Tag Archives: bottles

Photographing 52 Beers in a Year

52 Beers Group, Week 8: Brrr, Seasonal Red -- Widmer Brothers Brewing

52 Beers Group, Week 34: Old Boardhead

52 Beers Group, Week 29: Alpha Dog Imperial IPA

52 Beers Group, Week 13: Goudenband, Brouwerij Liefmans

52 Beers Group, Week 31: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I enjoy beer.   It’s fun to sample, write about, and photograph.  Exactly 44 weeks ago, I joined the 52 Beers group on Flickr.   I don’t write reviews or document my beer intake in any way, but I took this on as a challenge to force myself to come up with new ways at looking at beer by photographing one new beer each week for a year.  To accomplish this, I had to ask myself a few questions: What makes a beer unique?  What makes a bottle or a label stand out?  What does beer mean to me?  What have I gotten myself into?

Taking photographs for fun and taking photographs professionally are two different monsters.  As much as I love photography, it doesn’t mean I want to have a camera in my hand around the clock.  It’s pretty heavy.  Plus, motivation does not strike all day, every day.   If I don’t have any appointments scheduled for the day, it’s fairly easy to watch a DVD, take a nap, and then spend the rest of the afternoon wondering where my day went.  I can admit that. Evidently,  not just to myself,  but to anyone reading this.  I think a lot of people are like me in that respect,  so it’s important to set up challenges and exercises where I can be held accountable.

Well, I’m almost a full year into the project and what did I learn?  Well, I love beer.  I think that was already a fact though, so it doesn’t count.   First, I don’t have an expensive studio with unlimited lighting.  So, some were shot outside, some under random generic lamps, and others under a speedlight.  But lighting, although imperative, was secondary to me for this project.  The overriding element was composition.  Show the beer?  Show the head?  Show the bottle?  Show the glass?  Show the growler?

  • Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brrr:  I got a sample bottle in the mail, but things didn’t come together until I bough a six pack off the shelves.  What typifies “Brrr” more than huddling together?
  • Full Sail Brewing, Old Boardhead: Simple label, complex beer.  I happened to be drinking it when I got a phone call.  When I got back to the beer, late afternoon light had come through the window and lit the beer through the glass.  It was nice, but a flashlight exaggerated the effect and created the shot I wanted: a complex tasting beer that was also complex visually.
  • Laughing Dog, Alpha Dog Imperial IPA: The analog TTV treatment seemed to work with the bottle design and the glass of beer in the background.  I didn’t think about it while I was shooting it, but the lpha Dog is definitely gaurding the beer in the background.  Sometimes, things just come together.
  • Liefman’s Goudenband:  I decided a dyptych would be the best option to show the label from the front as well as the twisted tissue presentation layer.  It’s very unique packaging, and very important ot feature it.
  • Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid: Not everything has to be planned.  I was playing dominos, drinking Hop Stoopid, and my camera was nearby.  End of story.

The Ten Percent Rule

Widmer Brothers 25th Anniversary Double Alt

One obvious advantage of shooting digital is the almost unrestricted amount of shots I can get.  I usually carry about 20GB worth of cards around with me, so it’s shoot, shoot, shoot.  Because of this, I can take chances with different lenses, various angles, and unlimited compositions.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a familiar formula popping up when I take photos.  I call it the Ten Percent Rule.  It’s pretty simple.  Out of all of the images I shoot during a session–an event, a game, a hike–I’ll be happy with about 10 percent of the photos.  Out of the final 10 percent, I’ll be very happy with 10 percent of those.  So, if I shoot 900 photos during a game, I’ll send about 90 to my publishers, and end up with about 9 shots that I really love.  Or if I go for a hike, take 100 photos, I’ll end up posting about 10 for people to see with one exceptional shot.

Once I realized this pattern popping up in my photography, I put it to good use.  If a client wants 20 final photos of their business, I know that I should be shooting around 200 photos.  Now, this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a good benchmark.  If I finish that client’s shoot and realize that I’ve only taken 50 total shots, I’ve got a lot more work to do.

With a 90% “waste” rate, I’m lucky that I love post-production.  There’s a lot of sitting, sorting, tagging, and eliminating photos after the shoot.  After shooting a two hour game, I spend about three to four hours of post production going through and remastering the final photos.  This isn’t a very glamorous aspect of my job, but for some reason I enjoy it as much as taking the photos.

Maybe in a few years, I’ll get good enough to rename the rule to the Twenty Percent Rule.  For now, I’m happy with ten percent and very happy that no one else knows where to find the other ninety percent of the photos I take!

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

52 Beers Group, Week 22: Punk IPA, BrewDog

52 Beers Group, Week 8: Brrr, Seasonal Red -- Widmer Brothers Brewing

52 Beers Group, Week 20: Topsail Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter, Full Sail Brewing

I started shooting beer bottles as an analog for another product I was shooting.  I had a gig to shoot a proprietary product that included curved glass, so beer bottles made a good stand in while I waited for the prototype to arrive.

It turns out, glass is a bit tricky to shoot.  It’s hard to light it from the front without creating distracting reflections on the front of the product.  It’s hard to light from the side without losing the light for front of the product.  Basically, you make an adjustment to one light, which throws off another, which throws off another when you adjust that one, and on and on…  Baby steps and slight adjustments will get you there.

But, for all the pain, I did develop better eyes for very tiny details.  Very tiny reflective details.  And now, people send me beer to shoot and when I’m done, I get to drink the beer!  Two birds, one stone.