Home Photography Ideas: Make a splash with food and drink photography

Watch Video: Home Photography Ideas – Add a twist to food photography

If you’ve run out of ideas to photograph during the current isolation period, we’ve got the remedy for what’s ailing you…a nice splash of your favorite drink for a still life with a difference!

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Still life photography allows us to control every aspect of our image. We can arrange our props however we want and change the lighting to our liking, until we get the exact image we want. With the camera on a tripod, we can change compositions and shoot in low light if we want; with static shooting, shutter speed becomes irrelevant.

However, we’ll show you how to add some expression to a still life by including a sense of movement in your scene. Our subject is a bottle of rose lemonade, and to add interest we’ll dress the scene with a glass of the fizzy drink, include a real rose and some lemons as the backdrop – frozen as they splash in a container of water.

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(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

While our camera is still locked securely in place on a tripod, timing becomes everything. As well as making sure we hit the shutter just when the falling lemons enter the frame, we need to freeze the moment to avoid unsightly subject blur – and we’ll achieve that with a set of studio lights.

We will also use other tricks. We want our lemonade to look ice cold and refreshing, with that look straight out of the fridge. However, the warm studio lights would quickly melt the ice cubes in our drink and evaporate any condensation forming on the bottle and glass, so we’re going to have to simulate things a bit…

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01 Prepare your frame

(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

You will need two bottles of your chosen drink. It’s best to choose stylish ’boutique’ bottles, rather than something from the supermarket’s ‘economy’ range. Coat the label of one of them with clear varnish so that it remains waterproof when the water droplets are applied. Then pour some of the fizzy drink from the second bottle into a clean glass tumbler until it’s half full, and place them on a reflective surface.

02 Dressing the scene

(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

We positioned a rose between the bottle and the glass, in front of a tank full of water. Fill the tumbler with acrylic ice cubes – real ice will melt too quickly. Next, mix a combination of water and glycerin in a ratio of about 2:1 and spray on the bottle and glass tumbler to make them look refreshing and cool.

03 Camera settings

(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

Set the shutter speed to the flash timing determined by your camera body – in this case we’re shooting at 1/200s. Set an aperture of f/11 to give great depth of field and your lowest possible ISO for maximum image quality. Focus on the bottle, then switch to manual focus to lock it in place and turn off the lights. A test shot should produce a very underexposed dark frame.

04 Let there be light

(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

In this project, we use three Profoto studio lights – an inset, a fill and a backlight – all set to different output powers to illuminate our scene in a subtly balanced way. (You can also use speed lights to get the same results, though you’ll need to pump the power since strobes are less powerful.) Position the light key to the right of the setup; the filler on the left and the third light behind the tank, with a translucent diffuser in between to soften the lighting in the background.

05 Power to the Lights

(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

After lighting our scene, the very short duration of the flash will freeze the lemons as they splash into the tank behind. It is the variable power of the key and the filling that gives shape to our bottle and our accessories. The back light diffuses through the liquid in the bottle and the glass, highlighting the drink. Take a test shot and adjust the power of the lights until you have a balanced setup. We had the key at three-quarter power (7.5), half-fill (5), and backlight at full (10), creating soft, even light through the dual diffuser we used.

06 Dive in

(Image credit: Rémy & Esmé Lloyd / Digital Camera World)

Ask your assistant to drop the lemons into the reservoir on the count of three and estimate when to release the shutter. It will take a few tries to get the job done, so use a squeegee to clean the front and back of the water tank from spills, ready for the next shot. If you’re shooting tethered, you’ll be able to better inspect details on your computer screen.

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