How Does That Work: Levitating Cocktail Photo

the technique Jul 22, 2022

I recently finished the season finale of Stranger Things (WOW) and wanted to make a cocktail inspired by this crazy few hours of TV. I originally wanted to capture a full cocktail at the exact moment the glass shatters somehow– but it turned out to be far too messy and complicated.

What I landed on still ended up looking pretty cool.

I made a fun Negroni riff and attempted to capture it in a way that made the drink appear to be levitating (cue that one Kate Bush song that we're all sick of by now!)

Sure, it involved some modest Photoshop work to layer a few different images together, BUT it wasn't nearly as complicated as you might think.

Here's a little walk-through of the process:

I set-up my scene (which isn't at all that "Stranger-Things-ish" but oh well). I placed a bottle of Campari in the background, slightly blurred from the depth-of-field, along with some bitter dasher bottles. I wanted my cocktail several inches off the tabletop, so I used a small acrylic product riser (affiliate link).

I also placed a small screwdriver underneath one side of the riser to slightly angle the glass. I just thought that looked more dynamic than having the cocktail perfectly level.

Here's the slightly tricky part.

I made sure my camera was locked-off on a tripod and didn't touch it so I wouldn't risk moving it. This is KEY to capturing a shot like this. In this case, it's really helpful to have a wireless remote to fire the shutter of your camera wirelessly. This is the one I use for Sony (affiliate link).

I carefully held the upper rim of the glass, making sure to keep it at the same angle, then removed the acrylic riser.

I then combined the two images in Photoshop by using layer masks. The final composite image you see here is mostly the first photo– but I was easily able to "mask out" the acrylic riser using the second image above.

You'll also notice several dried rose buds falling from the sky– this was a third photo, using the same set-up, but I dropped a pinch of the rose buds several time until I got a shot that I liked. Off-camera flash is essential to freezing motion sharply like this.

Don't know how to create layer masks?

Well hey, I have a free tutorial on YouTube that can help you get started: click here to watch it.

This tutorial doesn't walk you through the process for this photo specifically– but it does focus on using layer masks to improve your whiskey bottle images. If you follow this tutorial and learn how to layer images of whiskey bottles, you can apply the exact same concept here.

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