Cropping Cocktails: Dean Lavenson Creates an Array of Images for El Jimador Tequila
When a photographer completes an assignment these days, they can be rest assured some of their work is going to show up online or on social media in some capacity. But that’s usually just part of the endgame for the client, as many still want imagery that can be used in traditional ways, such as in print or on billboards. In order to meet this wide range of requirements, people like Dean Lavenson have to be smart about what kind of camera they use, especially when working for a big-name client like El Jimador Tequila.
We currently shoot 90% of our projects on a medium format camera. The file size that this camera creates allows our client to crop each image to meet a variety of needs.
Being able to pull the camera back and capture a wide view of the scene has its appeal for print and outdoor uses. Cropping way in and close to the bottle has its appeal for social media platforms, like Instagram.
Figuring out which camera works best for projects of this nature has been an exercise in upgrading for Dean and his team over the years. Due to his extensive experience in the industry, the Louisville-based photographer has gotten used to making major transitions throughout his career.
Because the sensor is a full frame medium format, it creates beautiful, soft backgrounds and bokeh that are hard to replicate with small format cameras. We've upgraded our medium format sensor several times over the last 15 years. Prior to that, we shot mostly large format 4x5 and 8x10 film. In fact, the year 2020 represents a split in my full-time career: 15 years shooting film, and now 15 years shooting digital!
It's a good thing that Dean is prepared when it comes to his equipment because this particular shoot had a ton of moving parts. Advertising agency Scoppechio, with whom Dean had already worked on a number of projects, brought the Midwesterner back into the fold for this El Jimador shoot, Dean’s second assignment with the tequila brand. A full-fledged crew came together, and, over the course of an 80-hour work week, got El Jimador the assets it needed.
I was familiar with the product because we photographed it a few years back. I’m happy to say it’s a great tequila! The project involved set designers, set stylists, and cocktail stylists. Weeks of preparation took place before beginning the six-day shoot. The shoot schedule was aggressive — our average day was between 12-14 hours.
Dean (blue shirt, left image) hard at work during a long shoot day.
At the end of production, we delivered over 100 different images to the agency.
Not only does Dean bring a lifetime of photography experience to each shoot, one of his specialties is food and drink. The Kentuckian’s beverage client list reads like a “who’s who” of the spirits world, with brands like Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Elijah Craig all employing Dean’s services at one point or another. That impressive résumé meant the photographer got to flex his creative muscles within the parameters of what was a pretty detailed pitch.
One fun part of the project was creating a different light mood for each set. Some were late-night, some early evening, and others midday. This is where my creative freedom comes in! Because we were shooting such a large variety of cocktails, we wanted each of them to feel unique, so we used different lighting techniques to convey specific moods and times of day.
In order to capture that sizeable swath of shots, Dean and his crew had to construct multiple sets and use them at the same time.
We had a total of eleven different sets, with four of them going almost simultaneously. As we were shooting on one set, the prop team began working on the others so we would be closer to shooting when we got there. We shoot on a large camera stand, which makes it easy to move from one set to another. It was fast paced, detail oriented, and absolutely a team effort.
And what better way to celebrate the completion of what could’ve been a daunting assignment than by sharing a drink with your co-workers?
At the end of the six-day shoot, we all toasted with a shot of El Jimador Blanco. I normally don’t drink tequila neat, but this was delicious!
A tasty and well-deserved round for a true team effort, one that El Jimador greatly appreciated. The company has begun using Dean’s work on its social media platforms and will continue to unveil the imagery over the course of this year on its website and elsewhere. If Dean’s assets and substantial client list is any indication, he’ll be doing more work like this quite soon.
The goal the client had was to use them throughout the year on social media.
It's been fun to see them emerge and grow in popularity! We've heard nothing but positive feedback from the agency and hope to do more projects similar to this.
Producers: Ravi Bhatia, Kelsey Forren
Creative Director: Lanny Fuller
Art Director: Hillary McDaniel
Set Director: James Beaver
Assistant Set Director: Rachel Krieger
Lead Cocktail Stylist: Sara Rounsavall
Assistant Cocktail Stylists: Jacob Heustis, Susan Nguyen, Anne Moremen
Assistant Photographers: Tiffany Basham, Adam Mescan
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