Ice Tea & Lemon

August 31, 2016  •  1 Comment

Making Ice tea is a slightly longer process than making normal tea because you have to wait for it to cool down enough so as not to melt all your ice in the first 30 seconds. Photographing ice tea takes even longer as there are lights to set up to make the best of the lovely colour of the tea and to get the best reflections.

 

I decided to sign up to Photigy.com in order to assess their free introductory course in product photography. The course consists of several videos and annotated images which are designed to guide the student through the process of creating a series of product photographs. The instructor Alex Koloskov has many years working as a professional product photographer behind him and has experimented with many techniques and different gear to get to the very high standard he now has. Alex aims to teach all the things he has learned so that his students can avoid costly bad gear choices and hours and hours of slow learning. The introductory course is offered to give potential students the chance to see if they like Alex's teaching style.

Ice Tea & LemonIce Tea & Lemon

So I dove in. The first few videos are about cameras and lighting. Just about any camera will do if understood by its operator and as I have a choice of a few cameras I was already sorted in that department. Next was lighting. Having mostly done portraiture with my studio lights I was pleased to find that most of what I have would work perfectly well even if it wasn't quite as powerful as would be ideal. I did luck out though because I do have enough battery flashes/strobes to be able to construct most lighting set ups. Finally we came to lighting modifiers which are the things which shape the light. For product photography shaping and controlling the light is absolutely the most important skill to learn. I think the key understanding I took from this section of the videos was that most photographic subjects are not shiny. Like people and fashion and architecture. Sure there are exceptions to the rule but this is mostly true. Product photography on the other hand is predominantly about lovely shiny new things. Like drink bottles, jewellery & gadgets. These objects need very careful control of the light as mostly what you see is not the object itself but the shapes of what is reflected in its glossy curves.

Ice Tea & Lemon BTSIce Tea & Lemon BTS

The first practical video was setting up and lighting a glass of ice tea. Three lights were one at a time added to the scenario. First was the background light designed to give a spot of light behind the glass. One flash with a shaped reflector behind a diffusion screen. Next was the light to give a reflection to the left hand side of the glass. A new lighting technique for me was resting one edge of a strip box against a diffusion panel to create a reflection which was sharp on one edge fading with a gradient on the other edge. Lastly was a focussed spot of light to give an extra kick to the slice of lemon wedged on the side of the glass without causing unwanted reflections in the glass or hot spots on the background. Class over, Alex encourages students to actually go and shoot and so I did.

Ice Tea & Lemon BTSIce Tea & Lemon BTS

The only thing I didn't have was the plastic ice. It's a cheat but a necessary one. Real ice melts which is all part of how it keeps your drink cold but this isn't helpful when trying to arrange and shoot it in a drink. I ordered some acrylic ice from Amazon and while waiting for it to turn up got to work on assembling the other elements of the photograph. When the ice finally turned up it was easy to see why Alex paid £30+ for each cube from a professional prop shop. Amazon ice at £6 for a bag of cubes was a much lesser product. Taking things into my own hands I researched diy acrylic ice online. A few hours later I had melted and polished 18 Amazon cubes into 6 Finchley cubes. They were a bit bubbly but they were bigger and looked much better in the glass.

Ice Tea & Lemon BTSIce Tea & Lemon BTS

The final image was almost ready straight out of the camera. Mostly what was needed was cleaning up specks of dust. No matter how hard you try to clean them in real life they stubbornly remain and need photoshopping. Cropping to centralise the glass and a few tweaks to saturation to boost the tea and lemon finished the image. It's certainly true that time spent getting the glass properly illuminated is much more useful and rewarding than hours trying to correct things in photoshop. Beware the photographer who claims to fix everything in photoshop.

Ice Tea & LemonIce Tea & Lemon

So would I recommend the course on Photigy. In short, yes! Alex does explain why you should do certain things and why small details are important. He's also encouraging to just try it with whatever gear you have. Further videos in the beginners course use household LED lightbulbs to light a shiny kettle and a bunch of flowers. With the caveats Alex mentions creating successful images is assured.

Signing up for full access to all the benefits of Photigy is several hundred $ or £ so I won't be doing that just yet but I will be following Alex's shorter & lighter tutorials on YouTube and his own site.


Comments

1.AbbieP(non-registered)
What a stunning shot, I would love to be able to make similar ones on my own.
Thanks for referring us to Alex's videos, will definitely try and search for them on Youtube. Do you know any good photoshop courses as well? Would love to step up my game with the camera and I know how important editing is.

Thanks
xoxo
Abbie
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