Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Falling Oreos
Canon D7 Mark II, 17-85mm lens with x2 studio flashes and softboxes
@ F14, 1/200s, ISO200

with Gary Reid

Gary, remind us who you are and what you do!

I am originally from South Africa and have been living and working in New Zealand along with my wife for the last 17 years. Before I started photography, I had a passion for wildlife, which began while I was still in primary school. So, when I started my photographic journey, it was natural to combine the two.

I love the creativity that photography in all its forms produces, from being able to take my camera and go for a walk in search of something to photograph to coming up with a concept that may require multiple photos to be creatively combined in Photoshop, as in the case with this shot.

Although I am a self-taught photographer, I have been fortunate to have met and got to know a few professional photographers at various stages of my photographic journey and have been able to pick up huge amounts of information and guidance from them.

Coming from a film and slide background has taught me that mistakes cost money. Digital makes it so much easier, but the same principles apply, so planning is essential no matter what you’re shooting - don’t rush into creating a photo. 

What are you shooting with?

I use a Canon 7D as my main camera. I also have Canon 30D and Rebel as my backups. Lenses consist of 50mm, 17-85mm, 70-300mm, 160-500mm, and I also have a flash, tripod and monopod, and studio equipment.

What was the inspiration for this photo?

I often see how something can be reproduced using a camera, whether I’m looking at other photographers' images or concepts and gaining ideas that I can then try to replicate, or taking inspiration from paintings and trying photographic versions of artworks.

I got the idea for this photoshoot from a photo I saw many months ago on Pinterest while looking for ideas and recreated it in January while I was on leave, using my garage as a studio.

What was your setup for this shoot?

The background was cardboard painted black, set on a black tabletop. Two studio lights with softboxes were placed on either side and slightly in front of the cardboard, with my camera mounted on a tripod with a remote trigger. I also had six packets of Oreo biscuits and 2l of milk to hand!

I had to predetermine the position of the Oreos. For the Oreos that look like they will fall into the glass, I punched holes in the cardboard background with a toothpick. Using a drill bit the size of the toothpick, I then hand-drilled holes in each Oreo biscuit and mounted them onto the cardboard using toothpicks. It took quite a few test shots to get the lighting just right before I started pouring the milk!

Pouring the milk was the tricky bit. I had to take the photos (using the remote trigger) as I was pouring whilst also trying to catch the milk splashing onto the biscuits (to create the droplets) and at the same time trying to get the milk into the glass and not all over the table and the other Oreos.

It got messy, requiring cleaning up after each test shot before being able to repeat the process. As you can imagine, it took multiple shots before I got it just right.

It was surprisingly quick to set up and photograph, probably no more than 2hours, it was the post-processing part that was time consuming, taking me close to a day to complete.

What happened in-post?

First, I had to select one photo that would be the base or main photo. Then I had to select and blend in other photos, a photo with a sharper Oreo, or a different photo with more or better-placed milk droplets etc. In the end, I used a combination of four different photos.

Using Photoshop, I selected the parts of each of the other two photos that would be needed and inserted them into the main photo by creating layers. Working on one layer at a time (there were about six layers), each layer had to be resized and repositioned, and the background of some of the layers (milk and parts of the glass) removed using the eraser tool. The layers were then merged together. Next, I repaired or fixed any irregularities on the photo using the clone tool. I blended the milk layers together using the healing brush, clone, and brush tools. Finally, using the brush tool I worked on the background. This step alone must have taken me about 4 hours as it meant going around each milk droplet, each Oreo, as well as the glass trying to keep the sharpness before blending in the background to create an infinity look. Once all of the above was done, I turned to fine-tuning the photo's colour and contrast.

A few of the processes spoken about here had to be repeated, worked on, or modified because they did not look right. It was only then that the layers were merged. I was trying to create the look of the Oreos falling into and around the glass while the milk was being poured, so I had to try to imagine what it would look like and how the droplets would fall.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to recreate this shot?

One thing that would have made the shoot easier (and a lot less messy!) would have been to have a helper to pour the milk while I concentrated on taking the photos and being able to direct them. I would also have liked to have had a glass table-top to give a bit of a reflection.

What tips can you share with readers for capturing a photo like this?

Don’t be afraid to try something different in photography. Look for a concept you would like to try, research how the shot can be achieved (don’t be scared to ask other photographers how they captured their photos), and then go for it.

Although this was quite a simple shoot, I would not have got as good a result without pre-planning, and the setup would have taken longer, so I advise not to rush into doing a photo like this.

Where can we see more of your photos?