Monday, August 16, 2010

Stirred, not Shaken

Stirred, not shaken

I have to admit, as much as I love taking portraits, I also have a fascination for alcohol commercial photography.  I'm constantly looking at product shots in magazines, in stores and even on television for ideas and inspiration.  There are so many things you can photograph when you don't have models available and learning to photograph subjects other than what you're used to, can be an excellent learning experience as well.

The above photo was lit very simply with two speedlights and a few pieces of construction paper and cardboard.  I placed a piece of white fabric on a small table, and then laid a piece of glass over it so I could pick up the reflections of the glass.  My key light was an SB-800 underneath the table and pointed it at a piece of white cardboard (which was taped to the wall) for the background.  So my key light isn't directly lighting my martini, its more indirectly lighting it.  By lighting it from behind on a bounced surface, I was able to create much better definition of the glass itself.  If I had lit the glass directly, then it would appear more transparent without as much detail.  I then used pieces of black cardboard on both sides of the glass and a thinner piece just above the glass.  This completed the edge definition.

This light worked great for the glass itself, but you can see in this photo that the olives were still underexposed.  So, to bring up the exposure on the olives, I used another SB-800 up high and camera left with a snoot to just get light on the olives.  The power setting on this light was very low, around 1/64 power, because I didn't want to add too much light to the scene, just enough to highlight the olives.  The piece of black construction paper I was using on top of the glass was also used as a gobo to block that overhead light from lighting the rest of the glass.

With this technique, its also easy to change perspectives and to add a little color to the shot with minimal effort.  In this next shot, I used a gray piece of cardboard for my background, added a blue gel to the key light, turned off the snooted light, and set the glass on a piece of polished back granite.  Its a completely different look, but took minimal effort to create it.

Edit:  (I also used a different martini glass for this shot)

This technique is really useful whenever you're lighting glass objects with or without liquids in them.  You can read more about this technique called "bright field lighting" in the book Light, Science and Magic.  This is not nearly as difficult as it may seem and you can have a lot of fun with it.

If anyone has any questions about this technique, just sound off in the comments!

-mtc

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