Serene Life

by garik

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I'm a massive Guinness fan and want to take a close up of the dark cloudy texture you get when you pour a glass. I've seen it in the adverts and just want to experiment.

I have a limited-edition pint glass, and am imagining a shot with the logo on the glass to the left of the shot and the view of the cloudy Guinness strongest to the right of the logo.

What sort of lighting and settings would be best for this?

I have no studio equipment, as I'm a newbie. Here's my kit:

  • Nikon D70S
  • AFS Nikkor DX 18-70mm 3.5-4.5
  • Tamron 70-300mm 4-5.6
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1  
If you get a good shot of this, please post it! –  Andrew Garrison Jan 5 '11 at 19:26
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Happy to help. Let me know when you need me to be over to help you drink the 'test shots.' :-) –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 5 '11 at 20:57
    
Similar subject: photo.stackexchange.com/q/3982/378 –  Evan Krall Jan 6 '11 at 6:02
    
@Andrew will do but waiting on a light tent arriving, my best effort DIY tent just won't cut it. So far this is proving quite difficult! –  iamjonesy Jan 7 '11 at 15:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 52 down vote accepted

I'm not going to lie to you -- food shots are hard, and they generally involve a lot of lights (not power, quantity of sources). And one way or another, this is going to involve alcohol abuse*. Forget flash altogether unless you've got a friend who can lend you a set of studio strobes with modelling lights. You can use lamps (if you have a work light with a parabolic reflector or two, all the better) -- either incandescent or a good fluorescent will do. You can use waxed paper as a pretty decent diffuser to make the light softer (watch it if you're using incandescents).

You're going to have to spend some time looking at the shot as you set it up, adding reflectors and gobos (basically, bits of card to block light, usually matte black to minimize reflections). Most of this can be bits of card, perhaps with a bit of aluminium foil (if you have a ready supply of the embossed foil from the inside of a cigarette packet, that's a great, even reflector surface). Don't get too fussy making things that don't show in the image, but do worry about anything that will be reflected in the glass.

You'll want to work with just the glass first to get the right highlight shapes. Then for the painful part -- you'll need Guinness in the glass while you try to get the nectar to look like something other than a dark, dense gravy with mashed potatoes floating on it. That may mean throwing some light into the liquid from behind -- a small torch with a teeny, tiny "striplight" (a rectangular softbox) that can be hidden completely behind the glass might be appropriate. Take your time and play with the light -- you're not going to shoot the first pint since all the foam streams and the gentle collapse of the head only look right for a few precious seconds, and this is going to take many minutes. Have a less-than-perfect pint as a reward for all your effort, and make sure that if there are any little folk around, they've been adequately frightened of the consequences of touching anything.

Take a break -- you will have been hunched over and unaware of how stiff you've become. Meticulously clean the glass -- like someone's critical surgery depends on it. Make sure everything is still set up properly. Now for the perfect pour, put the glass exactly where it was during the set-up, and take a few shots (preferably bracketed -- mains power fluctuations can do strange things). This should take only a brief few seconds this go-around. And your reward awaits you again.

*It's up to you whether than abuse consists of sacrificing perfectly good stout or getting yourself into a condition that isn't conducive to photography because you don't want to see it die an unnecessary death.

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+1 for the "little folk around" –  ysap Jan 5 '11 at 12:31
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+1 for the overall tone :-) –  whuber Jan 5 '11 at 14:33
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I have to admit I had fun with this one :o) –  user2719 Jan 5 '11 at 14:37
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Note: you'll get less fluctuation in brightness with incandescent sources than flourescents or, especially, things like sodium vapor lights (not that most folks would have the latter at home... But in case you're working in some sort of space that does). You could also reduce such effects with a longer shutter speed (say, a couple cycles of the A/C), but that might not work well for this shot - I imagine you'll want the bubbles still. Also, a lamp shade can at times make a nice soft box. And, great answer, Stan! –  lindes Jan 5 '11 at 15:19
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As long as it's well framed and the glass is clearly the star of the show (that is, it looks to be in perfect proportion, the logo and the famous bubbles are in sharp focus, and the background is either to dark or too blurred to matter) you'll be okay. Without knowing what your lighting conditions are, I can't give you much more help in terms of shutter/aperture. You'll want to be somewhere around the 70-100mm range most likely, otherwise the glass may lose a bit of its roundness, but don't be afraid to try something a bit longer. Wider probably won't flatter the glass, but there are no rules. –  user2719 Jan 5 '11 at 16:48

From my experience, when it comes to product photography, in order to make impressive images you really cannot end up using the available light - at least without modification.

First thing I'd rule out is the on-camera flash (either built in or external). Forget about using it unless you want a flat and blah image. Then you probably want to take care for the background. use of some flat white board behind the glass should provide a neutral background that will not blend in with the color of the beer.

Next, try to create some kind of back- and/or side-lighting environment. This is the harder part if you don't have an external flash, but you can try building some soft-box or light tent around your object, where using shades and reflective surfaces in the right places will direct the sunlight to the required ares. It is not going to be easy, probably.

Alternatively you can use (a) table lamp(s) together with longer exposure (on a tripod, of course) instead of the flash. Just make sure to balance your white temperature accordingly.

Try shooting with both lenses. Sometimes the shorter focal lengths give some nicer perspective on your subject.

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