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Written By Megin Potter  |  Photos by Marisa Dooley

Green herbs are given the golden spotlight when a food photographer puts a priority on freshness.

For Marisa Dooley, high-quality whole foods take precedence in life and work. A recipe developer trained in nutrition, and the food, product, and lifestyle photographer behind Lemon Thyme Kitchen, Marisa’s clean recipes and sharp images beam with vibrant, healthy, beauty.

“It’s a common misconception that the food in these photographs is fake,” said Marisa, “but everything you see is edible and we do eat most of the food that you see.”

Head Start to Healthy

Raised among a family of artists on Inspiration Farm, an organic meat and dairy farm in Washington State, Marisa found working with the food blog to be a fun, creative, avenue for expression.

After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and Culinary Arts from Bastyr University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from the National University of Natural Medicine, Marisa worked as a sous chef at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girl’s school offering farm-to-table style food service.

Marisa moved to Saratoga in 2018, where pediatric nutrition remained important in the years she spent working as a nanny while launching her freelance food photography and recipe development business (which became a full-time profession last year).

“As much as possible I love to get kids involved in all types of food preparation, starting out with planting – kids love digging in the dirt – and getting them interested with what I’m doing in the kitchen. Kids will eat from the garden what they might not typically from the grocery store when they’re out there picking it themselves,” said Marisa.

Even children as young as two-and-a-half-years-old enjoy eating fruit when they are given safe plastic serrated knives to cut bananas and strawberries with, she said. Marisa and her husband, Chip, currently have five raised beds in their backyard garden.

“We love gardening and the flowering herbs are so pretty. They are essential for the herb garnishes in my photos because you can’t get that freshness from the store. It’s not something you can buy.”

Incorporating a heavy herb garnish is the hallmark of Lemon Thyme Kitchen’s light, bright photography. While using full sprigs in the shots deviates from how you would normally prepare the dish, it adds a fresh, romantic element to the photos that Marisa said she just loves.

Bringing Better Food to Light

The vivid shots seen in Lemon Thyme Kitchen are prepared in Marisa’s kitchen and photographed in her home studio using natural light, a variety of backdrops, and her extensive collection of props, which includes several China cabinets full of dishware - using dessert plates and tiny pinch bowls makes the food appear more prominent in photos, she said.

The images, which range from the refined elegance of sophisticated dishes, to the feel of a cozy cook’s kitchen, are based on her client’s individual style, and then edited in Marisa’s home studio.

“My clients are attracted to my lighter, brighter photos but within that some prefer warmer or cooler edits. There are lots of variations I can recommend based on what they’re trying to achieve,” said Marisa.

Fresh Food Styling Secrets

Although Marisa prefers to focus on local, in-season food for her recipes and photography, it’s not always possible when working in Upstate New York, because content must be created long before it is published.

When necessary, Marisa gets great pictures by coming up with creative solutions to work around the seasons; like using mangoes instead of peaches, brushing olive oil on food to make it sparkle, and imitating the look of wine with soy sauce diluted with water. Marisa’s least favorite food to photograph is a melty cheese sauce, she said, because it dries out and hardens so quickly. “It’s delicious, just not so fun to photograph.”

Marisa shops for all the ingredients and includes these costs in the Lemon Thyme Kitchen’s tiered photography contracts. Food bloggers often contract several recipes a month with Marisa at a consistent rate, while brand development imagery pricing is based on the specific demands of the shoot and how the client plans to use her content.

To see more of Marisa’s published photography, go online to The Natural Nurturer, Healthy Seasonal Recipes, and Real Food Whole Life blogs. To find out more about her services and a portfolio of Marisa Dooley’s photography, follow Lemon Thyme Kitchen on Facebook, Instagram, and go to


"There are several ways I approach developing a recipe or composing a photography scene. Sometimes I find inspiration in a single ingredient, either something fresh and beautiful in my garden or at the Farmer’s Market, or simply something that needs to get used up in my fridge. Then I build the layers of the dish and image by thinking primarily about colors, but also textures, seasonality, flavors, and props. Sometimes I develop an image based on the mood I would like it to have, maybe I want it to be richly monochromatic or full of contrasting colors. I think about the light I would like to use and the feelings that it will evoke. The soft morning light that hits my studio creates a feeling of coziness and calm, where as the bright and sharp afternoon light has a cheerful fun vibe and creates beautiful shadows through glassware that I love."