Our March feature on eight St. Louis-area female bartenders – Mixing Things Up - inspired a creative collaboration between FEAST art director Lisa Triefenbach and contributing photographer Jonathan Gayman.
They worked closely on the design from start to finish, turning an initial stick-figure sketch by Triefenbach into a spirited layout superimposing the bartenders with their signature cocktails. (Check out the piece in its entirety on page 24 of our March 2012 digital issue.)
Gayman gives more insight below on how he pulled off the photo shoots with the bartenders and shares his behind-the-scenes photos at left of each step in the process:
“The female bartender shoot consisted of three photographs for each bartender: a portrait of the bartender, a portrait of her signature cocktail, and a third, full body photograph of the bartender interacting with her cocktail that could be made into a final composite image with the cocktail.
Individually, the portrait of the bartender and the portrait of the cocktail were each fairly straightforward. Where it got tricky was making a photograph of the bartender for the composite.
When working on compositing two images together, particularly where you have a person interacting with something, the easiest thing to do is to photograph the person interacting with a stand-in object that can easily be replaced by the real image in post production. The hard part is making sure that the stand-in item is the correct scale. For example, if you are going to have your subject hugging a cocktail glass, you need to have her hug something similar in size, otherwise it will look unnatural in the final image.
Before the shoot, I spent some time testing ideas for various ways that I could have the bartenders interact with their cocktails. Using myself as a model for testing and some colorful fake cocktails, I was able to have a better feel for size and scale when it came to the actual photo shoot. This also gave me some insight into how to position the bartenders so that they would be easier to composite together.
Each cocktail is as individual as the bartenders that invented them. When each bartender arrived at my studio, we discussed the particular glassware and garnishes involved in her signature drink. She would then make the cocktail for me, and I would photograph it. Next, I would make a print of the cocktail photograph for reference and we worked together to find ideas that would work with that particular cocktail. Being able to reference the photo of the cocktail while shooting the interactive photographs was key, so that we could get angles and details correct.
I used a variety of props for the stand-ins that would be replaced in the composite. I used large cardboard tubes that backdrop paper is shipped in to represent the stems on cocktail glasses, and some white pvc pipe to represent swizzle sticks and skewers. I had the bartenders leaning pieces of plywood representing the rims of glasses and sitting on apple boxes to represent corks and jiggers. In Jayne's final composite for example, she is tossing a cherry into her cocktail. In reality I had her making hook shots in the studio with a white trash bag full of packing peanuts to get her body motion correct. Fun!
After all of the shoots were over, I met with Lisa to go over all of the images, and we choose the ones that would work best in the final composites.”