Ask any commercial photographer what they’re doing around the Holidays and the answer is more than likely, “not much”. Of course, you won’t generally have that info offered. In fact, I find it hilarious that one of the unspoken rules of photographer chat is to ALWAYS sound busy and well-to-do. Further, it’s just not that appealing to hear anyone complain, so it’s not a great way to make friends. In addition, a good photographer has likely just cleared some really busy months anyway, and though we burn our savings over the turn of the new year, it’s actually really nice to not be juggling pre-and post-production for multiple jobs for a change. That sword definitely cuts both ways, but hey, we get to be photographers after all and every job has its downsides.
So now that you know I’m slow right now, I can tell you that the holidays end up being studio portfolio shooting time. That’s what slow commercial photographers do that want to return to a successful year of being busy commercial photographers.
Experimentation and learning are a huge part of the game and once you start on a test shoot, you are reminded why they are so valuable and so enjoyable.
For this one, I knew I wanted to shoot a beer bottle with a “wet look” (NOTE: the beer in the image is DRY and room temperature – it’s magic!), but wanted to do something different than the standard, backlit bottle on a reflective surface. It’s an essential skill for a beverage photographer, but it’s been done. So, having no real idea of where to start, I did what any self-respecting creative would do: I sought a little quality time with my subject.
Low and behold, I reached into my fridge and just happen to grab a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – one of the seasonal beers I anticipate most (aside from Maritime Pacific’s Jolly Roger, of course) – and studied. And drank.
I love the label. It reminds me of my time living in Summit County Colorado, ski-bumming as a resort bus driver. I got the insider info when looking for a resort job and chose the evening shift so I could ski as much as humanly possible. My best year was 130 days on the slopes and it was magical. I knew A-Basin like the back of my hand.
But I digress. I was talking about beer and photography.
This winter scene on the label made me think of all those cool resort cabins I dropped people off in front of, lit-up with the warmth of tungsten overhead lights, while a silent moonlight turned everything else a pale blue.
So there it was – the seed of an idea was sown. I went into the studio and began playing. For me, the process of starting with one light and then building layers upon layers of color, shadow, shape….it’s just a hoot. Having unlimited studio time and me as a client is pure fun.
I collect backdrop materials fiendishly and I had a friend who had a line on some old Oregon barn wood. This became the background to give the cabin vibe. A double-diffused overhead light became the moon and a snooted spot on the bottle gave it life, as well as a blended backlit exposure of the bottle to give it a subtle separation without making it look hokey. Some fresh holly from right outside my studio, a bag of fake snow, and a yet-to-be-hung string of x-mas lights rounded things out.
I pulled away the background and immediately saw a few more possibilities for this. It’s really a little endless.