This month we talked with one of our favorite still life shooters, Adrian Mueller, to catch up on some of the big projects he worked on since he was last on our blog in the Summer of 2016.
Towards the end of 2016, he was hired by ad agency Mother New York to shoot a Stella Artois holiday campaign for both the American and European markets. The premise of the campaign was to have their iconic Stella chalices dancing with one of their bottles. They have several new bottles, and had to use a different bottle for the US campaign than they did the European campaign— where the glass liter bottle was used. The imagery had to be akin to the visual preset that Stella had created over the last three years, which usually consisted of an off-white table setting that looks like a bar, with a yellow glowing background to bring some warmth to the scene.
Now quite obviously, chalices and bottles do not dance, let alone dance together, which created a challenge for Adrian to figure out. This required creating a little test to see how it could look like the two objects were dancing, not making it as simple as the two touching each other. The test involved naturally tipping, moving, and angling the objects so that it could be perceived as if they were in motion, though no blurring was allowed to be in the shot.
When the shoot came along, he was prepped and ready, though the challenge in the ended was not for making them appear as if they were dancing, but that there were many different exposures to make to put together the final image. For example, the European market needed an image of the beer in the challis with less foam compared to the one shot for the US market. Adrian also had to shoot multiple versions of the reflection of different levels of foam and liquid, as they would appear differently in the mirroring of the objects within each other for the two markets. If the image was smaller, say for social media, the reflections wouldn’t be all that important, but imagine them blow up to the size of a billboard, and that small reflection makes a big difference.
Since Adrian had a productive test and preparation day, he was able to make a military style shot list for the day of the shoot. Working this way helps him lay out exactly what he is doing, shot for shot. He had to plan it in this highly detailed manner so he wouldn’t run into a situation where he forgot something and had to backtrack. Both Stella and Mother New York had requests that needed to get done in the allocated time, so it was important for him to be on top of his logistics. On set, Adrian had plenty of drink stylists, prop stylists, and on-set retouchers who worked very smoothly. When something needs to look simple— like his images for Stella ended up being— it usually means that there was a lot of effort, planning, and detail oriented work behind it. It doesn’t need to look like a huge production for it to be one, in the end it can be simple, but beautiful.
Another project Adrian has worked on in the past year was with the ad agency Erwin Penland, located out of New York. He has worked on two shoots with them for a company called Tumi, who make high end travel accessories, such as suitcases and bags. One of the two assignments he shot for them was for their V3 product, the most lightweight suitcase that they produce. The idea was to shoot the product in the studio, and in post super impose it onto four different backgrounds, all within the same one image.
The four different backgrounds reflect a wide range of landscapes, showcasing how this specific suitcase can be brought anywhere, no matter the terrain. The four landscape images are placed in a grid of four, onto which the studio shot suitcase is dropped into the middle of. This required not only perfect product lighting, but also distinct product lighting. Not only did the features of the suitcase needed to be accentuated, but it also had to be shot in a way to make it visually plausible that each corner of the suitcase could be or is present in the four landscapes it touches.
Though it wasn’t as complex as the Stella Artois shoot when it came to the shot list, it still required advanced planning and thinking ahead. Adrian had to be aware of what shot went with which landscape, how the suitcase would affect the landscape and vice versa. Adrian did not shoot the landscape portion of this assignment, though he usually works with clients where he photographs the landscape assets for the shoot, if needed.
The other assignment he worked on with Tumi was for their high end fashion bag for women, called Tumi Mariella. He was tasked to not only show the beauty of the bag, but its functionality. The series shows the bags virtually cut in half, as a way to showcase everything someone could fit inside the bag, whether it be accessories or a laptop. The bag itself aims to show how all of these very necessary travel items for women could fit in the Mariella bag, while at the same time not having to sacrifice beauty for functionality. Adrian called this assignment a lovely challenge, as everything had to look like it was actually cut in half, and not that it was cut and pasted together in post. He photographed each item separately in order to flawlessly light them, and while it was a technically challenge shoot, it ended up looking quite authentic.