Caylena’s work featured in RAW Showcase, NYC, 10.24.17

RAW NYC Showcase – ONE Night Only

October 24, 2017


American Beauty (W 30 St, NYC)

Tickets (through Oct 17)

About The Show

Caylena Cahill, founder of CC Photo & Media and Put a Fork In It Podcast host, will have photography featured in the upcoming RAW NYC showcase, SAVOR, presented for one-night only at American Beauty (W 30th St, NYC) on October 24 at 7pm.

Caylena will show work from a recent photo story, The Sugar Project, made with food stylist, Jill Keller. The project features a mix of lifestyle food pictures showcasing popular “healthy” foods and just how much hidden sugar is in them, in juxtaposition with several conceptual images illustrating the statistics around health issues relating to the overconsumption of sugars.

This will be the first public showing of the work since its creation.

Tickets to the RAW showcase are available now through October 17th by clicking here.

RAW Showcases feature 40+ eclectic, regional artists in various domains, including visual arts/photography, fashion, music, dance, and more.


RAW Artists featuring Caylena Cahill

Hudson Valley Food & Beverage Photographer Caylena Cahill Photography featured in Hudson Valley Magazine

Drink Photography Feature in March 2017 Hudson Valley Magazine

I’m so excited to share my recent work for Hudson Valley Magazine! They sent me to 8 different bars/restaurants throughout the mid and upper Hudson Valley to do drink photography and capture bartenders at work!

At each location, I was tasked with photographing several things, including interiors/exteriors, drink “beauty shots,” action shots of the bartender making the drinks, and portraits of each bartender, both with and without the drinks.

This was no simple feat, 8 shoots in the span of a week, with distances varying 70+ miles – but I got it done!

Each shoot lasted between 90 minutes and 3 hours, depending on a number of factors.

My approach was similar in each location. I spoke with the bartender first about the drinks to be featured and learned about his process, the ingredients and so forth. Then, we worked together to get “the shot” for pouring, shaking and so on. I really challenged myself to see each image in a new way and find different lighting and perspective opportunities.

When it came to detail shots and interiors, I looked for elements that defined the character of the places, as well as overall images.

With portraits, I try to show something unique about the location, and about the person. When I photograph people, I’m always having a conversation with them and sometimes invite other people who are around to join in, that way we can get an authentic expression – a real moment!

Check out the images of the magazine spreads below, and if you have a chance, check it out in person!

Locations featured include: Parish Restaurant, New Paltz, NY; Gardiner Liquid Mercantile, Gardiner, NY; Henry’s At The Mill (Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa), Milton, NY; Brasserie 292, Poughkeepsie, NY; Stockade Tavern, Kingston, NY; The Local, Rhinebeck, NY; Wm Farmer & Sons, Hudson, NY; and Speakeasy518, Albany, NY.

Paleo pancakes by hudson valley food photographer caylena cahill

Paleo Trials: Flourless Pancakes

Paleo pancakes by hudson valley food photographer caylena cahillI’m intrigued by the paleo diet, but mostly because I am a proponent of whole foods and minimizing wheat and other similar products in my diet.

So, naturally, when I find recipes that proport to being like some of the things I love, but paleo friendly without added sugar… I am open to trying – as long as the ingredients aren’t too exotic.

There are supposed paleo pancake recipes floating around the internet, of course. I tried one a few months ago, and it was a failure. I’m guessing I must not have cooked them long enough, because they completely fell apart.

But, honestly, the real problem for me was the texture… nothing like normal pancakes. The flavor was alright, but a little too eggy.

So, this time, I modified the recipe a bit, to try to make them thicker. It was still a bit too eggy for my liking (and I eat eggs daily, so it’s not that I don’t like eggs), but I’m still used to the texture of normal pancakes…

So, this is what I did this time:

1.5-2 medium bananas
2 eggs
1/4 c chopped mixed roasted nuts (Archer Farms)
1-2 tsp flax seeds
1 tsp chia seeds
3/4 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
3-6 strawberries chopped
cinnamon (to taste)
maple syrup (to taste, just for serving)

Mash bananas and mix all ingredients. I did about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and it made about 8.

If you have suggestions for making it more cakey, without buying a lot of specialty flours, like regular pancakes, I’m all ears.

Food Stylist Jill Keller adds a letter to a block of sugar.

Behind the Scenes: Working with a Food Stylist, Conceptual and in Restaurants

I often get asked, “Why do we need a food stylist?”

A food stylist is to food photography, what a model, fashion designer, makeup artist and/or hairstylist is to fashion photography: in short, without the food stylist, there is either nothing to shoot, or a subject that could be vastly improved.

Why is that?

Well, the food stylist plays a very important role in the photo shoot – everything from buying the groceries, to prepping the food, “plating” or setting the food on the scene, looking painstakingly close and sorting pieces of food for the perfect looking one, and ultimately adjusting the food on set to look just right, from building it, to spraying it with water or oil, to using tweezers to move around crumbs, an eye dropper to remove liquid, etc.

Food Styling in Conceptual Work

In a conceptual shoot, like the project I’m working on with NYC food stylist, Jill Keller, which explores the absurdly high quantity of hidden, added sugars in “healthy” foods, the stylist’s job is even more complex.

In addition to the basics, like grocery shopping and cooking, she also was key in concept development, sourcing props and doing such things as painting a map of the US out of sugar, putting letters on sugar cubes, making skulls out of sugar, dying sugar cubes, and more.

While I, the photographer, was in charge of researching data to contribute to the visualizations and coming up with various images in a story board, as well as researching a mood board for the project, Jill was busy searching for ways to make these ideas come to life.

When it was time for the actual shoot, we worked together very well.

I set up my equipment and used stand ins while to prep the lighting, in advance, for when the subject would be ready. Then, once everything was set, Jill and I worked side by side to make adjustments to the subjects. I shot tethered to the computer, so we could see the photo large enough to know what things to change – whether that was changing the shape, moving a sugar cube here or there, removing a piece of lettuce or adding in some milk, or removing some coffee.

Some things really had to be done at the last second – such as pouring in frothed milk into a “latte” or adding milk to cereal, so that it wouldn’t become soggy.

This is really the value of having a stylist on set. It’s pretty obvious when the shoot is conceptual or there isn’t already a chef to do the “plating.”

Food Styling in a Restaurant Shoot

But what about for a restaurant shoot, where food is already prepped for you by the chef and line cooks in the kitchen?

Is there still a need for a food stylist?

Of course!

It’s just the role that shifts. Instead of testing a recipe or buying groceries, the food stylist is there to assist in primping the food.

The stylist will often work with both with the chef and the photographer – as sort of a go-between. She will look at how the chef plates a dish, and either directly adapt it for the camera, or make suggestions to the chef about how to “build” the dish, so that it looks right in the light and in front of the lens.

Then, once the dish is in front of the camera, the stylist will work with me to make adjustments to the scene, such as with props, or cleaning a dish, moving a stray pea in a pasta dish or freshening up meat or veggies, etc.

The stylist isn’t there to change a chef’s plating, but to enhance the look of the dish and translate it for the camera. Plus, a really great stylist understands photography, what the lighting and lens will do to the food, and how to compensate for the problems and enhance for the strengths. Stylists of this calibre know how to work around lens distortions and work with photographers to call attention to the important story and beauty elements of the dish/concept.

The fact of the matter: plating for eating and plating for photography are different skills – and not every chef has that understanding of how to make food look right for the camera. And, honestly, it’s really fine if they don’t – so they can focus on making the food taste food, and leave the looks to the stylist and photographer.

So, when you ask whether you should spring for the stylist, I always recommend yes, because, really, what’s the sense in hiring a professional photographer and only going half way?

Instead, get the most out of your images by bringing on a stylist to take the food from “ready to eat” to “ready to shoot.” Besides, isn’t the point of the photographs to create a craving in the viewer? To make them want to eat your food right away? If so, it’s the stylist that transforms the dish so the camera can show you what you want to see, to make that hunger pang come through the image and into your stomach. The photographer then uses the tricks of the camera and lighting to take the temporary joy of the food and make it into a permanent and beautiful work of art.

NYC Food Stylist, Jill Keller, preps food for a shoot with Hudson Valley food photographer, Caylena Cahill. NYC Food Stylist, Jill Keller, preps food for a shoot with Hudson Valley food photographer, Caylena Cahill. NYC Food Stylist, Jill Keller, preps food for a shoot with Hudson Valley food photographer, Caylena Cahill.


greek yogurt parfait, photo by hudson valley food photographer caylena cahill

Yogurt, Sugar and Your Health – A Discussion

As you may or may not have realized by now, I am passionate about (read: obsessed with) food and health.


Recently, over the last few months, I’ve been really paying attention the nutritional content, ingredients and health claims on packaging. After watching documentaries bordering on propaganda against the food industry, and encountering many “diet” books that make a lot of claims which may seem outlandish or that use “science” to back up their claims – it’s just really difficult to know who to trust when it comes to what’s actually healthy and making decisions on what to actually eat. That’s why I want to share my approaches.

What is “healthy”?

Being that I’m a food photographer and potentially in a position to help change the state and landscape of the food industry – at least in what I put out there and who I decide to work with/for – I aim to collaborate with companies who produce foods that I actually would or do eat. And that means, they create or promote foods that qualify for my definition of “healthy”:

  • minimally or not processed;
  • excluding unnecessary, artificial ingredients, ingredients which have been shown to be detrimental or are banned in other countries, and excess sugar;
  • containing valuable nutrients that can be accessed for energy and contribute positively to the body, digestive and immune systems and moods, leaving us feeling good physically and mentally.

These are the rules I use to govern my own eating.

How and Why I Eat How I Do

I eat in terms of my overall health fitness goals. Health, to me, is about more than just weight, lack of disease and looks. It’s about energy, moods/mental health, fitness performance, looks, weight, etc. So, for myself, when it comes to the nutritional content and calories and my fitness goals are currently weight loss oriented, so, I aim for a lower carb approach with a calorie deficit (i.e. I burn more calories than I take in). This means I aim to eat more protein and naturally occurring fats, and get the majority of my carbs from fruits, vegetables and dairy products, rather than from grains (even whole grains) and added/refined sugar. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I fail and eat a croissant, grilled cheese, pasta/rice or french toast. But, this is about the majority of the time, and you can bounce back.

(I am using this method based on the recent scientific developments that suggest the tendency for sugars and carbs to be processed by the liver and converted to fat storage in the body, as well as the recent findings about the gut microbiome (i.e. the communities of bacteria living along our digestive tract) suggesting that the ratio of good to bad bacteria contributes to weight gain, as well as the fact that sugars and grains tend to feed the bad bacteria more than the good ones, leading to an overgrowth of that type.)

So, I eat a lot of yogurt. And I’m picky about it.

As a result, I pay a lot of attention to the nutritional labels on packaged foods… and in particular, yogurts. You could definitely say I’m picky when it comes to food selection, yogurts in particular. And just today, I’ve spent a few hours looking at the ingredients and nutritional labels on several yogurt companies websites.

Regular VS Light/Fat Free… and sugar.

I already was, but am now even more frustrated with the “low fat” and “light” claims on packaging. Typically these claims are meant to make the food seem healthy, but please remember that if they’ve removed fat where it would otherwise be naturally occurring, such as in milk/yogurt, they have likely replaced the fat with something else, because fat = flavor. And, usually, they replace it with sugar (honey, syrup, evaporated cane juice, cane sugar, beet sugar, sucrose, dextrose, aspartame, fructose, corn syrup, rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc.).

And, when they do that, they are taking away from the natural value of yogurt – the real benefits of which are fat and protein content, and low natural sugars/carbs. Yes, yogurt does have natural sugar, as does the fruit they add into the package. Unfortunately, however, the labels do not discern between natural and added sugars – yet. So, if you’re also concerned about your sugar intake, it’s very complicated to know just how much added sugar you’re getting when you eat the average container of commercially produced yogurt.

How much sugar should you eat?

And, in case you hadn’t heard, the FDA now recommends no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams (source), which is TWICE the recommended amount from the World Health Organization, who suggests limiting added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams per day (source).

Sugar and Yogurt

But, there is often more sugar – whether natural or added – in the “light” or “low-fat” versions, which are marketed to be healthy. Because there is not distinction between natural or added sugar on the label, it’s also difficult to know where you stand on how much added sugar you’re actually getting from the yogurt. However, I saw some pretty staggering numbers on the labels. Remember that depending on the brand, recipe and quantity, there can be anywhere from 3g to 8g of naturally occurring sugars (i.e. lactose) per serving. A good way to get a baseline for comparison is to check out the plain or original variety of whatever brand you’re going for, check the ingredients list to see if there are added sugars, and if there are not, the sugar quantity listed in the nutritional content is naturally occurring and not added. Another thing to remember, is that if you choose a variety that includes actual fruit, some of the sugar will be naturally occurring in the fruit, which is also ok. However, most of the yogurts on the market also include added, and probably refined, sugars. I saw some sugar quantities up in the 30g range for 1 serving for non “light” varieties and in the teens and low twenties for “light” versions. Listen, I’m not telling you to not eat it, but before you do, ask yourself if you want to use your daily allowance of either 25 or 50g of added sugars by eating “healthy” yogurt.

What I do… and what you should do.

My preference for yogurt is to eat plain greek yogurt, either full fat or 2%, and add fruit and granola. The granola is typically sweet enough on it’s own to balance with the fruit and tartness of the yogurt. (I’ll admit, it took a little while to reprogram my tastebuds to accept that, and I used some honey in the process. But, now, it’s definitely fine, and it’s all in the ratios.) I warn you though, if you take up this approach, this method can take your snack from 100 calories (in the case of popular “light” yogurts) of sugar, carbs and a little protein, to 200-300 nutrient dense calories from healthy fat, protein and whole grains (and a little maple syrup/honey used to sweeten the granola). But, for me, it’s more filling and I can go longer before eating again, and I’ll often have it as more of a meal (breakfast, light lunch) anyway.

Of course, I can’t tell you what to do. Or even what you should do. And I don’t want to either. But, my goal is just to get you to be aware and to think about what you’re putting into your body. So, the next time you go to pick up a yogurt container, engage your curiosity and check the label. Then, ask yourself if that’s what you want. If it’s not, either eat it this time and don’t buy it again, or put that cup down and reach for something else that better suits your needs.