For the past 10 years, Ringwood, NJ-based commercial food photographer Amy Roth has photographed everything from celebrity cookbooks and big-budget liquor campaigns to small, local restaurants and products for online shops. With a flair for layout and design, Amy finds beauty in even the humblest ingredients, and is dedicated to creating food photography as visually pleasing as the food itself. Over the past couple of years, Amy has expanded her portfolio to include more beverage and bottle photography.
In a recent campaign for Diageo liquor company, Amy created haunted mansion scenes for Halloween in-store displays with eleven unique room concepts, each with a custom cocktail, featuring a liquor brand in every room. The agency’s concept was to lead the customer through Diageo’s “House of Spirits,” starting with a selection of bottles and cocktails in front of a haunted mansion door, then to show each brand in its own room as you progress through the mansion.
Each image had a QR code that led to a web page featuring all of their custom Halloween cocktails. Diageo wanted an upscale, modern feel for these images, with no hint of kitsch.
After seeing her images online, Theory House, the agency handling this project for Diageo, contacted Amy. Following a brief chat, the assignment sounded fun and exciting, so Amy submitted a bid.
I think they were drawn to my clean, minimalistic style of photography that allows the product to take center stage while still telling a story.
The team scheduled a three-day shoot at Lackawanna Creative studio in Woodland Park, NJ. The prop stylist owned the studio, so it was a convenient location for the shoot, and only a short ride from NYC, where the client is based.
The project was a massive undertaking, from generating and test shooting concepts for each of the rooms, to getting approvals from the client and each of the brands. Not only was Amy working with Diageo, but each individual brand weighed in during the planning process. Styling out each room was a real balancing act because kitsch was forbidden, but the holiday still had to be communicated, which Amy depicted in many cases through lighting and post-production. While the shoot itself went smoothly, there were a couple of rounds of approvals which took some time.
Fulfilling the creative brief was quite a challenge. Due to the Halloween theme, there needed to be a somewhat creepy vibe, but the client did not want anything overtly Halloween-themed or kitschy. A lot of brainstorming and research went into choosing appropriate cues for every room in the haunted mansion without overcrowding the set. Lighting evolved over the planning stages, too, from dark and moody with deep shadows to brighter images overall, in keeping with each brand’s aesthetic.
Theory House came to me with an approved creative direction, which grew in scope somewhat after I signed on. In conjunction with the prop stylist, I designed 11 “rooms” in a haunted mansion, one for each of Diageo’s brands pictured. For example, I photographed Don Julio in the Library, and Bailey’s in the Bedroom. We had to keep the props consistent with each brand’s style while maintaining cohesiveness throughout, which I managed through lighting, along with Theory House’s design.
I learned so much! Planning such a large-scale project takes a lot longer than I realized, and there’s always going to be a bit of scope-creep, so I learned to budget for that. Larger photoshoots are as much about assembling a great team as planning for the photos themselves. Also, make sure you have great options for takeout, and always take a break for lunch!
See more of Amy’s work on her website.
Agency: Theory House
Food & Beverage Stylist: Stacey Stolman
Prop Stylist: Deborah Ruggieri
Retouching: Rob Kearny