I originally titled these photos “In Kentucky, we don’t cry over spilled milk. Spilled bourbon – not so much”
I got the idea for this studio shot of a glass of spilled bourbon from a similar photo of a wine glass on its side. However, since I live in Kentucky — bourbon capital of the world — it seemed only natural to create my own rendition using bourbon.
The setup is relatively simple. The ‘table’ is a piece of black plexiglass, which gives a very deep reflective surface. Most of the shots were against my standard white seamless paper studio backdrop. However, I cropped that out in the final selections.
There were two challenges to this shot. First was getting the lighting right. The second was to keep the glass from rolling, in a way not visible in the photo.
I experimented with several lighting setups for the shot. One challenge I faced which was new in my studio shots was my overhead light. I have a ceiling light which is bright enough to illuminate the area for setup but does affect a flash shot. However, I was initially surprised that I was getting a reflection of that light in the glass. So I had to relocate my table and turn down the power on the overhead light.
Positioning the flash units was really a matter of experimentation. Although I tried two softboxes, I wound up using a 26 inch softbox on the left of the photo and a flash with a two-inch snoot overhead shining directly down on the glass. Before I arrived at the final setup, I shot 37 trials. Patience – patience.
Away It Rolls
Keeping the glass in one place proved to be a challenge, even though the table top was level. I finally used a very thin layer of double-sided Scotch tape to hold the glass in place. Even then, I had to remove a small visible portion of the tape in Photoshop.
In the inspiration photo, the photographer said he used water tinted with red food coloring for his ‘wine.’ However, I had a problem with that concept. First of all, I wasn’t sure how to make an amber-brown color with food coloring. And most importantly, bourbon really does have a color all its own.
The solution — I used real bourbon for the shot. To get the ‘spill’ effect, I filled the glass to a point where the liquid almost touched the rim when the glass was laid on its side. Then I finished the fill with a medicine syringe. I also used the syringe to create the ‘spill.’
There are a couple of things I would do differently if I try this type of shot again.
First, I would probably show the background for reference. A couple of people have commented that the glass looks like it’s ‘floating in the air.’ By having a bit of the background wall showing, it would put the table more in perspective.
Second, I would also try back-lighting the shot. As I looked at the original example, that’s how that photographer lighted his wine glass. I think that gives it a nice perspective as well.
What are your thoughts on this type of photo? How do you think I might improve it?