Everyone has heard of Photoshop. I started using it in school in 1990 – version 2. Little did I know that my world of photography with film and my fabulous chemical darkroom containing potassium ferricyanide + many more gnarly chemicals (don’t worry dad, I always wore a chemical respirator mask), would now be replaced with stupidly expensive digital cameras, a massive Mac tower computer with three drive in it, two 30″ Apple monitors (which are no longer made by the way, and the closest to them that I can find are made by Eizo for a whopping $3000 each! and that’s for a 27″ not a 30″, lord help me when my monitors die!) and a large format printer (epson preferred) + Photoshop being used every day.
WE’LL JUST FIX IT IN POST
The way we shoot commercially has totally changed. In the days of film we had to get the shot as perfect as we could. Now, the saying, “oh, we’ll fix it in post” is unfortunately the answer to everything. That being said, shooting digitally now can also enable us to create shots that were soooo difficult in the days of film but much easier now knowing we will “finish it in post”.
THE POUR SHOT
Even in the digital era, one of the most difficult things to shoot is a pour shot. A pour shot is an image of anything pouring in any manor.
Here is an example. This is a shot I did for an ad agency for Carl’s Junior. This finished shot seems simple enough, right? You slap a biscuit on the white table and start pouring honey on it and just get a great shot.
Sorry, that is not how this happened. This shot is actually a composite of four images. These four images where the selects (favorite images of 103 shots) that I shot in about 1 hour. You can see the “selects” below.
The image on the left is my base image – I’m using the biscuit and all the honey that’s on it. Then with the image on the right the only thing I am using is the big drip on the left. You can see this is actually a different biscuit.
The shot on the left was only used for the beautiful honey base as it hit the biscuit. The shot on the right was only used for the honey column as it poured over the biscuit. Notice the lovely honey pond surrounding the biscuit. I think we went through 5 large bottles of honey that day. Each bottle was put into the squeeze bottle on the left and we had to cut the nib of the bottle to get the size of the column we wanted.
I put all of these together with Photoshop using layer masks and stacking the layers in the image and erasing away the parts I did not want. This is an advance technique but there are tons of tutorials about it online if you google it. I probably spent about 1 hour putting the four files together.
So if you are trying to do a shot like this on your own and are struggling with it, please know, the way they do it is with multiple shots pieced together to look seamless, as if its one shot.
ELEMENTS OF A POUR SHOT
When I’m doing a pour shot, I plan for at least four different elements that will be needed to complete the final image.
- The Column: The column is section of the liquid that’s in between whatever you are pouring from and then the place it lands or impacts. Depending on the liquid, we’ll have different requirements of that column. I will sometimes have to change the lighting for that column of liquid. In the shots above, I wanted the column to have shape with it being bright in the middle and darker on the edges.
- The Impact: The impact is where your column of liquid lands. The impact area in the shots above is where the honey piles up on top of the biscuit. In a wine pour, it would be the interior of your glass.
- The Base Surface Elements: The base surface elements help to complete your story. In the shots above, my base surface is the actual biscuit and all the extra drips I wanted plus the honey that dripped down onto the surface. These elements are carefully placed to look the yummiest.
- Any Extra Flying Parts: Honey doesn’t splash obviously so I don’t have any extra flying elements in the image. If I were shooting wine, then I’d do a ton of shots just to get drops flying around that I can capture and composite onto the final image. I would also get shots of the swirling wine in the base of the glass.
When photographing honey like I did, you don’t need high speed strobes. When you are photographing anything that is thin, and moving fast, like a wine pour shot, you need to use high speed strobes. If you don’t, you will actually see motion blur in the liquid in your shots.
All strobes are measured by what’s called a Flash Duration. This is the length of time that the actual strobe light is on for – the length of the entire explosion of light. This measurement is in fractions of a second, which sounds super fast, but you must know in order to stop an item from moving in your shot, your flash duration must be super fast.
To stop motion in an image, 1/4000th of a second is needed. That takes a lot of power.
In these honey shots, I’m using Speedotron strobes. These strobes have an extremely long flash duration, any shots of a thin liquid and my shots are extremely blurry and un-usable.
Here’s how this works with strobes: The power that the strobe pack it set to, will dictate how fast or slow the flash duration will be. The more power you need, the slower your flash duration. The lower power pack settings will give you a faster flash duration from your heads.
For example, let’s talk about my Speedotron 202VF light heads rated at 2400WS maximum power. When they are only at 300WS, their flash duration is at 1/1425th of a second. When the head is maxed out – it’s at 1/300th of a second. This light head is about $500-$600. Then you also need a strobe pack of course. That would be $2500.
So you have to use a head that has a fast flash duration, like the Broncolor Pulso G Lamp 3200 J. Broncolor is the Maserati of flash systems. The Pluso G’s have a flash duration of 1/5000th of a second. Yep, that’s fast.
The other thing that’s needed is multiple packs with multiple heads. I’ve worked on shots where we had 10 packs, 10 heads, each programed to set up to fire one after another and sync with the camera to power through a pour shot. Just awesome.
Oh, but like the Maserati, they cost a massive amount of money. Just the Pulso G4 heads are $2650. But wait for it, the strobe packs range from $3500 to $14,000! So I don’t own these, I rent them when needed.
So if you want to start doing splashing and pour shots, be prepared for the cost of the equipment that’s needed – it can be very fun if you’re game!
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