How i got the shot – Drink shoot on location
Recently I was hired to shoot drinks on location, more precisely on a daily cruise ferry. Thought I share some BTS and do a how I got the shot.
Eckerö Linjen is a returning client that I shoot for a few times each year. I have shot food and portraits for them, all on the ferry so I knew the location beforehand. Which helped a lot in terms of planning and what to expect when arriving on location to set up shop.
Planning & packing
After communicating with the client I had pretty good idea what they needed. As you might have guessed, this was not a studio beverage shoot, were we spray mist, play with fake ice and add droplets with a dropper… 🙂
The client needed around 30 drinks photographed primarily for their printed menus, so the drinks need to look pretty much like the ones you get served when you order them. We decided to shoot the drinks on the bar counter with the bottles in the background.
So I started to light the scene in my head taking into account that I should avoid direct lighting on the drinks to minimize white hard reflections.
From the start, I knew I needed at least 3 lights, and probably some backup. The space on the ferry is not great, quite a low ceiling and no help from ambient or daylight. Also, we start the shoot around 20:00 in evening and plan to shoot to midnight at least. The reason we shoot this late is that we can’t shoot with passengers on board the ferry.
My plan is to use 3 lights at least, one above the drinks, one as much to side as possible and one on the background (probably the most important light of the 3).
Here is what I ended up bringing with me.
Logistics & Gear
- 1x Elinchrom ELB 1200
- 2x Elinchrom ELB 400
- 2x Elinchrom ELC PRO HD 500
- 1x Elinchrom Litemotiv Indirect 145x145cm softbox
- 1x Elinchrom Rotalux 35x90cm stripbox
- 1x Elinchrom Rotalux 60x80cm softbox
- 1x Elinchrom Deep Umbrella White 125cm
- 1x Elinchrom 21cm Reflector with grid
- 1x Elinchrom Quadra reflector with grid
Once I arrived I started rigging the lights. For the drinks, I used the following light setup
Key light | ELB 1200
Keylight | ELB 1200 with the Elinchrom indirect Litemotiv 145x145cm Recta
Reason for choosing this modifier was simply that I wanted the largest indirect source I could get to minimize direct reflections in the glasses.
Optimal would have been to have it positioned a little more to the side, but the bar prevented that. Still, you can see the reflection in the glass, but it doesn’t stand out too much imo.
Back light | ELC PRO HD 500
Backlight | ELC PRO HD 500 with the Elinchrom Rotalux 60x80cm
Initially, I actually used an ELB 400 with a Quadra reflector and grid, it was way to harsh though and caused nasty shadows behind the bottles.
So I switched to the Rotalux 60x80cm and in the process, I busted a flashtube.. by dropping the ELB head from the bar counter…so the backup ELC PRO HD 500 came handy.. 🙂
This light is probably the most important one as it illuminates the drinks from behind and separates the drinks from the background by being a stop brighter.
Top light | ELB 400
Toplight | ELB 400 with the Elinchrom Rotalux 30x90cm stripbox
Here i needed a small light that would fit under the bar ceiling, the purpose for this light was to get some nice reflections on top of the drinks (like the cocktail berries) but also to a little more light on the bar counter.
The ELB 400 really shines in situations like this, it’s so light that it can easily be mounted on a c-stand+arm and positioned directly above the drinks.
This is usually how I work on location I position the lights based on my plan and then start to take test shots with one light at the time. This way I can easily see how each light affects the scene.
Here is a good example why shooting tethered is such invaluable tool to the way I work, evaluating lighting, exposure and focus on the back of the camera is simply not an option. Not for me at least, and the way I shoot.
Add to that the ability for the client to flag and rate images on the fly, this takes culling and sending out proofs to a minimum.
I started by setting up a test drink so I could get the right ratios between the lights. Below you can see the test shot of each light.
Key light ELB 1200
Back light ELC PRO HD 500
Top light ELB 400
All 3 lights
The above lighting is pretty much what I’ve settled on, and then moved onto to camera settings and framing.
I used the A99ii with my trusty Voigtländer 125mm/2.5 APO Lanthar SL I. Camera was mounted on the Gitzo GT5532LS with an Arca Swiss D4 geared head. I rarely shoot handheld if ever, the D4 geared head makes life a lot easier when you need to make small precise movement on a single axis. Far superior to any ball head.
To get enough separation from the somewhat busy background I opted to shoot at f-stop/4.5 | Shutter speed 1/125 | Iso 100
I used the Lee compendium hood with a Lee polarizer filter (which eats about 1.7 stop of light) to control some of the glare/reflections.
Now in hindsight, I could probably have shot at f/3.2 to make the drinks stand out even more from the background. Still didn’t want to make the background too soft as I still wanted there to be a hint of the setting behind the drinks.
Below is one of the final shots
First, off I should mention that I simply hate fixing mistakes in post, I always aim to get the lighting as good as i can in camera. Also for this job which again was not a high-end commercial beverage shoot all that was done was raw conversion and the basic touch up of the drinks.
Overall I’m very happy with the results and more importantly so was the client. It’s satisfying when you plan and vision something in your head and the result ends up very close to it or even better! 🙂
I would love to get some feedback! Do you find this kind of post useful/interesting? Was it too long/short? Feedback is much appreciated!