product shoot - Don't Mess With Yorkshire Ale

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019

I've been wanting to turn my hand more to product photography, so when I picked up a couple of these awesome cans of beer on my way home one evening, and they provided me with a great excuse to attempt a DIY-style product shoot at home.

Don't Mess With Yorkshire Ale is a collaboration between two awesome Leeds brands: Don't Mess With Yorkshire, an overtly proud Yorkshire skate t-shirt brand born out of the basement of Crash Records; and Northern Monk Brew Co., a contemporary independent brewery who've been turning out amazing beer for the past six years. The result is an amazing beer, presented in these strikingly patriotic cans with a matte/lustre finish label. As soon as I picked these up in the supermarket, I just had to photograph them so, having returned home from an early-morning commercial shoot last weekend, I set about turning my dining room into a makeshift photo studio.

Setting up

I had a very clear idea in my head of what I wanted to get out of this shoot from the outset, which really helped - shooting the can on my oak dining table, using the dramatic grain in the wood to contrast with the modern minimalist styling of the can. I wanted the table to fade to black, so I propped a pop-up black photo backdrop behind the table, and closed all the curtains and doors in the room to kill as much ambient light as possible. I then plonked the beer can in the centre of the table and set my camera up on a tripod with my Canon 85mm f1.8 lens - i wanted a fast lens for this shoot, as I wanted to add some real depth by using a large aperture, which would also help blur the 'fade to black' affect I was after.

I fired a quick test shot to check their was no ambient light, before setting up my lighting.

#1 - Single light

In order to understand the impact that every light is having on a shot, it makes sense to add lights to a shoot one at a time so I started with just a single light - a PixaPro 580ii speed light, firing through a defused beauty dish at a 45° Now, for this kind of shoot I'd probably have been better using small stripboxes, but I don't have any that are small enough to manoeuvre around my dining room, so opted for smaller circular lightsources instead. Not ideal, but not a dealbreaker either.

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019

85mm | f2 | 1/125 | iso100

This light alone did a great job of pulling out the texture of the can, and looked quite dramatic in it's own right, but the opposite side of the can looked a bit too dark. I was going to need another light.

#2 - Two lights

Building on the first shot, I then added a second light at the same angle to the left of camera, using my PixaPro Hybrid 360 flash head through a small octabox:

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019

85mm | f2 | 1/125 | iso100

This gave a much more even light across the can, and I was getting two clear beams down the can that emphasised the texture, which I was really pleased with. The only hting that was bugging me a little was that the edge of the can was quite tricky to spot in places - it felt like it needed some definition. Plus, I wanted to start making things a bit dramatic, so..

#3 - Three lights

Why use two lights when you can use three? AMIRITE?! Well, no. I'm not. I'm a huge advocate of keeping things simple and only using what was needed, but in this instance adding a third light behind the can would add some real drama to the shot, whilst also helping to clearly define the edge of the can with a dramatic halo. I placed a standard flashgun in slave mode directly behind the can on low power, pointing slightly up, ready to fire when the other flashes were triggered.

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019

85mm | f2 | 1/125 | iso100

Again I was fairly happy with how this shot came out, but I wasn't 100% struck with how quickly the background and foreground was dropping out of focus - I wanted a more graceful depth to the shots.

#4 - Getting wide

To give the shots some variety, as well as capture more of the table, I decided to swap my 85mm 1.8 prime for my standard 24-70mm f2.8Lii. With a bit of recomposing, I was able to go wider with the shot to capture more of the grain in the table, and also distort some of the perspective.

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019

28mm | f4 | 1/125 | iso100

This was definitely one of my favourites from the shoot - a lot more dramatic than the previous efforts.

#5 - Up close

Happy with the suite of shots i'd captured so far, I decided to try get in as tight as my 24-70mm f2.8Lii would let me to try capture some of the detail of the can. I recomposed my shot, moving the light from behind the camera off 45°, so it was now opposite my first light, with the hope that this would add a slight halo affect down the left side of the can.

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019

70mm | f4 | 1/125 | iso100

#6 - The finale

The final frame of the shoot saw me recompose again, this time leaving all the lights where they were, and instead just puling the camera further back, to include the table edge and 'flatten' the perspective a little.

Don't Mess With YorkshireMar 2019


So there we have it - that's how I went about my DIY product shoot at home, using my dining table. It was a great exercise for me to get a bit more experience shooting objects and playing around with my lights without having to worry about paying for studio time, and it's also given me a bit of a bug to do more more of the same. Oh, the beer itself was GREAT, too :)

If you've found this interesting or useful, please let me know. There's a fine line between behind the scenes commentary and obsessive techincal boredom, so it would be good to hear any comments, either on Facebook or Instagram.

Finally - got some products that need photographing? Let's talk :)

See more in Don't Mess With Yorkshire, Mar 2019

beer can flash product strobist studio