Photography & Props

Photo Fridays: The Making of a Margarita

by Shawnda on June 15, 2012

in Photography & Props

Fresh Cherry Margaritas

Having shot a number of cocktails margaritas in the last year or so, I’ve gotten the process down pretty well. Shooting the cherry margarita went a little something like this:

1 – Getting exposure set correctly, empty glass strategically placed over the barcode sticker on the poster board.
2 – Added a cocktail napkin that I scored from Etsy and cherries that I scored from HEB.
3 – Happy with exposure, I rimmed the glass with salt and poured the margarita in the glass. No ice yet – the clock starts ticking the second you add ice.
4 – Adjusted napkin placement and added more cherries. Happy with the composition and exposure of the shot, I added the ice and lime garnish and called it good.
5 – I pulled back to get a shot that would crop to a square/1:1 for submission to the “pretty food sites.”
6 – Not 100% happy with the fact that I couldn’t get those pretty splatter marks and pits in the picture shooting at 3/4ths, I shot from overhead. If I was going to ruin the poster board, I wanted it to count :) Plus, after shooting like 12 margarita recipes, they all kind of start to feel the same.
7 – Start of happy hour (not shown) :)

Fresh Cherry Margaritas

Some notable things about the photos:
– The shot is backlit.
– My work surface is my coffee table, which I’ve moved against the window overlooking the patio (as seen here).
– My “background” is simply the matte side of a white poster board sitting on top of my coffee table.
– Because the extra set of hands needed to help me with the reflector (also seen here) for this particular shot was working Toddler Crowd Control, I used the flash to add more light to the front of the glass.

I’ll show you how I work with back-lighting in an upcoming Photo Friday. ‘Til then, keep calm and make margaritas!

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Photo Fridays: Light vs Dark

by Shawnda on June 1, 2012

in Photography & Props

Fresh Cherries

Which one do you prefer?

The very first choice I have to make when I set up a shot – well, right after “do I eat first or shoot first” – is: light or dark?

I usually have an idea in my head of how I want the final shot to look. But before I pick a dish out of the prop closet, before I dig into the container of discount fabric scraps, I have to decide: bright & happy or dark & dramatic.

After that decision is made, the rest falls into place.

The same shot can look completely different, evoke completely different reactions. I adore the bright whites and blown-out highlights in a slightly over-exposed photo. There’s very little to distract from the subject, your eye is drawn to color, and there isn’t a shadow in sight. The reds of the cherries and contrasting aqua colander really pop against the white. It’s reminiscent of spring, summer. It’s bright & shiny. Total happiness.

Fresh Cherries

And at one time, I would have never considered trying anything else. I had my all-white dishes, my almost white placemat and napkin, and an enviable amount of light coming through gigantic windows (I miss those windows!). But my photography heroes don’t always shoot bright & happy so I’ve been working on pushing myself out of my bright & overexposed box.

There’s such beauty in darker shots, one I’m learning to really appreciate. Colors don’t pop in the same way they do against a white background but the richness and saturation are so much more dramatic.

Burgers and Ice Cream

My “dark” backgrounds are either one of my darker wooden table tops or a black or dark brown poster board clamped to one of those propped-up tabletops. I guess I’ll show you how I do that – set up a shot – in the next installment of Photo Fridays.

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DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

Raise your hand if you, too, could easily go broke buying pretty things to use for food styling or as photography props for your blog?

Don’t be shy.

It’s an expense that can easily get out of control… and probably land me in divorce court pretty quickly. We mostly take the second-hand route, but when you have a specific item that you’re looking for, you might get stuck looking for a long time. You’ve got a couple of choices: shell out the cash, make your own [fill-in-the-blank], or keep waiting.

Take these cute little milk bottles, for instance.

I’ve been hoping to get lucky and just stumble on a couple at my favorite Goodwill (my teenage self just died) but no one seems to have, or be parting with, cute little milk bottles. I know I could purchase them online, but shipping costs for just a couple of bottles or having to buy them in large volume has kept them planted them firmly in the “I’ll just wait” category.

I got tired of waiting.

DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

A while back, I pinned a cute idea from a baby shower to convert Frappuccino bottles into milk bottles.

And for quite a bit less than the cost of a single bottle purchased online, I made 4 milk bottles. Besides the frap bottles, I already had everything else on-hand. The total cost of my project?

Less than $6!

DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

Materials Needed
Empty 9.5 oz Starbuck’s Frappuccino bottle, rinsed and dried (I picked up a 4 pack)
Alcohol
Cotton balls
Goo-Gone (or your favorite sticky gunk remover)
Paper Towel

DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

I used the alcohol and cotton balls to remove the screen printed date/lot number from the bottles. You’ll need to put some pressure behind it and scrub pretty hard for ~10-15 seconds or so.

DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

And then maybe 5 seconds more.

DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

Remove the labels and spray Goo Gone onto the sticky gunk left behind (or dab it on with a paper towel if your bottle isn’t the spray bottle variety… we, um, go through a lot of Goo Gone). Scrub the adhesive off and wash the bottles with soap and warm water to remove the Goo Gone.

DIY Milk Bottle Photography Prop

Fill with milk and a cute paper straw (Amazon!) and then shoot!

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