Picture This... May

I don’t know about you but, after enjoying these past few weeks of sunshine, I feel like summer has finally arrived. The weather, of course, can make all the difference to outdoor photography, so look out for a few handy camera tips in this newsletter.
But, let’s start with a little conundrum…

Dropped right in it
Wave Grip are a new client who manufacture sustainable and recyclable multi-packing carriers for the drinks industry. But, one small problem – these highly-engineered pieces of plastic are made to be ‘unobtrusive’ so the the design of the cans they hold stands out. Which brings us to the question, how do you photograph something that’s not really meant to be seen?
I wanted to hint at the drinks sector so suggested we use a liquid to create a ‘visual splash’. To make that possible, I had a water tank made, big enough to drop in a multi-pack and with sufficient room around it to ensure it would work as a website image. Cans were dropped into the water at a set angle to allow light to reflect off the WaveGrip carrier, bringing it into vision.
An altogether different story for the third image. That’s paint…

Weather benefits
The thought of standing on a hill outside Newhouse, on a snowy, blustery day may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re there to photograph a gigantic TA 400 truck, the latest from Terex Trucks, it does hold a certain appeal. Quite simply great fun taking shots of these trucks effortlessly rolling up and down steep inclines and through deep, muddy pools.
And, the weather? Perhaps not ideal for outdoor photography, but it did lend itself to the product – robust trucks designed for tough work –  resulting in a gritty, hard look. Along with a little post production to boost the effect. So, to answer the question - absolutely perfect.

Shoot for the sun
Told never to shoot straight into the sun? Give it a try is what I say. Which is exactly what I do when I take a break from the studio and head out to do some landscape photography. Admittedly, I prefer the winter months, with its low sun and dramatic landscapes. But, any time is a good time to break the ‘photographic rulebook’.
Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Set your camera to Manual
  • Take a light reading from the highlights then reduce exposure further by about 2-3 stops to get good highlight detail
  • Set camera to shoot Raw Data
  • Take several shots at different exposures
  •  Use photo editing software such as Photoshop to combine shadow detail with highlights for a dramatic effect

You can see more of my personal work here.

That’s it for this issue – I hope you’ve enjoyed the read and looking at some of my latest photographic work. Call me on 07798 687 659 to chat about your next project, and my studio door is always open if you fancy a cuppa…

Picture This... January

Picture This...

2017 is well underway and I hope you’ve had a great start to the year. Read on to find out how I wrapped up 2016 and let me introduce you to the new member of the Ralph Nisbet photography team…


 ‘Lees, Lees, more if you please’

As 2016 drew to a close, I found myself working with new client and household name Lees of Scotland who were getting ready to launch their Macaringues. The product is an almond flavoured meringue shell that comes in vivid purple, pink and green, and is both gluten and nut free. Three years in the making, the time had come for some PR photos. These Macaringues are so versatile, they’re the perfect treat at afternoon tea and dinner parties, and make for beautiful wedding canopes. So we decided to show them off exactly as that. Food styling was left in the very capable hands of Hilary Harris. The result? I’d say good enough to eat. 

When Edinburgh-based design consultancy threebrand asked me to do the photography work for their new website, I was chuffed because I’ve worked with the team a lot over the years. Putting my head together with threebrand’s Creative Director, Nick Cadbury, we aimed for visual variety and, at the same time, maintain a theme throughout the site – quite a challenge. Back in the studio, I shot everything on a black base using similar backgrounds but changing the colour between products, and then focusing on the details to give a visual contrast.

Picture of maturity

Distell recently released their much-awaited Deanston 40YO whisky. I shot the product photographs and, it has to be said, the beautiful copper tones, textured metals and leather-lined box made this bottle a complete joy to work with. As expected, the highly reflective surfaces were a challenge. Add to the mix the deep embossing, and I had my work cut out. But then again, with only 480 bottles to its name and a price tag of £1,000, moments like that are only to be relished. Fancy a bottle? You’d better be quick… 

Farm story
I normally shoot studio still life for Angus Soft Fruits so it was a rather delighted Ralph Nisbet who headed to their fruit farm in Arbroath to do some reportage photography. As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, the farm is a big operation.  The shoot was scheduled late in the year when the groundwork takes place before growing season, a chance to capture the land and turn my lens to the people who work on it. It was great meeting so many of the staff and a photographer’s dream shooting in the beautiful, low winter light.

Have a look at the full project:  http://www.ralphnisbet.com/angus-soft-fruit

Team Nisbet
On a personal note…

I said I’d introduce you to my new team member so, here she is – meet Callie. Okay, she’s not a particularly well-qualified or productive member of the team but, at 6 months old, this Border Collie is a lot of fun and keeping me very active. She’s also rather photogenic, and I think she knows it!

Picture This... October

Shooting big
I did my first shoot for global brand Terex Trucks this summer, they manufacture heavy-duty dump trucks, the kind you see on construction and mining sites. Terex asked me to photograph their new Gen 10 truck for a brochure they’ll distribute to customers here in the UK and abroad. With this kind of project, particularly with a new client, the key is to work closely with both designer and client to ensure that photography fits the brief, in this case a story of innovation, high performance and robustness.
The Gen 10 is truly powerful, and I was blown away by its size and hi-spec engineering. This was quite a departure from my usual work and, if I’m honest, clambering over these huge machines was a bit of a boy’s dream. Quite understandably, Terex wouldn’t let me drive one.

Black on black
Scottish-based LAT_56 make premium range travel bags and accessories. They asked me to do product shots for their new travel suitcase for airline pilots which offers separate business and leisure packing space. LAT_56‘s reputation is built on their distinct look and meticulous design. To show off the quality and unique texture of their suitcase, I opted for a black background – while photographing black on black can be a challenging exercise in lighting, it’s also an effective way of drawing out a product’s unique characteristics. 

… and taking a break from white.
Whyte & Mackay are a long-term client so I know their preference for white background shots well. But when they asked me to photograph their new Tamnavulin, Claymore and John Barr whiskies, I suggested a different approach: close-up shots, a great way to bring out the finer details of your product. They liked the idea, I sent through some examples and the rest is… well, you can see the results right here.

Balancing act

Beam Suntory global travel retail wanted product shots of their Courvoisier Cognac to display in large lightboxes in international airports. With illumination displays, the shots must be spot on so every detail looks its best. The gold embossed labels were particularly challenging. The trick was one of lighting balance – hitting that point where light reflected the gilt without diminishing the look of the embossing. Here’s one of the final shots – look out for it next time you’re at an airport.

Okay, so what can you make with an old lampshade, drinking straws, card and tin foil?
I’ve been volunteering with Scottish charity WEvolution recently, showing members how to enhance the quality of photos they take of the arts and crafts they post for sale on Facebook and Etsy. Because they don’t have access to professional photography equipment, I had to come up with some alternatives. Using items just like those mentioned above, I showed them how to set up makeshift lights and reflectors. It certainly pushed me into thinking more creatively - now for their first shots.
You can find out more about WEvolution and their work supporting people from disadvantaged communities here:

Picture This... June

Thanks for taking a few minutes of your day to read Picture This, the first of my newsletters where I’ll be sharing my latest drink, food and product photography ventures and thoughts. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to contribute to my next bulletin in October, or if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover.

My new studio is now fully operational and feedback so far has been fantastic. I did most of the renovation work myself which made for a tough six weeks but the result makes it all worth it. I was keen to create a studio space that is as ideal for you as it is for me - it’s certainly the most natural light filled studio I’ve ever worked in and, with some of you commenting on the balance of function and comfort, I think I may have struck it just right! Feel free to pop in, I’ll get the kettle on...

Working with the creative team at The Shine Agency, in April I found myself on the road to Fort Augustus to do a commercial photographic shoot for the 4-star Lovat Hotel, whose restaurant boasts 3AA rosettes. After a major refurbishment, it was time for a rebrand and new imagery to show off the superb quality of interiors and food.
This type of shoot calls for careful scheduling to minimise disruption for staff and guests, plus make the most of natural light as it changes around the building throughout the day. And while Scottish snow showers and bright sunshine did complicate matters slightly, the weather made for stunning views.
I spent two days at The Lovat and can cheerfully tell you both food and bed were excellent.


With only 650 bottles to its name, Tobermory 42YO whisky is a truly limited edition. Something else rather special is the beautifully crafted packaging it comes in. However, the high-shine, textured, metallic finish threw a few challenges my way, as did the metallic engraving on the actual bottle. The key here was lighting, finding the perfect balance to show detail and finish off to their best.
You can see the full video in the video gallery.

It takes around 5 different photographs to produce just one photograph of a bottle of whisky.
And, here’s why: each shot needs a different lighting setup. Take a look at this photo for Berry Bro’s & Rudd who recently redesigned their spirit bottlings. During the shoot, I found the lighting for the label didn’t work for the bottle, and vice-versa. So, what you see here is the result of four or five different shots pieced together.


D8 Design recently commissioned me to photograph a new range of Chef’s Choice catering products for Grants Foods Ltd, renowned for their haggis dishes. If you’ve been involved in food photography, you’ll know there’s more to it than hits the palette:

  • Work with a food stylist who’ll make sure dishes look appetising and fit perfectly with any label graphics
  • Ensure that any important elements that need to be in the shot will be – if not, you may find them covered by graphics or barcodes further down the line
  • Ask yourself, is it a fair representation of what customers will get?
  • Oh, and don’t taste the food after it’s been shot!

Food photography is always challenging but with careful attention to detail, good lighting and styling, results can look great.  You can see more of my recent work.

I have also launched my Facebook page, take a look and hope you like it...

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