To create an ”unrealistic” commercial image like this one it takes of course a lot of retouching but also the right material to start with. In this article I will show you how an image like this is created step by step.
I had an idea about creating a commercial image with water splashes, you know one of those images you see in magazine ads for large brands within cosmetics and hair products. Thus, this was a non-commissioned project, only a try to see if I could get the result I wanted and create one of those ”unrealistic” images you see in commercials. I didn’t know from the beginning exactly what kind of bottle/product I wanted to shoot so I simply went to the supermarket and looked around in the hair & beauty section. Loreal Elvital shampoo and conditioner bottles had a deep red color which I thought would suit this kind of image well.
I drew the sketch for my final image in a couple of minutes in Photoshop. I thought a clear blue background with a gradient/spot in the middle would work well with the red bottles.
The light setup for the photos of the bottles consisted of three flashes. Two flashes with standard reflector and a honeycomb grid for creating highlights in the bottles. These flashes were shot through tracing paper from each side of the bottle. The third flash was on a boom stand and pointed downwards. This flash also had standard reflector and grid, shot through a diffusor screen.
I was not sure wether I wanted the bottles dry or wet, so I shot them both dry and wet so I could decide later. I put the bottles on a piece of styrofoam in the angle I wanted them for my final image. What’s not visible in this photo are the toothpicks and adhesive behind the bottles that I used to hold them in place.
I shot one bottle at the time. When I had the image I needed of the dry bottle, I sprayed it with a 50/50 mixture of glycerine and water. Glycerine can be picked up at your local pharmacy. When you mix glycerine and water the water drops get a nice round shape and bead up. I used a ”mini mister” spray bottle for applying the mixture on the bottles. Be sure not to use a large water spray bottle for this, because you’ll want the mixture to be finely divided. Having the camera fixed on a tripod and the bottles in the exact same position made it easy to mask out the parts I didn’t want later in the retouch.
The splash images I used for this montage are royalty free stock images. I have taken this kind of images myself as well, but it’s a lot of water to clean up in the studio afterwards when shooting those kind of images. If you want larger splashes, like water thrown from a bucket, it’s a lot easier to buy these kind of images. Google ”water splash stock photos” (https://www.google.se/search?q=water+splash+stock+photos…) and you’ll get a lot of hits.
If you want to shoot these kind of images in the studio yourself you need flashes with extremely short flash duration. It is the short flash duration that freezes the quick motion and gives sharp edges without motion blur. I have three NiceFoto RQ800C (http://en.nicefoto.cn/Products/n_flash/2015401.html) for this purpose.
There are other brands with short flash duration as their USP, Profoto B1 for example, but these flashes are often very, very expensive. I bought the NiceFoto flashes to try a cheaper alternative and it works great. The shortest flash duration on these flashes are 1/19,000 sec at t.05. I have shot images of fast moving liquids on 1/15,000 sec flash duration with good results. NiceFoto is a cheaper alternative to ProFoto where you still get a battery flash with 800Ws power, 1/19,000 sec flash duration and extremely good battery time, so it works well for my budget and purposes. A NiceFoto flash costs about 1/3 of the equivalent ProFoto flash. What you don’t get is that ”premium feel” of the product, but I can live without that in this case.
In this video clip I’m shooting small water splashes lit with three NiceFoto Flashes. The images from this shoot was not used in the shampoo bottles compositing. But basically I focus on a point where I plan to throw the water, switch the camera to manual focus so the focus point stays in the same place, and then trigger the camera and flashes with a pocket wizard at the right moment. Then it’s all about shooting lots and lots of photos, get a little lucky and try to create good looking splashes. 🙂
I extracted the bottles with the pen tool in Photoshop. When the shape of the object is as simple as these bottles, the extraction is done pretty quickly. The more accurate you are in the extraction, the better end result you will get. I usually zoom in to 300-600% when I extract objects using the pen tool.
I enchanced the highlights and the shadows on the bottles with a dodge & burn-like technique, with one light and one dark curve layer. I also brightened the whole image a bit with a curve layer.
By putting the wet bottles in a separate layer on top of the dry bottles and fit the bottles together I could then use a layer mask and paint in the water drops I wanted to use. Result below.
The background comes from on of the splash images. Most of the retouching in this image is about pasting good looking splashes in the right places and use different techniques like Liquify, blend modes etc. to make it look good. I think it’s all about patience and attention to detail. I made this image ’the hard way’ and masked in water splashes and sprinkels in 600% magnification. I simply pasted in the splashes, put a layer mask on it and painted in the mask with a black or white brush with the suiting amount of blur on the edge.
This is part of the mask for one of the splashes:
In this image I wanted the water to be in front of the bottles in some places. Then you’ll have to get a bit creative in Photoshop and work a lot with several layers, opacity and blend modes. I also added a Hue/saturation layer set to Colorize, and painted in a red tone where the bottle was visible through the water.
I added a subtle reflection of the water in the bottles and also a drop shadow in the places where the water is in front of the bottles. Other than that there was also a lot of clone stamp and healing brush work to clean the image from distracting stuff I didn’t want.
I don’t know the exact total time spent on this image but roughly 25-30 hours, three of them in the studio. Again, it’s about patience, patiende and patience. When you start a project like this it’s best to have your mind set to that it’s going to take a lot of time, and that you don’t finish it all in one session. The more maticulous and attentive to details you are in every part of the creative process, the better the end result will get. I think I worked on this image in four or five different occasions before it was done.
To see more details in this image you can take a look at a version i higher resolution (with water mark) here: