8.17.2012

A long day in the trenches of photography. Food and drinks.

Beer. American for....Beer.


I spent my day today shooting food and beverages for Hilton Hotels. The shot above was one of the last shots of the day. I backlit the beer glasses with medium size softboxes, put a diffused and warm filtered light low and aimed at the backwall, as a background light and had my assistant hold a while card above and in front of the beers to put some light into the head. I'll lighten the heads and whiten them in our final retouch.

For the majority of the day's shooting I used Elinchrom D-Lite 400IT monolights aimed through large diffusers.  For the drinks I used the backlighting described above. I used a Sony a77 camera set to RAW and, after some experimentation, came to rely on the good performance of the 85mm 2.8 Sony DT lens.

I am happy with the Sony a77 with one exception: While the sensor cleaning works perfectly (vibrates at shut down) nothing is ever cleaning off the fixed mirror.  When I shot at f11 I found two big dust spots and was unable to dislodge them from the mirror with puffs of air. I'm taking Sony at their word that we shouldn't use anything to physically touch the mirror surface. But it will bite if I can figure out a way to clean dust spots off, short of sending the bodies back to Sony for periodic cleaning.

The Nex 7 is superior in this regard.

We shot a ton of stuff today. I've downloaded my SD cards and backed up the files and I'm pretty wiped out. Been up swimming and packing since 6 am. I need to hit the pillow so I can get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Nice to have an "old school" controlled lighting, equipment rich assignment.  We filled up the element with lights, stands, modifiers, steamers and all sorts of food photography paraphernalia. Right down to my favorite set of chop sticks for poking and prodding stuff into position. Clients are still grateful that the knowledge and application of deliberate lighting still exists.

Night, night.

11 comments:

cidereye said...

Really nicely lit shot Kirk, it's 10:00 AM in England right now but that photograph has me craving a cold beer. Just what a good photo should do, mission accomplished.

Off out now to have some wonderful fun with the NEX-7 focus peaking, finally a company has truly come up with a brilliant & workable solution to focus manual focus lenses on a modern camera. Dare I say this? Better maybe than a rangefinder?

Craig Yuill said...

Twenty or so years ago I used to try my hand at taking shots similar to this one, just out of personal interest. I read about and found out for myself that such shots require appropriate lighting equipment, including various reflecting cards and surfaces, and correct technique. This kind of shot really cannot be made with ambient lighting and an iPhone. The technique required to reliably produce these kinds of photos is one of the reasons, IMO, that professional photographers will always be needed.

I agree with cidereye - nice shot! It's making me thirsty too.

Brad C said...

Interesting, I wondered if the distance of the mirror to sensor being so far would make spot a non issue...

kirk tuck said...

I thought it would as well but apparently not...

J. Yeats said...

Beer photography is specialised. The glasses need to be sprayed with cold water after the glasses have been coated with a thin glycerine mixture first.

There needs to be proper heads on both glasses and (depending on the country) the beer head should be slighly overflowing the glass. The heads need to be white, not grey and you need an over head light. to achieve this. It is not as straightforward or as easy as you make out, and you need at least two people pouring the beers at the same time. To have a grey head below the lip of the glass is a no no. And for lagers you need reflective mirrors behind the glasses. Beer photography is as specialised as high end jewellery photography and you can't just wing it. The glasses don't look cold because there is no dew.

kirk tuck said...

Above, in a nutshell is a one of my pet peeves in the practice of photography. J. Yeats has a list of things that must be done to shoot beer. The beer above is the way the art director and I interpreted it to be for our use. I am reminded of the studio practitioners who had a laundry list of rules for shooting portraits: a woman's hand under her chin for a submissive pose, a hair light, fill light, back light, the "angel's touch" for the area between the nose and lips, a 2 to 1 light ratio, a certain soft focus filter, etc. Hard and fast rules for photography. I agree that the head should be lighter. My blog is not a site for a beer manufacturer. We talk about the process and we show work in progress. We'll retouch the head on the beer to make it lighter. But sweating beer glasses are now a cliché in my point of view. We want our work to look different from, not the same as, what everyone else is doing.

I know how to put white cards and mirrors behind glasses and we had a bottle of glycerin standing by, but it's okay to do stuff in a different way. You learn the rules so you can break the rules. The agency and the client like the work. They've seen plenty of traditional beer shots. Could it be that they were responding to the first rule of advertising? Stand out.

I don't know about you but my beer never gleams with translucent light when I put it on the counter at home or in a restaurant. I don't think J. Yeats is being critical for spite, rather I see this as a different approach to a universal subject. We fix the head in post and we're golden.

kirk tuck said...

Quick retouch to show the difference. Final will go to a professional retoucher for final enhancements. That's not really my job.

Steve J said...

Elinchrom D-lites - great, affordable and (relatively) transportable. Seem to have the same Elinchrom resistance to spectral shift as you change the power output.

I got mine (D-lite 200s) for less than the price of an SB600.

CarstenW said...

Isn't the mirror user-removable? In that case, maybe buy another and keep a clean one at hand for a change when required?

kirk tuck said...

Hi Carsten,

with the guidance of another VSL reader I was able to clean the mirror (very carefully) with a Sensor Brush. It worked well and left no new problems. Thank goodness. I should stop being so timid.

Jay Fleece said...

a great shot!
i been documenting folks for some years now, in Toronto. Most are beer drinkers..i was taught real soon by a special Lady, how to pour a beer WITHOUT a head of foam. It causes the beer to lose flavor! It seems most illustrators are wine drinkers..
i remember a shoot or two, making it foam.