For a while, we have wanted to create a contemporary studio drinks photography style image, based on a single-colour still life set, championing a drink of choice. Our aim was to get creative and produce a slightly more conceptual piece. We recently stumbled across the monochromatic product photographs of Nüüd ceramics, which were taken by Renee Altrov. In one dark green image, the background and table and even the food matches the product colour, with the only interruption being the hand that is swooping in to grab a piece of sushi.

We felt inspired by Altrov’s minimalistic photographs, which appeared otherworldly and eye-catching yet soft and dreamy. We wanted an image that looked modern and classy but with this unique, futuristic feel about it. Flat lighting would accommodate this perfectly.

A clear spirit would not interfere with the colours of the image, whilst the bottle had to have a label which stood out against the light grey tones we planned to use for the props and background. We chose a tall blood orange vodka with a block-coloured label that would really pop.

Our studio has accumulated many specific drinks photography props over the years which we regularly experiment with during shoots, and we were able to use a few for this. However, we also had to buy an appropriate cocktail kit, which proved tricky as very few physical stores sold them. Eventually, we found the pieces we had envisioned in the photograph, and began to paint them with chalk Plastikote spray. Meanwhile, we painted the background and table piece too, using a very similar colour to the spray.

To create our delicate lighting, we positioned a soft light overhead, whose light passed through a diffuser and onto the product. This meant that shadows would be smaller and less harsh. Meanwhile, book lighting on one side provided more brightness for the front. Book lighting consists of pointing a light at a white poly board, which it then bounces off before going through a diffuser and onto the subject(s). We started with one light, then added another lower down to even out the line going down the left side of the bottle. We placed barn doors on the diffuser side of the lights’ reflectors to reduce light leakage.

We realised that this left-hand lighting created a gradient from bright to shadow so, to balance it out, we added a white board on the right-hand side, which reflected the light. Unfortunately, this meant that some of the contrast was lost, but we were able to bring some back later through in post pro.

Once we had polished the bottle and set the scene, we tested the shot. To compliment the circular pattern that the props had created and the warmth of the bottle’s label, and to generally add more colour, we placed a slice of blood orange in the shot. We experimented with differently-shaped slices and analysed them one-by-one beside the bottle. The chosen piece added some nice form to the shot, as well as a natural and soft quality to the otherwise manmade scene. Often we’ll use clear sheet acrylic with food items to stop their moisture from affecting the emulsion painted base – we then use photoshop to remove it.

We are very pleased with the final image, which appears calm and natural in its lighting but well-built and quite surreal in the set itself. The orange label provides a burst of warm colour in comparison to its gloomier settings, and the bottle glows against the matte props.

Here’s the final image, followed but some behind the scene images in the studio, of the preparation and techniques used.

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