isn’t the real question, Who styled it better?” This is 80% the work of stylists. And food photogs know it.

  19. I like the MS and Cook’s the best, but the Martha Stewart styling looks unnatural and forced with the berries and leaves shoved in for composition and color. The Cook’s looks elegant and spare, but also organic.

  20. fashion shooter

    That Saveur cover looks disgusting. I saw it at the bookstore and it looks just as gross in person. It’s surprising since they usually do a good job.

    Cooks wins by a long shot.