Sign up to get your daily dose of Miss Mustard Seed:

writing a book | the photography


I’ve written a few posts about the experience I had writing my book and it’s been a while since the last one.  I thought it was about time I picked it up again.

When the reality of a book offer from Thomas Nelson was right around the corner, it needed to be decided if I would do the photography or if we would hire a professional or perhaps a hybrid where I take some pictures and a pro swoops in for the money shots.  I was not 100% confident in my photography abilities, so I sent them some of the shots I did for Cottages & Bungalows and to get their opinion.  We had a conference call about it a few days later.  I was out shopping with my mom and I remember sitting on a planter outside of Kohl’s when I learned that I would be the photographer for my book.  The only photographer.  And I’m not a photographer.  I have an amateur camera and can fit all of my gear in one bag.  I don’t have any fancy lighting or readers or meters and I’m basic in Photoshop at best.  From the photos I sent, they had confidence that I could do it, so I took the plunge and agreed to do it.

I was glad, though, that I could work on my time table and capture the book entirely from my perspective.

The first bit of business I worked on was the cover shot.  We thought a table setting would be nice, so that’s where I started.  I purchased all sorts of yummy baked goods, fresh flowers and pears.  We were a little stuck on pears for some reason.  I scheduled a day to shoot and my team at Thomas Nelson was standing by via e-mail to receive the pictures and discuss them while I had everything set up.  I snapped a bunch of shots, sent them along, received feedback, made adjustments and took more pictures.  It went something like this…

“Okay, we like this, but not the red pear.  Can you get a green pear?”

That’s when I pick up the phone and call my husband.  “Can you pick up a few green pears and some brown pears for me?”

“How’s this?”

“Yes, we like that pear.  Can you get it from the same angle as the shot with the red pear?”

For some reason, I loved photographing the baked goods.  I think those muffins were calling my name and that may have had something to do with it.

The table shots were looking a bit too foodie, so I took some pictures in the living room and then snapped this one in my family room on a whim…

It ended up being the perfect composition.

So, we scheduled another shooting day and experimented with some different chairs, pillows and accessories.  (The line of pillows, chairs and accessories in my dining room was pretty impressive!)

I would get notes back like, “Can you turn the chair leg out a bit more?”  or “What does it look like with the ticking pillow?”

We finally found the perfect combination…

The cool thing about this is everything in this picture is so me.  I upholstered the chair, painted and refinished the dresser, made the curtains, made the wreath, made the grain sack pillow.  I also knew that anyone who read my blog would instantly recognize this as “Miss Mustard Seed.”

We even got the green pear in there!

I’ll share more about the photography in my next post,  including the gear I shot with, how I developed the pictures and how we decided which photos made the cut.

Related posts:


  1. That was an interesting, fun read. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I have yet to purchase your book. I’m looking forward to it. Blessings to you!

  2. I am so glad that you took your own photos for your book. You captured everything about Miss mustard seed perfectly. I love the book!


  3. Sharon in Chicago says:

    Saw your book yesterday at a B&N in the Chicagoland area. It was on the front edge of a ‘religious’ table display. Almost stole a couple of copies to sneak ’em into ‘home dec’ so you’d get double exposure!

  4. Sharon in Chicago says:

    Saw your book yesterday at a B&N in the Chicagoland area. It was on the front edge of a ‘religious’ table display. Almost stole a couple of copies to sneak ’em into ‘home dec’ so you’d get double exposure!

    Can’t wait for more inside scoop on the photography — just hearing and seeing the cover shoot process has my mind churning (in a good way!)

  5. i bought your book while i was recently in the US on holidays. I love it and have to say that the whole book is so you! well done.
    Fiona xx

  6. Jessica B says:

    You paint amazing stories as well as you paint furniture. So enjoying this journey with you. I close my eyes and can envision each step along the way. Keep on walking and we will follow as you travel this path.

  7. I’m reading your book now and loving it. I think it’s wonderful that the publisher wanted you to take the photographs — it speaks to their faith in you and your abilities and it makes it all that much more “you” — you know what you have created and what it all means to you. A hired pro? There would have been no “life” to the images.

  8. Love your new blog look ~ I just did a makeover, too. Saw you were going to be in Houston ~ hmmm. That’s too close to miss.

  9. Denise T says:

    Love the book. Bought one more book and will give to Mom for Christmas. She will love it.

  10. Shelly Windeknecht says:

    Well, you did a fantastic job. I loved your book. If you ever need new material to photograph, rooms to decorate, furniture to rearrange, feel free to come to my house! I’d love to assist you in making my house (in Missouri) as beautiful as yours. Have a very Merry Christmas Marian!

  11. You got some beautiful shots. But that had to be a little tedious, turn the leg a little, red pear instead of green, clearly they know what they’re doing, those pics are gorgeous. I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of your book. YIPPE! I cant wait to read it.

  12. Michelle Burke says:

    I admit it–I’ve been called persnickety before! But I love where we landed, and the stem on that green pear is at the perfect angle! 😉

  13. Oh my gosh! I can totally see you snapping away and moving things. And then emailing “How’s this?” That totally cracks me up. What an intense, yet completely exciting/amusing experience to have had. Love that everything in you book is by you. How cool is that?

  14. Details. Details. You did a great job!

  15. I was just at Family Bookstore, looking for a gift for my friend, and stumbled across your book. I flipped through the pages and instantly knew this was the book for my friend! I know she will be so inspired by it and I love the thought you put behind each work you did!! I love everything about it! Thank you for your amazing book! I know my friend will love it!

  16. Patrina says:

    Love the new blog look. And I am loving the book. I carry it in my work bag daily. I am awaiting the arrival of my first MSMP…so excited. BTW…should you ever decide to sale the cotton blossom brown and green pillow…I’m your girl. I LOVE THIS PILLOW! LOL Congrats again on everything!

  17. Heather says:

    How funny you wrote this post! I was reading my copy of your book a couple of nights ago and was really studying the photos. I loved the composition of each one, so much texture, and of course the subject matter (dishes, fabrics, shiny, weathered, flowers, patterns…). I’ve just been eating it all up! Awesome to know you shot it all. Great job! Thanks for a great book!

  18. Love to here behind the scene stories.The tips and thoughts on the photos so interesting it is all about details

  19. I’m so inspired that you took the photos and did such a phenomenal job! YAY! Go Marian!!! I love hearing how you took the shots and kept tweaking… and eventually ended up with a random shot for the cover! That sounds like something I would do :-)

  20. Sandy says:

    When I read book cover, I thought the blue curtains we all love must be on the cover!

  21. Fascinating! And yes! it is the perfect shot, and so totally you… !


  22. julie says:

    You’re just a natural, Marian. I just bought my first DSLR camera (mostly because of YOU) and am excited to learn how to take gorgeous shots like you. Love your blog. Love you. Thanks for being just the way you are.

  23. Rayna Baker says:

    Your book is on my Christmas “wish list”! I’m hoping Santa gets the hint, I have it bookmarked and hung all around the house!

  24. Thanks for the info on the photo experience. I love the wreath in the final photo, do you have how to info?

  25. Thanks for sharing your cover photo story!! I love the juicy background stories…always!!
    Congratulations on being your own photographer!! You should be very proud….what a tremendous accomplishment.

  26. Emily says:

    Marian, this is so funny! You did a great job doing the photography. I am going to have to get your book. And I am STILL trying to find that rug!

    Take care.

  27. I love how this all unfolded and came together and I agree the book cover is just so YOU! Love the fact that you made some much of the stuff in that photo – and that the green pear made the cut!

  28. Well, you are amazing and I am delighted at how it came together. The cover is wonderful.

  29. I find all of those colors (white, blue, and green) so soothing! Love the insight on the process of book photography.

  30. I am so happy for your success and wish you well in health, happiness and wealth but did you not know that today on Pinterest the bloggers chose today to go silent in honor of 20 little dead children who will never have another birthday, celebrate Christmas this year or ever again, have a crush, go to college, get married, have children? Their parents arms are left empty tonight.

  31. It’s true- that photograph is completely “Miss Mustard Seed” and I love it! I think you all picked exactly the right combination of items- love!

  32. Too cool! Cracked me up about the green pear.

  33. You did a great job on the pics and the book. I enjoyed this post about the editors’ photo feedback.

  34. Thanks Marian as I begin to work with photography this will be a big help – as always.

  35. Jerelle says:

    What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing! I love your book!

  36. Beautiful and clean. The pear is just the right “pop”…I’m thinking. 😉 I love it that you did your own stuff. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!

  37. Marian, this is fascinating…hearing about the process. Love this series!

  38. It’s fun to hear about the creative process and how these photos shoots go. Very fun indeed.

  39. Barbara says:

    I am just now catching up on my emails since the week before Christmas. Guess What???? I did receive your book for Christmas along with a cookbook from one of my favorite Food Network stars. I am a happy camper. Going on a trip this weekend and plan to take both books to read in the car.

  40. What is the paint color and manufacturer on the 4-drawer chest in the final photo for the book? Thanks! I would like to pin the photo on my Paint Chips board.


  1. […] Inspired You: Breathing New Life into Your Heart and Home by Marion Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed […]

Leave a Comment