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Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen

Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen




I was contacted by Panamanian artist and entrepreneur Mayi Carles in September 2013.

She had a passion: cooking. And she had a dream: creating a cookbook of the clean-eating recipes she had discovered while playing in the kitchen. The recipes she cooked for her husband. The recipes that made her feel well, energized and healthy. She wanted to create a cookbook for real women, with messy lives, and complicated schedules that still wanted to feel great and conquer the world.

At the time Mayi contacted me, the book was not finished and she was planning to sell it as a ebook of approximately 50 recipes- which she was still testing. We got to work, nonetheless, so as to ensure plenty of time in case tweaks needed to be made to the recipes. We agreed on a styling, based on the color palette designed by Mayi herself and on the premise that all food had to look “pretty but real”. No artificial enhancers, no artificial light, nothing that could make an average woman turn red with frustration if her version of the dish didn’t turn as in the photos. Most recipes were adapted for an average kitchen, and were prepared and styled using a minimum of specialized equipment. The book’s name was, after all, Life is Messy Kitchen. Embracing imperfection was the guiding thought of the book, and the photographs needed to reflect that.

I tested and photographed the recipes, as Mayi developed them, and submitted the files as they were ready. And what started as a 50 recipe ebook, quickly turned into a 115 recipe printed book, designed by the amazing Marbel Canseco, published in Panama by Mayi herself, and shipped around the world.

Every single one of the 115 recipes, including Juices, Smoothies, Breakfasts, Lunches, Snacks, Dinners and Desserts,  were tested, cooked, styled, propped and photographed in my studio, in Nicosia, Cyprus and delivered to Marbel and Mayi via web.

Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen, Marcela Macias Photography Studio, Cyprus
Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen, Marcela Macias Photography Studio, Cyprus
Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen, Marcela Macias Photography Studio, Cyprus


My work on Life is Messy Kitchen didn’t finalize after all recipes were photographed and all files were delivered.  Once the book was fully into its design stage, I was commissioned new photos to illustrate different chapters of the book, which were created together with the amazing Marbel Canseco.

Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen, Marcela Macias Photography Studio, Cyprus



Life is Messy Kitchen was launched in ebook format in November 2014 and, on that same date, the printed edition sale was pre-launched. The challenge was to show the book’s content in a creative way, that made people feel excited about it, and that would help customers see themselves cooking with it.

In order to achieve this, we created a series of flat photographs showcasing meal preparation scenes, with recipes from the book shown in an iPad, and scattered ingredients around it.

The photos, which were shown in the book’s sales page until the print edition was released, were guided by the same me “pretty but real” idea that had oriented the styling of the whole book.

Mayi also created a printable coloring book with her illustrations, offered exclusively to those who purchased the print+ ebook bundle. Life is Messy Kitchen became, then, a kid friendly book, designed to make it easy for moms to cook with children around them. We sought to represent this idea by photographing the printable book too, and by adding photos of my own daughter, Zoe, coloring Mayi’s designs.

This allowed for the book and the additional digital offerings to become tangible, and real.


Life is Messy Kitchen came out of the Printer on March 18th 2015, and it immediately started to be shipped all over the world. It also became a huge success in Panama, where it was sold in different shops.

Mayi shipped the book to me so I could photograph it immediately. We planned a series of shots to show it’s width and depth, the characteristics of the paper, the design of the inside cover, and other high quality details. We also took a series of styled shots for the sales page, as well as some others with abundant negative space to add the logos of its selling points.

Services Provided

  • Recipe Testing
  • Food Styling
  • Prop Styling
  • Food Photography
  • Product photography
  • Post production

Photos & Usage

  • 115 Recipes Photographed (including step by steps of many recipes)
  • 500 Photos delivered, of which approximately 200 were used in the book, and the rest were used in social media and in the author’s blog.

The Results

  •  Very successful e-book sales (ongoing)
  •  Printed book’s first edition sold out within 4 months. Second edition almost sold out in one week.
  •  Features in different publications, including important national magazines and new collaborations and opportunities.
PicMonkey Collage4


Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen, by Marcela Macias Photography Studio, Cyprus

Mayi Carles

Author, Life is Messy Kitchen

I resisted working with a photographer because (a) I thought I could do-it-myself (b) the thought of delegating responsibilities to anyone miles away gives me mental ulcers (c) I didn’t want to go through the hassle of explaining my vision to a stranger + the back n’ forth e-mails + what not.

Marcela, then magically descended from the heavens + flushed all my worries away. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo! She has wicked telepathy skills to guess what we want our pictures to look like. She always takes the shots we ask, and then some. And the “some”are always THE BEST. She has this magical thing about her: she knows what you want before you can express it, and she is able to translate your thoughts into the shot.

But beyond taking beautiful pictures, the beauty of working with Marcela is that she makes it hassle-free on the client. No part of the process feels icky or draggy. She makes it soooo easy for you to ask what you want, order and pay. Gosh, even paying is easy. Even the boring logistical stuff feels smooth. And every step of the way you feel taken care of. She gets it.

Marcela is the perfect combination of Fairy Godmother +BFF you wanna tea party with + telepathic wizard with exquisite taste. The result: Jaw-dropping photos (wait a second, is that my recipe? No way Jose!) that turn fans into customers every time.


Contact me for a complimentary exploratory call and let’s start making your brand hypnotic.

Life Blends

Life Blends



Life Blends: Helping Panama eat healthier


I was initially contacted by Panamanian natural juice company Life Blends in late 2014. They needed a photo of their juices for an ad that they were planning to run in a popular high end magazine, to promote their best-seller 3 day juice detox during the holidays, and wanted me to photograph it.

The timeline for work was short, which meant that it was not possible for the company to ship their juice bottles to Cyprus. We brainstormed ways in which the ad could work otherwise and, after studying the style of the magazine where the ad was going to appear and the target market, we agreed on a styling that made their detox juice feel like a treat, instead of a sacrifice. Life Blends emailed me recipe of one of their flagship juices, and I styled, shot, and edited it in Cyprus.  I finally delivered 4 photos, one for the ad, and the rest to add variety to their social media presence.

Life Blends juices
Life Blends, Panama, Food Photography and Styling by Marcela Macias Photography

Services provided

  •  Food Styling
  •  Prop Styling
  •  Photography
  •  Post Production
  •  Assistance with ideas for designing the ad

Photos & Usage

  • 4, one to be used for the Ad, and the rest for promoting the detox and juices on social media

The results

The ad was published in the December edition of Buenaventura Magazine and sales were an absolute success.

The new venture: Healthy fast food

After the success of the Christmas promotion, Life Blends contacted me again in January 2o15. The company, already a leader in the natural juice market, was planning to expand into “healthy fast food”, by offering a small selection of vegan, gluten free and sugar free meals, and raw, vegan and gluten free desserts. Their objective: to provide Panamanian people with food alternatives that make it easy to lead a healthy lifestyle.

At the end of January, I  photographed the three first soups that were released into the market with a minimum promotion in social media (instagram) in February. They were a smashing success and lead to the company breaking sales records, so I was commissioned with photographing the remaining 6 recipes.

The styling of the photographs was designed to fit with the company’s current website and color palette (where green and white predominate), with minimum use of artificial props, to put the accent on the freshness of the ingredients and the dishes themselves. All photographs were designed to be cropped into a square, because Life Blends communicates with their fans and clients mostly through Instagram. I provided the company with 4 photograpghs per recipe, so that they could have variety when promoting them in social media, as well as with additional photographs that could be used for facebook covers, and website sliders.

Life Blends Photos

Services Provided

  • Art Direction
  • Food Styling
  • Prop Styling
  • Food Photography
  •  Post Production


Photos & Usage

  • 9 Recipes Photographed
  • 45 photographs delivered, to be used in the company’s website, on social media & on printed promotional material (including promotions run by partner companies)

The Results

Record sales

Life Blends, Marcela Macias Photography, Food Styling, Food Photography
Alto Cafe Panama


Foto Rafael Carles

Rafael Carles

CEO, Life Blends

We hired Marcela because we knew that we eat first with our eyes, and because we knew that in order to successfully transition from being a natural juice only company, into becoming leaders in the local healthy eating market, we needed professional photographs.

We hesitated initially due to the distance and the cost of the investment. We didn’t know whether our pilot project was going to take off, but we needn’t worry.

The best thing about working with Marcela was how easy the whole process was – even easier than working with local teams that require more planning and logistics.  We simply sent our recipes, and Marcela immediately understood our brand, our vision and was able to translate that into our photos.

The photos are on a whole other level of excellence and the results are clear: every time we post them on social media we increase our sales. In April we even broke a sales record!


Contact me for a complimentary exploratory call and let’s start making your brand hypnotic.

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