Guest Blogger Freddy Clark Spreads Some Photo Cheer

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Ben Franklin

Before we start with the beer, I’d like to say a big thank you to Rick for inviting me to write a guest post on his blog, I was honored to have the opportunity to share.  I’ve learned a lot from Rick, he’s one of the greats.

A little over a year ago, I started shooting food for local restaurants. Learning to shoot bottles and glasses was a big part of it. Because I love craft beer, I started shooting it in my garage, with the goal of working with some of the amazing breweries making great beer today. Shooting reflective surfaces like glass bottles and glasses can really challenge you to become better with light. As I progressed, the thought of bringing motion in the beer shots started to interest me. If you do some internet searches and you can find plenty of ideas on how to capture liquid moving in your photographs. Almost any of them can be applied to beer or your beverage of choice. Once you start looking around, you’ll find you start to think about your own approaches to creating motion.

Photographing beer splashes can be a lot of fun but it can be messy. Before you start, get some plastic drop cloths down and if you’ve got one, a wet dry vacuum could come in handy. Set up someplace you don’t mind making a mess, like a garage or basement. A concrete floor cleans much easier than a rug.

For this one, I wanted to create a splash, like the beer was jumping out of the glass as it was being poured in. I tried dropping things like ball bearings and even golf balls in to beer, but I wasn’t getting a dramatic splash I visualized in my head. I had read that someone was shooting the glass upside down to get the liquid actually falling back out of the glass. I thought that could be promising. I sketched out some ideas and off to the hardware store I went with a shopping list. 

A couple of planks of wood cut to make what ends up being a platform in the shape of a “U”.  Brackets to hold the pieces together. White paint on the boards to get some reflection from your flashes. Heavy duty Velcro for the bottom of the glass and the lower wood surface to hold your glass in place. You’re going to flip the “U” over and the glass is going to be suspended upside down. You’ll also want to get a turkey baster or a large syringe.  We’re going to be shooting the beer from the syringe up in to the upside down glass. As it falls back down, its going to create some really interesting splashes

You’ll see I’m using Speedlights here.  You’ll want a short flash duration to freeze the motion of the beer. You can also use mono lights but the shorter the flash duration the better. You’re also going to need another set of hands or a remote shutter release to fire the camera. I’m using Pocket Wizards on the camera, on the flashes and one in my hand; you can use them as a remote shutter release and fire your flashes at the same time. Set up your flashes so that the light is going to pass through the beer that will be falling out of the glass. Don’t worry about lighting for the glass yet, we’ll do that in the next setup. I’ve got a 70-200mm lens on my camera with the close-up lens adapter on it. A macro lens or a lens with an extension tube will work good, too.   Frame up your camera for the lip of the glass and above for about an inch or so and below the glass for a good six inches or more.  

Time for a test run with water. Fill the syringe with water. I put the trigger in a plastic bag to keep it dry and so I can hold it and still use two hands on the syringe. I came from the back of the setup because there was more room for me and it would be easier to stay out of the frame. Aim the syringe up in to the glass. I was about 4 or 5 inches from the glass. Push on the plunger and let the water shoot up in to the glass. The water will hit the bottom of it and then fall back down.   Start firing the shutter of your camera at the same time. The syringe holds a lot so you’ll have a few chances to make it work.  You’ll want to practice your timing between pushing the syringe and firing the camera to get the best results.  You might find that you need to reposition your lights.  Water is going to act the same as beer.  Look in the water shots for little sparkles of light in the splashes and the drops.  If you’re not seeing them, reposition your flashes to aim them more in to where the water is falling.   Review your shots and you’ll see some pretty interesting splashes.  Dry off, set up the syringe with beer and go for it.  This is the fun part.

You may get the tip of the syringe in your shots but that’s OK, you’ll mask it out in Photoshop later. You’ll end up with some really different splashes depending on where during the fall you’ve fired your shutter. Usually I’ll end up using an entire 12-ounce beer in a session. Yes, it’s sad that a beer died in the process, but it gave its life for a good cause.

When you have enough frames that you think you can work with, put the camera aside, clean up and reset for the glass and pour. You’ve just made quite the mess and the area smells like a brewery, which can be a good thing, for a little while at least.

Now I’ll do my set up for a standard photo of the glass and the pour. This could be the subject of a whole other blog post. This is where you’re going to be precise with your lighting and create a great product shot that you’re going to merge with the splash shots. Here’s a behind the scene of another glass shot I’ve done recently. 

Quick summary of my setup: I use a scrim camera left with a strobe behind it. It creates a real nice rim light on the glass. A bounce card right to open the shadows. A speedlight behind the glass to light the liquid and another shot with the strobe aimed at the glass to get a little front light.

Take all these photos in to Photoshop and use the pour shot as your starting point. Flip the splash shots so the glass is now right side up. Add the splash shots in as layers with masks. Use Free Transform to resize so the glasses in both shots are similar in size and lined up. This will give the splashes the right proportion to your visible glass. Then paint on the mask to bring in the parts of the splash you want to use. This can take a little trial and error, so you may be doing a bit of back and forth paint with black and white on your mask.  Add different splash shots to new layers with splashes you want to use. Repeat as necessary to get the final look you want. In the example above I used splashes from 3 shots to create the one splash. 

I hope this post helps give you some inspiration to try different things with liquids. I’ve started to incorporate this work in to my food and beverage photography business, Santé Photography (Santé is French for “Cheers”).  I’ve got some other setups in the works, to try some different effects.  After I clean up the mess I’m making, you’ll be able to see new stuff at my site.


Freed Clark
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