Drinks photographer Tomatin Whisky.

Back in November we had a last minute cancelation, and therefore a rare, free day in the studio. We decided to challenge ourselves and make a stunning hero product shot. We had talked in the past about doing Hero Whisky Photography for our portfolio, and decided that this spare ‘locked down’ day was the time for it!

Our aim was to create a stunning image that shows off what we’re capable of in the studio when we’re unconstrained. We wanted to flex our creative muscles and show off, great lighting, harmonious use of props and colour, and the full resolution of our camera. For props and lighting, a simple and traditional approach would best suit this old-fashioned spirit, which is often consumed with little dilution. We opted to use warm lighting and ensure we captured the orange glow of the whisky, evoking a fire-side atmosphere. A chunky piece of oak was chosen to place the bottle on, allowing for connotations of nature – particularly the spring water that the Scots may use to dilute their beverage – and references towards the barrels in which distilleries commonly store their whisky.

Drinks photographer Tomatin Whisky: The technicals

For the whisky itself, a good quality bottle with a minimalistic label that didn’t overpower the shot was desired. After much consideration, we found one that would complement the warm tones of the drink and lighting perfectly. Our background had a very slight coolness in comparison, serving as a nice contrast. It was a simple piece of textured, black material which helped to dramatise the shot, but not distract. Hints of marbled white look a little bit like smoke or flowing water in the final image, again alluding to Scottish springs. To accentuate this, we pointed a low-powered light with a reflector attachment at the background.

A 45mm tilt shift lens on the camera allowed for the focus to be manipulated to cover the whole bottle. In turn this blurred the background letting the product stand out. The lighting, as usual, was arguably the most important part to give our final image the desired mood. We began with a high back light. We wanted the bottle to glow with strong edges, complementing its shape. We found this light to be a bit too harsh at first; therefore, we added diffusion between the light and the product to balance it out. The profoto light head adorned a simple ‘zoom’ reflector which lets us adjust the focus and spread of light.

To bring attention to the front of the bottle and its contents, we experimented with a few focus lights, which can provide concentrated spotlights for a moody atmosphere. We kept the one that was pointed directly at the bottle, catching the glimmer of the label’s text.

To prepare for the final shots, we had to make the bottle suitable for shooting. We removed the back labels to get a cleaner shot and scrubbed off the sticky bits left behind, and then wiped off any dust on the bottle and tumbler to make both look new and glossy.

Polishing the bottle

After we were happy with the main image, we had to produce collateral images, which are tiny extra touches to the photograph that we later layer up and brush into the main image when editing. For example, we bounced light off of a gold reflector, which was behind the bottle and glass in various handheld positions, to bring out the liquid’s warm colour. We also shone a light through Perspex (which added some warmth to affected areas) to brighten part of the wood, accentuate the bottle’s engraved writing and highlight the rim of the glass.

Our final image is one that contains both elements of comfort (in the warmth and soft lighting) and classiness (in the shiny, shaped and accentuated parts), both working to invite the viewer in. We hope you like it.

If you’re into Scotch, check out Tomatin Whisky’s full range on their website here!

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