Amazing Beer Photography With Rob Grimm
A few weeks back we had the opportunity to join food, product, and beverage photographer extraordinaire Rob Grimm for two days of shooting in his St.Louis studio. With over twenty years of experience and clients such as Bacardi, Microsoft, Budweiser, and Energizer, Rob is a highly successful commercial photographer and we’re excited to be bring his knowledge and prowess to the Phamily. Make sure to view his full portfolio at www.robgrimmphoto.com!
“Rob Grimm Photography is built upon the creative force that is Rob, with over twenty years in the advertising business under his belt. We take great pride in the images we create, believing that the process of crafting exceptional images is rooted in unmatched production, an open and problem-solving mind, as well as a good sense of humor.”
In the realm of commercial beverage photography, each piece of an image is shot separately and put back together in post production. The labels are lit primarily by the Visatec, which provides a narrow focused beam of light. The polarized pan head lights the bottles from above without creating a glaring highlight. The Broncolor strip light provides that even streak of light on the left side of the bottles. It’s not shown in the diagram above, but the warm glow that seems to come from within the bottles is provided by a piece of metallic gold card stock positioned directly behind the bottles.
Tricks of the Trade
It takes more than lighting effects to get beer to look this good. A mixture of water and glycerin is applied to the bottles to create those water droplets. The glycerin thickens the water and prevents the droplets from running. The head on the snifter (that’s a fancy word for cup, folks) takes time to get right. When stirred with a wooden chopstick, the carbonation in the beer explodes, giving Rob control over how large the head of foam is. When the beer has no carbonation left, it is sucked out of the glass with a pump and replaced with fresh beer for another try.
Look out for an exclusive interview with Rob Grimm as well as a special collaborative Phlearn PRO Tutorial on beverage photography in the near future!
Aaron Nace: A couple of weeks ago, we headed down to St. Louis, Missouri to shoot with the Shakespeare of beers, St. Louis’ own, Rob Grimm. Today, we’re bringing you an exclusive Phlearn tutorial on just how we did it.
Rob Grimm: Hey, gang. Welcome. We’re going to be doing a new shot today. It’s a portfolio shoot with beer. We’re going to be concentrating on a really cool product from Boulevard Beer Brewing out of Kansas City, and that is their Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale.
They’ve got a couple different bottles, and we’re going to use the small one, which is just your regular size bottle. We’re going to be using a large bottle, which looks more like a champagne bottle, cork and all, with the twisty. We’re going to be putting an actual beer pour in a snifter glass.
This is kind of a different beer. It’s a higher percent alcohol, and is tending to be served in a little smaller glass, in a little smaller bottle rather, and then poured into a small snifter glass. That’s what we’re going to do.
Since it’s their farmhouse ale, we’re going to do it in kind of a rustic setting. You can see the background behind me. That is some barn wood that we snagged from an old saw mill in Middle Missouri, brought it back here, we put it together for our background, and we’ve got a surface made out of old barn wood as well. We’re really going to give it that kind of rustic, barn wood feel. Let’s get to it.
All right, gang. Let’s talk a little bit about this set and how it came together. Again, I’m using the Hasselblad with the 120-macro. My set is over here. I brought the camera angle up a little bit from what I had originally intended to do. I was going to try to make it pretty heroic and give those bottles a good, big, rich heroic feel. I wanted to see more of the surface. Plus, I actually wanted to catch a little bit of this front edge and really give this wood that farmhouse feel, because this is Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale. I want to bring my camera up a little bit, and I’m looking almost dead in the neck of the bottle, so right there is my camera perspective.
Once again, I’ve always got a few lights on set. One of my main lights, right here, is this pan head. One of the things to note about this particular pan head is that I’ve got a layer of polarizing gel on the light itself. I’ve got a polarizer on the lens. I set the polarizer on the lens to be perfect for the scene. It killed the glare coming around from the bottles that I didn’t want. The polarizer is set for the scene. Then I rotate the polarizer on the light to get rid of the highlight that would appear on the front of the bottle.
If I didn’t rotate that polarizer, I’d have a big, oblong-shaped highlight right on the front of these bottles, and it would be gross. By spinning that, in tandem with the polarizer that’s on the lens, I completely get rid of it.
I’ve got this little guy. This is a Visatec. It’s a Monobloc with an Infraspot attachment on the front of it. This is one of my all-time favorite little lights. I use these things with great regularity in shooting beverage because I need to get light just on the label. I want to really sculpt the light around the bottle, and coming through the bottle, and in doing that, that often makes the label really dark. If I go with an Infraspot like this, I can concentrate it just on that label, and give it the kick that it needs so that it pops out without overpowering or over-lighting the rest of the bottle.
Back here, we’ve got a diffusion panel, and behind it is a reflector. We’ve used this in a couple of different ways. We’re using it now, with the diffusion panel, so that the light is coming across. It’s hitting that gold card that you saw us hold in, and it’s giving a good, even reflection going across the entire piece. When we had this removed, we also had a grid insert on the inside of that reflector head, and that was coming through and in the final image. You’ll see light that’s raking through at the base, and it’s giving those bottles real depth as it looks like the light is coming forward. We modified that light two different ways in order to get the two different looks.
You can see an Impaspot back there as well. We wound up killing that, but our initial intent was to try to get some light into the bottom of these bottles. The bottles tend to go dark and one of the reasons why is because they’re cupped. They’re made like wine bottles so the base is really curved. When you’re looking at it, that tends to throw the light and make it really dark, so we were trying to get a little light in there. It’s kind of a difficult thing to do, so we’re going to wind up imposed, making some adjustments to get that cup to come up a little bit.
I have got one other light in the background. That’s a pan head with a grid inside of that. It’s a big 20-inch grid. I’ve used that to give a light washing across my background, but I gridded it down so it’s giving just a little more of a concentrated feel to the light.
There’s a light behind this diffusion panel. It’s the Broncolor strip light. That light is giving me a nice highlight on the outside edge of these two bottles. There’s going to be a really clean, white line that’s coming down. It’s diffused so it’s not super, super sharp, but it’s still very, very defined. It really makes that edge jump out. That’s our lighting schematic.
A couple of tricks that I’m going to focus on. One, visually, the height of the liquid that I’m bringing up is going to be different from how it looks when the head is actually stirred up. The way to make a beer look good is to stir it. You do it with a chopstick because there’s an enzyme in wood that brings out the carbonation and makes it explode, but it makes it explode in a very controlled way. This is something I’ve been doing for a lot of years. It’s all just trial and error.
I want to get a really good heroic glass of beer. The way to do that is to actually pour beer, stir it, and let the head rise. Once the beer is dead, I suck it all out and do it again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until I know I’ve got the perfect beer.
This is a beer pump. It’s going to pull the beer out of the glass for me without moving the glass, so I can keep it in the same spot and keep rolling.
All right, gang. Thanks for joining us. We just wrapped up two great days of shooting portfolio pieces. It wouldn’t have been possible without all of our Broncolor gear. It gives that light that extra bit of pop, as well as our Hasselblad camera which sees every detail in the world.
Thanks for joining us. We look forward to next time. Don’t forget to check out our website which is www.robgrimmphoto.com.