A glimpse into the studio


A Splashy Cocktail Photo

Ok, to answer your first question…. no this is not one humongous splash!  This shot actually consists of 19 separate photos, and 27 layers in Photoshop.  We shot over 250 photos to get the necessary bits and pieces for this assembly.

To start at the beginning, Linsey and I brainstormed and taste tested to come up with the final recipe for this drink (Yeah, tough work!), and we’re very pleased with the result… it’s delicious, refreshing and a little different!  We decided to shoot the cocktail itself first, since it would set the tone for the overall shot.  Since I knew I would be combining many elements, backlit white was a natural choice, and it gives all the elements a bright fresh feeling.

Linsey prepped all the ingredients in the kitchen, but assembled the final drink on set:

Here’s the set-up for the shot:

Note the black cards laid down beside and behind the glass.  They create a dark edge in the rim of the glass, so it is defined against the white background.  The shoot-through umbrella under the Plexiglass table gives a nice even illumination, and avoids hot spots in the background.  The silver reflector is bouncing some light into the lemon and basil garnish.  As with any backlit shot, the real trick is getting the exposure just bright enough to blow out the background to pure white, while retaining the details in the subject and avoiding flare. (the black cards help avoid flare as well).  Trial and tweaking  (while shooting tethered to Lightroom) is the only way to achieve this.

A few finishing touches, and we had the cocktail shot in the bag:

Then we moved on to the fun stuff!  Using a big (4 x 5 ft) softbox as background, we got ready to make a mess.  I decided to add a gridded spot light from the right side to add some sparkle and contrast to the shots.  Then we draped the lights in a big plastic drop sheet to protect them, as studio flashes and flying liquids don’t mix well.  Fortunately my studio has concrete floors and a floor drain, so we didn’t have to worry (too much) about the clean-up.

Then Linsey started tossing the drink ingredients, and I snapped away madly:

After we’d captured enough shots of the lemons, limes, basil leaves, sugar sticks and shaker lid, we went for the big messy splashes.  To get enough “action” in the shots, I had Nadia pouring liquid into the cocktail shaker from above, while Linsey swirled and tossed:

By the way, we hot glued the shaker to a big dowel to give Linsey a good handle (which I retouched out later).  This is where Linsey got a lemon shower!

With a big variety of ingredient and splash shots to choose from, I was able to select and combine the perfect elements into one big crazy splash.  I made rough selections of the individual elements with the lasso tool, and dragged them onto separate layers in one big photoshop file… 1.5 gig for the final file!
I used a combination of layer masks and layer blending modes to get the elements to match up and combine as I wished.  It took a few days of tweaking and rearranging to get the final shot looking how I had envisioned it.  Here’s how all the elements finally came together:

Lots of fun was had by all!

Slicer & Tosser: Linsey Bell
Pours and BTS shots: Nadia Cheema & Urszula Kozak