Pilgrim Coffee Holiday Ad Campaign

Oh, coffee *insert romantic sigh here*. If you've read my previous blog about when I worked with Pilgrim Coffeehouse then you already know how much of an addict, I mean, connoisseur of it I am. One of my favorite hobbies is just walking into a coffee shop and basking in the atmosphere and aromas, and then when that cup finally touches my lips I can't help but melt into a warm, roasted euphoria. Winter is especially my favorite time to visit coffee shops because that's also when the menu nearly doubles and so many exciting flavors rush into the scene. I've always wanted to photograph winter coffees because they're usually garnished and accessorized so far beyond other drinks, and thanks again to Pilgrim Coffee, I finally got that opportunity. 

Visualizing the Flavor

For this shoot the creative quest was actually quite simple: Create three top tier beverage photos of Pilgrim's upcoming winter spice latte, peppermint mocha, and eggnog latte drinks so that they could be advertised in their new winter lineup. Since each drink had very unique, distinct flavors I decided to give them their own themes with different glassware, props and personalities. Also, since they were running throughout the span of winter I thought it would be neat to have each one represent a different month within it. 

Pilgrim Coffeehouse's new brick and mortar store was being built during the same time as the shoot so my studio for day was inside a spacious construction site. About two months later it was complete with tables, standing bars, and bustling people. 

Winter Spice Latte

The three months that I decided to represent in the photos were November, December, and January, and although November isn't technically a winter month, I still included it because most coffee houses like to release their holiday menus early. 

November, to me, is always a month of transition and the finale of autumn flavors. Pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, saffron and many other warm, spiced drinks are still at large, and while people drink them they can still see the last remnant leaves clinging to their trees. 

In classic autumn fashion, I made burnt orange my dominant color and wrapped many other warm toned props around it. Deep burgundy leaves, brown pine cones, and mustard yellow flowers were scattered around the coffee, and to make it feel even more rustic I used brown boards to build a cabin-like tabletop. The lighting was also kept to a minimum to mimick the simplistic, natural joy that cabin life is supposed to convey. I used only one key light and a white card on the opposite end of the scene to fill in the shadows. 

Something additional that's worth pointing out from this shot is that I used one of my personal styling techniques that I like to call "number pairing." As I laid out the props I placed three red leaves and paired it with three cinnamon buns. Then, I paired two cinnamon sticks with two brown pine cones, and finally, I paired the single coffee cup to the single bouquet of flowers. This is a habit that you can see in many of my product photos, and whether it's something genius or just an extension of my creative OCD, I've always felt like it adds balance to the layout and makes it more cohesive. 

Eggnog Latte

Next up was the eggnog latte, which I matched with the month of December. In fact, I don't think another month could have worked better because eggnog is so iconically attached to the holidays. Vividly green pine forests, brooding brown tree bark, and pale white snow were the colors that I envisioned (much like what you would see during a December walk) and in order to match those aesthetics I set the scene with a white paper backdrop, some pine cones, and some green pine tree needles that I harvested from outside. I also added a bowl of cinnamon (to correlate the scene with the same seasoning that the eggnog was topped with) and an odd slab of tree stump that I previously bought at Hobby Lobby.

As far as the lighting breakdown went, this shot had a special twist. The white backdrop was lit behind by a small 2' softbox, and for the front key light I placed a larger 4' octobox. Since my key light was not a regular softbox (which is traditionally used in beverage shoots for it's rectangular highlights that reflect in glassware) I placed a large white card very close to the glasses on the other side. This mimicked the same softbox effect and reflected clean rectangular boxes into the glasses. 

Peppermint Mocha

The last shot was of the peppermint mocha, and out of all the holiday flavors in the lineup I think this one was going to be the most important of them all. Peppermint is wildly popular - It's delicious, colorful, and fun - and just like January it also gives a sense of refreshment and cleanliness. 

Since peppermint is literally a candy I had the idea of photographing it more like a dessert than as a cup of coffee. I brought some ice cream sundae glasses for the drinks, placed a minty, clouded backdrop into the scene, and asked Pilgrim's owner, Justin (who was decorating all the drinks) to pile the toppings very high. I wanted the drink to look like a frosted mountain that you could admire like a landscape but also eat with a spoon, and like usual, Justin knocked it out of the park.   


Just like the winter spice latte, this shot was very simple to light. The background was so close behind the peppermint mochas that it only took one key light to illuminate the entire scene, and in order to give the left side of the glasses a dark, dimensional shadow I placed a single black card that could absorb the light. 


This assignment was a blast to produce and actually touched some of my most favorite elements when it comes to product photography - the art of color theory, props, and pairings being used to create a stronger overall theme. 

If you're new to product photography, then try some of these techniques during your next shoot. Discover the personality and sensations that a product has and then find creative ways to visually convey that language to the viewer. It will make both your work, and by extension your client's advertisements, all the more successful.

Return to the Blog to explore more tutorials and behind the scenes stories.

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