Chrissie Knudsen has been a consumer of Southern Tier Distilling Company (STDC) and Southern Tier Brewing Company (STBC) products since the early days of Pumking beer. The Bridgeville, Pennsylvania-based food and drink photographer approached STDC about a possible collaboration, submitting her portfolio and Instagram screenshots. This illustrated her engagement with their beverages, going back over a decade. Soon after, she was commissioned to showcase their Vodka Transfusion Canned Cocktail and their Pumking Whiskey for use across STDC and STBC’s social media and websites.
My portfolio demonstrated to STDC that I would be able to deliver quality images in a style that is in line with their brand and products. We’re both a bit quirky and fun-loving and I’m glad that could come through.
Before starting, Chrissie discussed creative goals and target audiences with Nathan Arnone, the Distillery Director, and Kaycee Currie, the Associate Brand Manager. They reviewed and provided feedback for the treatment she crafted, choosing from the variety of concepts Chrissie prepared for each product.
It was a really fun project in particular because Nathan and Kaycee were very open to my creative direction and styling.
The overall project was budgeted for a single full-day shoot, but Chrissie was given the option to work from her home studio. This allowed her to spread the photo shoots over the course of a few days.
I shot several different scenes for each product, working at odd hours like many creatives prefer to do. I particularly like to work at night, so I’m grateful for their flexibility!
Chrissie also created stop-motion animations for each product. The content of the Pumking Whiskey was meant to be “moodier and slightly spooky, but still playful” to fit with the product branding across STDC and STBC. Chrissie used a video as the backdrop, which she had to stop and start, modifying each frame to create the motion of the drink. It was a bit tricky at times, especially having to work quickly, as Chrissie used real ice.
I love a big challenge, but I could have definitely used another person (or two) on set with that part.
The end of the photo shoot overlapped with Chrissie’s move, so all of her belongings were packed away, aside from the equipment she needed for the last part of the project. Without her pipettes, droppers, etc. she had to improvise when it came to removing Pumking Whiskey from the glass, in stages, for the animation.
I had to lean over the set really close to the glass for each still, without touching anything that would mess up the stop motion. I’d take a sip of the whiskey out of the glass using a tiny straw, get the photo, and repeat. Definitely one of those funny ‘make it work with what you have’ moments.
Chrissie’s hard work paid off, as the Pumking Whiskey reel performed extremely well as the second-highest viewed reel on Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Instagram.
There were contrasts in photographing each drink, especially given the different containers and seasonal aspects. When it came to photographing the Vodka Transfusion Canned Cocktail, Chrissie had to combat the reflective material of the can, while making sure all the important text on the label was visible.
We wanted to appeal to a broader audience while highlighting the quality ingredients in the beverage: lime, ginger, and grape. It was important for the shoot to include fresh ingredients and to emphasize the quality of the product.
As someone who has previously held the title of Director of Development for Food Rescue US, Chrissie knows more than a thing or two about quality. Her work supported the mission of rescuing fresh surplus — from farms, groceries, restaurants, etc. — to distribute to those without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. Chrissie also helped raise millions of dollars and ran creative campaigns to increase awareness and action.
Seeing first-hand the amount of perfectly viable food that is thrown out every day was so impactful that it shapes how I work with and photograph food.
It’s one of the reasons Chrissie loves working with companies like Southern Tier Distilling Company, who make their spirits in small batches, with about 90% of ingredients from local farms.
Chrissie carried her passion and proactive nature into the photography world, especially with these recent photo shoots for Southern Tier Distilling Company. If she hadn’t pitched herself to the company, she may not have had the opportunity to work with them.
I have the same sense of purpose towards action and storytelling now, using my camera!
I love to work with brands I’m genuinely a fan of so I was thrilled they were interested in doing this project together!
See more of Chrissie’s work on her website.