Beer Photography How To
Offering a way to make your favorite beverage all the more enjoyable!
Beer on Ice, Lit from Below
Many subjects only look really good in backlight. The caviar in the previous example clearly shows that light coming from the camera’s direction doesn’t produce the desired effect; only backlight is what makes the brightly colored fish eggs recognizable and tasty-looking. The same is true for the beer bottles in this example, with the additional idea that beer tastes best when it is cold. This effect is easiest to produce using drops of moisture, which you can make last longer using a simple trick.
Equipment and Lighting
I used a manual YN-560 speedlight packed in a freezer bag and placed in the bathtub below the ”stage” along with RF-602 triggers to fire the flash. I extended the wide panel and tilted the flash head diagonally upward to fire through a sheet of translucent acrylic on which I artfully arranged the ice, some slices of lemon, and the bottles. Having the flash fire from the side prevented it from producing a hotspot in the resulting image.
The acrylic sheet rested on two planks of wood and was fastened in place using tape. I sprayed the beer bottles with a shoe-waterproofing solution the day before—a trick that made the condensation droplets last much longer while I shot. The photos show the setup captured with flash, untreated and treated bottles, and the setup captured in ambient light.
Settings and Shooting
The treated bottles kept their cold look much longer but the clock was nevertheless ticking from the moment I set up the bottles and covered them in droplets. For a shot like this, you need to set up the stage, the flash, and the props in advance, and only put a test bottle in place to determine your camera settings when everything is ready. I set the camera to ISO 100, f/7.1, and 1/125 second, and I dialed in 1/8 power on the flash. A test shot without flash showed that the ambient light was completely suppressed. Once everything was set up, I added the treated bottles, the ice, and the lemons, then sprayed the bottles using a perfume vaporizer. Thanks to the shoe-waterproofing coating, the water droplets stayed in place much longer and didn’t run together.
In this type of situation, shoot from vertically above and make sure that the lighting is as even as possible. It helps to shoot with the flash positioned to the side and with the wide panel in place, and don’t be afraid to try out different positions to see which works best.
Post Processing in Photoshop
Processing for this shoot was quite complex, although the steps involved shouldn’t take much more than a half hour once you’ve had some practice. The first step was to develop separate versions of the image that showed the bottles, the ice, and the lemons in the right light. Merging the three was then a simple case of using a soft brush to mask the superfluous parts of each layer. In this case, a precise selection wasn’t necessary. I repaired the overexposed area using a patch from elsewhere in the frame and produced the final look using two Color Lookup adjustment layers, a Curves adjustment layer, and the Camera Raw filter. The screenshots on this and the following pages show the original SOOC image, the three developed versions, and the final image.
Tips and Tricks: The Pros and Cons of Post-Processing Post-processing played a more important role in this workshop than in most of the others, and you are probably asking yourself whether I could have saved some of the processing effort involved by taking more care during the shoot. The answer is ”yes and no.” It would have been extremely difficult to capture the cool look of the ice and the bright lemons simultaneously in one shot. I could have used a color filter gel on the flash to produce the overall look, but remember: it is much easier to recolor selected areas of an image (the ice and the lemons) and leave others neutral than it is to partially neutralize a global color cast. Repairing the overexposed area, too, was simpler in Photoshop than it would have been to foresee and prevent during the shoot. On the other hand, it was essential to set up the bottles, the ice, and the water droplets properly, and it was crucial to focus correctly right from the start. Retouching water droplets in Photoshop is possible but complicated, and artificial droplets simply look unrealistic. Incorrect focus cannot be repaired no matter how hard you try.
Exposure doesn’t have to be perfect, but should be within a range that you can successfully fine-tune using ACR. The amount of processing flexibility available varies from camera to camera—for example, using my EOS 5D Mark II/III, I would never underexpose by more than –1 EV or overexpose by more than +0.66 EV.
The Final Image:
This article was taken from One Flash! Great Photography with Just One Light by Tilo Gockel!
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