Beer Photography: With Rob Grimm

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

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31 thoughts on “Beer Photography: With Rob Grimm

  1. The Broncolor Strip Light, wow, but are there any other "more affordable" companies making a Strip Light similar to it?

  2. Thanks for sharing a few tricks of the trade, that makes you an even greater photograph in my book!

  3. You could use any any camera and light with the right settings. Use paper sheets or bounce the light off walls to make softboxes

  4. What I want to know is, what is that condensation on the bottles? Did you spray water on them, is it sprayed oil, or actual condensation?

  5. I can't get over how great of a shot this is.  The knowledge this guy has paired with the gear just makes for an incredible image.

  6. Is "pan head" just another name for a beauty dish? As for the comment saying its a boring shot, I think he means a boring subject. To me that's where real skill lies, taking what, on the face of it, looks like a boring subject and making it into a photo that makes people want to buy that subject. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

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