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Anatomy of a photo: Balvenie Scotch

Several unconnected events converged to make this photo (below). First, I received a review copy of The Nikon Creative Lighting System by Mike Hagen (from rockynook and NikoniansPress publishing). A review is on the way. Second, and more importantly, I received as a gift a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old single malt scotch.

Read on to get details of the lighting setup and what I think works and could be improved in this photo.

Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old

The setup

This scene was lit with two off-camera flashes. The first reflected from an umbrella directly to camera left set at -1.3 EV. The second directly behind the bottle, aimed at about a 45 degree up angle and towards the camera at 0 EV (TTL mode, normal sync). This flash was zoomed to 50mm. Both flashes were triggered wirelessly from the D90 built-in commander which did not contribute to the exposure. 98mm, 1/60s, f/5.6.

Flash setup

The good

Let’s talk about what I like in this photo and what I don’t like. First, the good. Overall, I got the effect I was going for. The scotch seems to radiate with a warm, inner light (which is just how it makes you feel). The tone is somewhat dark and moody as one would expect from a drink that’s so, you know, manly.

I intentionally used settings to blur the background container while still keeping all of the important text legible. I very much like the reflections of the whisky on the container. The background is dark and all of the attention is on the bottle. This photo (shot as a JPG fine) was cropped, resized, and sharpened slightly. No other image adjustments were made. It was the best of about 15 different takes.

The bad

Flaws Flaws are more interesting thought, aren’t they? For starters, the bottle isn’t full (a). I was willing to sacrifice a perfect photo for a dram or two. I guess that makes me a bad photographer. But I have no regrets.

I zoomed the flash behind the bottle to 50mm to help minimize light spill (b). You can still see some light reflecting off the bottle, lower right. This would be virtually impossible to completely eliminate without using a snoot for the flash but is easily removed in post-processing.

There’s even more light spill lighting up the side of the container behind the bottle. Whether this is a flaw or not is a matter of taste. Again, it could be eliminated with a snoot on the rear flash. This area would be more difficult to deal with in post.

I have a feeling that the photo would be better off without the window reflections on the bottle (d). Or perhaps, with cleaner reflections. Closing the curtains or moving to a different room without windows would have helped. It would be very difficult and time-consuming to cleanly remove the reflections on the neck in post so this is definitely a decision you want to make while shooting.

A little extra light on the tube container in the background (c) would have helped balance the photo a little better and added interest without taking away from the bottle. Maybe just a little rim lighting on the left side. Or maybe a dim spotlight thrown across “The Balvenie”…

What do you think? Any tips to share? What would you change about this photo?

Saturday Grab Bag


Ten Thousand Pictures of You from Robin King on Vimeo.

But if shooting 26,000 photos with your 350D for a stop-motion film isn’t your thing…

Most popular posts of 2008

Firework Display - Hogmanay Street Party, Dornoch, Scotland

Photo by: foxypar4 (cc-by)

Happy new year! I hope you had a great holiday and got to spend some quality time, as I did, with the people you love. I thought a quick look back at some of the most popular posts of 2008 would be a great way to start Photodoto.com’s third year.

As you can see, our posts run the gamut from quick tips, core photography instruction, and reviews…to software, image editing, and fun projects. And we’ll have a lot more in 2009. So thanks for reading, tell your friends, and stick around—it’s going to be a great year!

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The importance of focus and quick tips on how to get it right
Focus in photography is about a lot more than simply sharpness or being able to see what you are looking at. Focus can enhance a subject by making it stand out from or blend into its surroundings, focus can draw you in, and the right focus can create an emotional connection with the viewer. No matter what style of photography you enjoy, focus can work for you or against you.

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Basic Travel Photography
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Take better flash photos in one easy step
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Review: The Flip Mino HD  Video Camera
I really like the Flip video cameras. I reviewed the original Flip Mino back in June and recommended it for anyone who wanted to shoot more than a couple of minutes of video at a time or who wanted to reserve the space on their camera’s memory card just for pictures. The Flip Mino is a handy, compact, easy to use video recorder. And the Flip Mino HD is virtually identical in every way except one.

Free noise reduction plugin for the GIMP
But one thing my stock GIMP install didn’t have was a decent noise removal filter. That is, until I downloaded and installed the GREYCstoration plugin. Installing it is as simple as downloading and dropping the plugin into the GIMP plugins directory. Restart GIMP and you’ll find a new menu under Filters | Enhance | GREYCstoration.

Screencast: Curves color enhancement tutorial
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Buying a digital camera for your kids
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Tethered shooting on Ubuntu Linux using gPhoto2
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Introducing Your Little One to Photography
One of my day jobs involves working with special needs children and children in hospital. I do a lot of work with children on the autistic spectrum and children with learning difficulties, as well as with at-risk youth and kids with chronic illnesses. One of my absolute favourite things to do is introduce these children to photography. Not only do I enjoy sharing my passion but for a lot of the children I work with it is a unique way for them to express some creativity.

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