A good photo exercise is to browse through a magazine and pick out advertisements that catch your eye. Then take it back to your home studio (or big studio, and if you have one of those you’ve probably done this exercise) and try to replicate it to the best of your ability and equipment available.
As you can see, a The Glenrothes Scotch Whisky ad caught my attention. The photo was a slick-looking still life of the bottle and two small stemless glasses on a seamless white background. The image was likely Photoshopped and then formatted for magazine print. My guess is it was shot with a medium or high format camera, the reflection in the glass looks like a view camera. It’s a high-end photo, very well done.
Obviously the light stand, speedlight, and umbrella were not visible in the ad – the photo above is just me being cheeky after taking still life photos on a rainy night :).
My attraction to a spirit advertisement, and what should be yours too regardless if you drink, is to practice with shiny reflective surfaces and translucent products. If you can get the lighting for that down, you should start feeling more confident when it comes time for you to photograph Mrs. Johnson’s cat.
What I liked about the ad specifically was the shadow coming from the bottle and glasses. Similar to the photo above, there was a rear 45-degree light making the whisky translucent and the shadow center an orange hue. This is what I wanted to duplicate and it seemed relatively simple enough.
Well, none of my soft tungsten home studio lights did the trick. The shadows, once mixed with the window light at my place, were too muted. This is where the speedlights came into play. Nothing funky, just used TTL, but it worked. And in that 1/100th of a second it didn’t seem to care about the side window light.
One thing though, don’t use a cord. Get the radio slave. It’s so much easier. In my opinion, a cord is really only good for about 4′ of stretch before the light stand teeters (or at least this lightweight stand anyway).
As an aside, after running this photo through Lightroom for the standard adjustments I decided to play around with Google Nik software. I like it, particularly the B&W Silver Efex Pro. If you don’t mind the expense it’s a nice addition to your bag of tricks. At the very least there is a free trial and it’s worth a look.