Lighting Series: Tamdhu Whisky

I recently had the pleasure of working with director Marc Grundy of Coolbox, shooting the product pack for a whisky called, Tamdhu.

This is a special, 50 year old, limited edition line of their single malt Scotch. To support the release of the whisky Marc was asked to create a video showing the process of how this amazing bottle is made. The video had already been shot and edited and it just needed the final product shots to be added, this is where I came in.


There was a specific look that was required for the bottle, we had an existing image to work with that the photographer, Chris Lomas, had produced earlier in the year and it was our job to get it as close as we possibly could, bearing in mind that the still was a composite of twelve separate images!

Photo by Chris Lomas

Our goal was to get the video as close to this photo as possible. Obviously we had to compromise somewhere as it is close to impossible to get the above look with just one exposure.


We were shooting at The Big Shed in Trafford, Manchester. A studio I use a lot and highly recommend to everybody as the owner, Justin, is very helpful and has a lot of experience. I called Justin and sent him the image and we discussed possible ways of approaching the setup. Soft light was what we immediately agreed on and using two book lights to kiss each side of the bottle at the front. Well, a sort of book light, only the bounce was swapped out for black poli to stop the glass reflecting a huge white source.
Justin has made these single tube light rigs from Encapsulite, he took a single 5 foot bulb and encased it into normal household guttering which helped control the spill of the light. These single bulbs output 70w each and are naturally very soft, they were angled so the spill was just kissing the front shoulders of the bottle and adding the additional diffusion increased the size of the light source in the reflection.

We used the same lights to back light the back shoulders of the bottle, and put up a 12x12 solid as a black back drop.

Picture courtesy of Justin Windle

This setup was great to highlight the curves and all the detail of the glass, but it wasn't doing anything for the liquid inside. As you can see in the original image, the whisky looks like golden amber. I was told this was achieved by cutting out a small reflector so it fit just behind the bottle, then a flash was placed in front of it and it fired as the shutter was pressed.

To try and do something similar, we placed some poliboard behind the bottle at a height and angle that the camera couldn't see. We needed a harder light for this and we only had a 650w to hand which was just about powerful enough. It was a tight squeeze and a bit of a balancing act, but we managed to light up the top of the liquid just enough to lift the amber out of it..

The final light I added was the F&V R300 ringlight. I just held it in front and slightly to side so to bring out the Tamdhu logo, being careful not to catch the reflection in the lens.

Now as we got closer to the bottle, I could move the bounce to bring up the amber in the liquid more. Just pulling the bounce closer help lift it quite a bit.

This bottle had a lot of detail in the glass and the logo, the Canon 100mm macro really helped in bringing this out in the final images. We had the whisky bottle on a rotating base, which was very handy for us as it meant we didn't have to disturb the lighting setup in order to focus on different parts of the bottle.
I was very pleased with the outcome and those backlights work so well with the curves of the bottle.


To coincide with the release of this limited edition bottle, Tamdhu have created a micro site which is also worth checking out...

Lesson learned from this? I think a bigger light bounced into the poli at the back would have lifted the amber more, but we made best use out of the resources we had.

Well, that about wraps up this write up. Because of the positive reaction to the images I put up on Instagram, I brought the write up of this forward. If there is anything else you want to know about this shoot, leave a comment or send me a message over on

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