In Studio: Capturing Steam in Photographs


small green teacup with steam

We had a little downtime recently and decided to take the moment to set up an in-home product studio. This allowed us to play around with some props and camera settings, and perfect some techniques of the trade. Product photography is not just about the product, but seeing it in action and helping the consumer visualize using the product in everyday life. So it’s important to capture all the elements of a product, like in this case, steam from a teapot, mug, or tea itself.

This image is not just about the tea set, but the experience that comes with it.

This image is not just about the tea set, but the experience that comes with it.

Steam is one of those things that can be deceptively hard to photograph. But clients often want their food to look piping hot and steamy, and steam is a key component to illustrating anything from hot beverages and tea kettles to steam cleaners and irons. If you know us well, you know we love a good cup of tea, so we played around with our favorite beverage in hopes of capturing some good steam shots before taking an afternoon break. Plus we got to highlight our coveted tea set from our trip to Taiwan in 2009 which is just so pretty. Maybe we’ll share more of that trip some other day.

Taiwanese tea set with tea pot and steaming tea cups.

First things first, to get good steam the water has to be really hot. Like full boil direct from the stove hot. And it doesn’t take long for it to cool down and need refreshing, so efficiency is of utmost importance. We needed our camera ready and our set up exactly as we wanted it. And the point of all of this was to capture the steam as naturally as possible, from an actual beverage, and not using some of the many tricks that food stylists use to mimic a steaming beverage (or whatever). No hot water soaked tampons here! (seriously, it’s a thing).

Although we started out with a black background, we found the best set up to be any dark-ish background and back lighting. The steam just seemed to be thicker and more pronounced.

As dreamy as this photo is (in my opinion), the steam gets lost in the light coming from the window.

As dreamy as this photo is (in my opinion), the steam gets lost in the light coming from the window.

The black background helps show off the steam.

The black background helps show off the steam.

A dark background plus light from the back was the winner in our book.

A dark background plus light from the back was the winner in our book.

Increasing the shutter speed creates a milky smoothness to the steam and really helps show off the swirls. And how do we get those cute little swirls? Patience. And lots of images. It took us over an hour to get these shots, and although we were purposely playing around with different components, it really did take lots of patience to get that perfectly sculpted tower of steam. The slightest movements in the room, and even breathing changed the dance the steam was having. So we just let it dance, snapped away like crazy, refreshed when necessary, and repeated.

Slow shutter speeds created a more wispy steam.

Slow shutter speeds created a more wispy steam.

Fast shutter speeds made the steam have more substance.

Fast shutter speeds made the steam have more substance.

We had fun playing around a bit, and hope to continue to perfect techniques like these in our little pop-up living room studio so that when we are out on product shoots for our clients, we can get the best shots possible for them.

Also, did you notice our “marble” table top? We are pleased at how authentic our contact paper-covered cardboard turned out on camera. I love a good life hack.

overhead shot of a teapot and flower on marble.

All content copyright Lisa Goshe Photography, 2019

What to Expect Before Your Photo Shoot

So you’re thinking of hiring a pro photographer for your business or perhaps you’ve already set a date? Hooray! Now what happens? We’ll help guide you through the next steps and give you some tips on how to best prepare for your shoot and get the most out of your investment.

1. Consultation

A primary consultation is imperative to talk about what you are looking for and what we can do. This can happen over email, on the phone, or in person — free of charge and no pressure. What do you need the images for? What of? How many? From these details we can create an accurate estimate of time, price, and the number of images you’ll be receiving. We can always tweak these details to help you get what you need and stay close within your budget. If all these details are agreeable, then we can set a date!

Need item images to update your menu board or for social media posts? Or maybe you need updated photos of your office space and headshots of your staff? We go over these details in the consultation and discuss not just logistics but pricing and scheduling, too so that you can make the most informed decision about moving forward.

2. Contract

The contract holds all the legal details of what’s expected of both the photographer and the client. The contract will include timelines, fees, location of the shoot, and the product to be delivered (number of images and necessary sizing). The contract may seem lengthy, but the purpose is to clearly communicate the expectations and limitations of the professional arrangement. If there’s ever anything you don’t understand, we’re happy to go over it with you. We make contract signing easy! Your contract will come in an email that you can review, electronically sign, and download for your records. The fun begins once that is signed.

3. Questionnaire

In most cases, we recommend filling out our questionnaire regarding your business and what you hope your new photos will illustrate. We highly recommend you take your time filling this out — the more thoughtful and honest your answers are, the better we can understand your brand. It will give us some direction on how to creatively approach your photo shoot and will help ensure you love the results. The questions address what your mission statement is, who your audience is, and why you are passionate about the work you do. Helping us understand these things can really make a difference in grasping your “look” on camera.

How do you want your business to be described: bright and airy or cozy and intimate? Taking some time to think about what you want to convey will help guide the creative direction of the photo shoot.

4. Pre-shoot meeting

It is always helpful to take some time before any shooting begins to re-group and finalize everyone’s expectations. We discuss logistics of how the shoot will go, what is needed to make it happen, and solidify a time line. It’s always a good idea to troubleshoot potential issues before the shoot starts.

Creating this shot required some serious planning and a little math to ensure we achieved the client’s very specific print dimensions with minimal cropping.

5. Shoot time! How to be ready

  • Minimize distractions — Scheduling the photo shoot for when your shop or office is closed (or at the very least, less busy) will help everyone stay laser focused on getting you the images you want.

  • Be well rested — It’s imperative to be focused and energized for your shoot, but this is especially true if you (or your staff) will be in the images. You will love your photos so much more if you start looking fresh and relaxed.

  • Tidy the area — Take some time to look at your work space (if it is to be photographed) with new eyes and notice where the clutter looks distracting. Minimize items on countertops, desks, walls, and on top of cabinets. Your photos will look cleaner and will save a ton of time during the shoot.

  • Wear something comfortable — Again, if you and/or your staff will be in the photographs, wear something that you feel good in. It will convey in the photos.

6. Speak up

If something doesn’t feel right, or you want to make a change, let your photographer know. We’re happy to let you peek at the images in camera (pre-edit, of course) as we go along and if there’s something you want to change or re-do, say something. We want you to be totally psyched with the end product and it is way easier to tweak things as we go along.

Photography can be a big investment but you are getting so much more than just a handful of photographs. We’ll work hard with you to get the look and style you want, before, during, and after your photo shoot.

All content copyright Lisa Goshe Photography, 2019

Now's the Time to go Camping in the Pacific Northwest

by Wendy Cluse

We are dusting off our camping gear and strategically planning out every trip we hope to squeeze in this year. Now, the nice thing about the Pacific Northwest is that it’s mild enough somewhere nearby to camp year round. But we’re not really those kind of campers. We don’t mind the cold but don’t want to freeze, we are avid tent-only campers so staying relatively dry is important, and we love the long days of summer. Which means now is a great time to pitch our tent and commune with nature.

We both grew up east of the Mississippi and camping was never a big thing for either of us as kids. Sleeping in a tent in the backyard was what was considered camping to us. We didn’t really have an interest in camping until we moved West. I 100% credit that to one thing: bugs. Or, lack thereof. If you’ve ever spent much time anywhere on the East Coast at dusk or later in the summertime, you know what I mean. Yes, the West has bugs. But not in the menacing, fly-up-your-nose kind of way (we lived on a marsh in North Carolina where the mosquitos were as big as hummingbirds. No joke). Sitting around a campfire in the Pacific Northwest after dark is blissful. Just like Sunset magazine.

Besides going DEET-less, we’ve grown to really appreciate what West Coast camping has to offer. Minimal distractions, fresh air, forest smells, and peaceful quiet. We love that we naturally wake up early with the sun and get to see some fantastic scenery during the golden hours of just after sunrise and just before sunset. Some of Lisa’s best nature photography has been taken on camping trips. We can experience the parks, mountains, and beaches we’re visiting at times other than high noon when trails are crowded and parking lots are full. We can go on much longer hikes and take our time, knowing we don’t have to squeeze it in between a 3-hour car trip there and back.

This early morning light at  Timothy Lake  was pure magic.

This early morning light at Timothy Lake was pure magic.

Sunset at  Cascadia State Park , OR

Sunset at Cascadia State Park, OR

Why is now a good time to go camping in the PNW?

So we are officially in the camping calendar sweet spot. It’s warming up nicely but is still cool and crisp in the mornings. We won’t have to worry about the heat just yet — no one wants to be a sweaty mess if showers are not an option. The kids aren’t quite out of school yet, which means our chance of grabbing a camping spot is far greater than in June when everyone is in serious summer vacation mode and campgrounds get booked up months in advance. Plus, it is early enough in the season that wildfires are less likely to ruin your experience by either a) lowering the air quality to that of a smoker’s lounge, b) closing your campground completely, or c) forcing a ban on all campfires. If you can’t have a campfire, there’s no point in camping. QUICK PSA: always follow the rules regarding fire restrictions and precautions. Don’t be the jerk that starts the next Hell Fire.

Our favorite places to camp

There really are so many amazing places to camp, but here’s a short list of places we would go back to (or already have):

  1. Cape Perpetua, OR (Rock Creek Campground)

    This area of the Oregon Coast is stunning. And this little gem of a campground was a great find. It’s small, the campsites sit along a tiny stream, and the pit toilets were the cleanest I’d seen anywhere. Seriously.

  2. Timothy Lake, OR

    There are many amazing campgrounds surrounding this lake, but if you get lucky and snag a late cancellation of one of the few lakeside sites in the Gone Creek loop, you won’t be disappointed.

  3. Mt. Rainier, WA (White River Campground)

    The best jumping-off spot to hike Burroughs Mountain, the most amazing hike we’ve done yet. Plus Mt. Rainier is just incredible the whole way around, so camping or not, get there if you can.

  4. Cascadia State Park, OR

    This is a tiny gem of a park on the South Santiam River. The campground is adequate, but seeing the river at sunrise and sunset made us want to go back.

  5. Lake Quinault, WA (Willaby Campground)

    Right outside of Olympic National Park, this campground does not have one bad site. Some are along the lake, and others are tucked up in the trees. And we’ve yet to see it busy.

This campsite was so huge, we could have had a party.

This campsite was so huge, we could have had a party.

What makes for a good camping experience?

Everyone has their essentials that make their camping trip that much more comfortable and enjoyable. For us, we’re pretty simple and don’t like (read: don’t have) a lot of gear. As long as we bring an extra tarp for when it rains, our camping mats, and a deck of cards, we’re pretty much good. But adding a hammock to the pile has been the cherry on top. We now scour campsites solely on the presence of good hammock hanging trees. A great campfire is of course essential, not just for ambiance but because we don’t have a camp stove. Which leads us to another essential: campfire burritos. Make them ahead of time, wrap them in foil, and freeze them. They’ll keep your cooler cold all day and come dinnertime we just set them on the fire. Easy clean up, too. Of course, we would never forget the beer (or cider). And Lisa will always bring her camera.

We can’t wait to get out and sleep with the stars, wake with the piney morning air, and explore all the beauty that surrounds us here in the Pacific Northwest. We’ll be slightly dirty for a day or two, but it’s worth it.

Don’t forget the homemade scones!

Don’t forget the homemade scones!

All content copyright Lisa Goshe Photography, 2019