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How Dan Goldberg Visually Captured the Indulgent, Sophisticated and Aromatic Spirit of Woodford Reserve

A hand-crafted beverage like Woodford Reserve deserves a photographer and imagery that boasts the meticulous attention to detail of its makers. Dan Goldberg shot for Woodford Reserve for their “Spectacle of the Senses” cocktail book that takes the reader on a journey of its brand identity, the creative process behind distilling and craft-cocktail recipes that are perfectly balanced. 

Dan’s job was to highlight the flavor cues of the unique cocktails, like a smoked walnut or the 200 flavor notes in each sip of Woodford Reserve liquor. Carefully lighting the scenes, emphasizing the styling of each drink, and being spontaneous were just a few of the ways Dan and his creative partners Take Care Productions brought these drinks to life on each page of the book. Inviting you in to sit down next to a fire and to sip on a carefully crafted drink, the images boast Woodford Reserve’s style of classic craft with an edge of modern luxury. Read on to learn more about how Dan achieved this and his professional recommendation of the perfect cocktail from the book.

How does styling and shooting drinks differ from shooting food? 

The styling is faster and more spontaneous than food styling, but it can take longer to shoot. A lot of detail goes into cleaning the glass and making sure everything looks perfect. Additionally, calling out the flavor cues is a little more complicated since they’re not as obvious as they can be with food. They as usually called out in the recipe, so we want to make sure people see that in the associated image. They’re often played off of the colors of the cocktail. 

How important is lighting when shooting beverages?  

Lighting is very important and the most time-consuming when shooting beverages. I love to use backlight to make the color of the beverage really glow but also use enough fill light to bring up the shadows and overall ambient. To give the book variation, for a few images we only photographed shadows. The iconic shape of the shadow seemed more interesting than the drink itself.

What is the most important technique to keep in mind while shooting beverages?

I was constantly changing my shutter speed to either stop motion or create motion. We were shooting with continuous light and I didn’t have the luxury of a strobe light freezing an ice cube in mid-air. We also shot a burst of images on the splash shots so we could pick the perfect frame. 

What was a memorable moment from this shoot? 

The lighting! I loved working closely with my gaffer and changing the light for every image.  I love the long shadows and refracting light through the glassware. All of this was very reflective & could be challenging to light. We tried to play all of that up and have a lot of fun with it. 

What was a challenge from this shoot? 

Since this was a book, there was no real direction on each image.  We had a lot of creative freedom, but that also meant we really needed to conceptualize each shot. I sat down with my styling team and we planned out every shot from each chapter. We wanted some consistency amongst chapters, but there needed to be a lot of variation in the shots. Some recipes had a lot of interesting ingredients so we turned those into still life shots. Some had iconic shapes, so we silhouetted them or just photographed the shadows. Some we really tried to play up the movement with a splash or falling ice cube.

What did you learn while working on this project? 

Some of my ideas didn’t work and we needed to pivot very quickly and try a different angle or lens choice or a completely different direction. We had an array of lenses and switched them frequently to try a different look. From wide to macro, shallow depth of field to maximum depth of field. 

What is your recommended cocktail using a Woodford Reserve product?  

For sure the Classic Manhattan, but I also really enjoyed the black Manhattan. A black Manhattan uses bittersweet amaro replacing the sweet vermouth and with a second type of bitters added.