Phase 4 is going smoothly for most of the students here as we go through mid-term reviews of our final portfolios. One of my images, this mock Sobe Lifewater ad is being submitted for my composite project, and I'll show you a little insight into how I made it.

One of the many golden rules of photography is that the more you can do in camera, the more realistic the results will be. I tend to treat this more like a rule of thumb, and I think I've successfully gotten around it this time. Read more after the break.

Not to say that this wasn't an exercise in how many times I could pound my head against the wall without it falling off. I had never shot water for composites before, so there was a fair amount of trial and error (and spilled soft drink) before I hit the right combinations needed.

From looking at this screenshot of my layers for this picture, it actually doesn't look too bad. But this is the finished version, with the 20+ splash layers condensed to save space and my sanity in trying to find each element.

Starting from the bottom with a blank layer as the background, we have the layer for the splashes behind the bottle, with its color layer, then the bottle, masked for some translucency at the bottom, then the splash in front with color, droplets with color, effects layer for dimensionality, and then the collapsed text group.

These layers are just the finished elements used to save the final image. The working file, at any given point in time, had upwards of 50 layers, some just experimental, others that were deleted, and many that were combined into the front and back splash layers.

How we got those individual layers is pretty interesting, so here's a screenshot of my lightroom catalog with the final images I shot of water droplets that were comped in.

Each of these water shots, similar to the pours that built up the base and the actual splash, were cut out, adjusted, and then colored after being placed in position in the final image. over 30 different pours, drops and splashes were used to construct the liquid elements, with a fair amount of warping, liquify and cloning to integrate them all together.

All the liquids were shot being poured from one container into another, and captured with a Toyo 4x5 and the Leaf Aptus 22. Probably not the best choice for speed, since the Toyo has to be re-cocked after every shot, but the image size and quality gave me more options when it came time to fill in gaps. The final image is just as large as if it were captured with one frame, no need to downsize to fit lower quality elements.

The bottle itself was the easiest piece to shoot, just three softboxes, one of either side and over overtop. It lacked a hard edge which I added in post, but having it too sharp would have ruined the illusion of movement. There's a fine line between physics and advertising, with each having to win in certain situations.

All told, it may be easier to shoot this in one frame, but to line everything up properly, while showing enough of the label to satisfy a client, and enough splash to make the consumer think it just might be real would be prohibitively time consuming. I prefer the total control I get while shooting the elements separately and combining them, tweaking them, and molding them to my needs.
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