How I Got That Shot: A Food Photographer’s Motion Test Leads to Ad Work for Beverage Client

December 2, 2019

By Holly Stuart Hughes

Client: Rekorderlig.
Agency: Havas.
Creative: Claire Lillis, art buying director.

London-based food photographer Louise Hagger’s commercial clients often come to her when they want still lifes that are “punchy and colorful,” she says. “I love texture and a pattern clash.” Hagger regularly shoots for The Guardian and has worked on advertising for Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and the Hakkasan Group. For Rekorderlig, makers of ciders and fizzy flavored alcoholic drinks, Hagger created several stills, GIFs and cinemagraphs, using backdrops and gelled lights to create vivid color palettes. 

She landed the Rekorderlig assignment thanks to a stop-motion animation she created as a test last year with food stylist Olivia Bennett and set designer and art director Rachel Vere. At a time when many of her ad clients are looking for memorable motion pieces to run on social media, Hagger was eager to experiment with motion. Inspired by a child’s kaleidoscope, her idea was to create images of food that would twirl and blend, like the fractured images seen through a kaleidoscope. Hagger and her collaborators created several images using fruits, candies and small mirrors. An animator Vere knows set the sequence into motion and worked with a sound artist to give the animation a playful soundtrack. (Hagger describes the project in our article “How a Food Photographer Markets Her Motion and Art Direction.”)

© rekorderlig/photo by Louise Hagger
For cider maker Rekorderlig, photographer Louise Hagger and stylist Olivia Bennett came up with ideas for a variety of GIFs and other motion pieces. © rekorderlig/photo by Louise Hagger

Hagger included some of the stills from the project in A Year in Food, her self-published book showcasing some of her favorite collaborations with stylists. She mailed the book to clients and prospective clients in January, along with a holiday greeting. Claire Lillis, art buying director at Havas, had kept her copy of the book, and when she needed ideas for a campaign for Rekorderlig, she invited Hagger to a meeting with creative director Anna Rose Kerr. 

Ad clients, Hagger notes, “are asking for the photographer’s input more often than before.” Rekorderlig had just released a VR experience made up of abstract images of the fruits and botanicals in their ciders. For a followup social media campaign, “They wanted to do something colorful and conceptual,” Hagger recalls. “I thought that would be a natural place to pitch my kaleidoscope tests.” 

Hagger and Bennett quickly pulled together several treatments for showcasing Rekorderlig’s seasonal beverages and ingredients. Havas approved their concepts for stills and several motion assets, including a stop-motion animation modeled on their kaleidoscope test. 


When Hagger and her collaborators began working on the test of the kaleidoscope idea, the photographer said she wanted to work with some summery pastel colors, and suggested photographing citrus fruits both peeled and unpeeled. “I thought it looked fresh,” she says. Needing mirrors to create the patterns seen in kaleidoscopes, Vere used triangular pieces of mirrored acetate on a tabletop surface to reflect the fruits and jellied candies Bennett made. By moving the fruits and candies into different positions, Hagger produced dozens of different frames “to give the animator enough to work with.”

For Rekorderlig, “Havas wanted us to suggest ideas for all the motion elements,” Hagger says. “In the treatment, we had to be very descriptive.” To provide motion in the GIFs, for example, they suggested showing a glass filling with liquid, a lime slice popping off the table and into a glass, or shadows lengthening—suggesting the sun setting on a late summer day. 

The brand had specified what glassware was used for each kind of drink, so Bennett came up with a list of props, including pebbled glassware that would dapple the light as it shone through the drink and onto the tabletop. The campaign also had to showcase Rekorderlig drinks appropriate to each season, Hagger says. “We had to choose colors that would take us from midsummer to more russet, purply colors as we got into the later part of the year.” They varied the color palette for each drink by swapping the backdrops and props and, Hagger says, “bringing my light down lower to create longer shadows and having gels in front of the light to create a color cast.” 

© Louise Hagger
Food photographer Louise Hagger made still images of a kaleidoscope pattern which was then turned into a stop-motion animation. © Louise Hagger


Hagger’s usual lighting kit is made up of Profoto heads and packs. To light the stills for the stop-motion kaleidoscope, she placed a Profoto D1 1000 AIR TTL and a softbox at camera right, and positioned it low on the stand to create shadows.  

She used a similar lighting arrangement for the Rekorderlig images, but switched to Profoto 8a heads, “as they have more power than my D1 monoheads.” She had a reflector at camera left “so the shadows aren’t so dark, and you can still see beautiful color.” In some of the summery images, she kept the light high, suggesting bright summer sun. In some shots, she wanted to enhance the color—when photographing a drink made with dark, ripe berries, for example. “That color cast was created by holding acetate gels in front of the head.” Her assistant would first hold the gel in front of the light and, if needed, “Maybe we’d try intensifying the color with more gels on the light,” adding them in layers. Hagger adds, “I’m usually on a tripod or Cambo stand, so then I have free hands to hold the gel in front of the lens.” 

Once she and the client had checked the stills, she would switch to shooting video for the cinemagraphs, and swap out her Pro 8a heads for Profoto 800W Daylight Air continuous lights. The assistant slowly lowered the light, so the shadow lengthened as Hagger was shooting. 


Hagger says, “For my own personal work, I use the Canon 5D Mark III but for bigger jobs,” such as the Rekorderlig assignment, “it’s the high-end Canon 5D SR.” At times on the shoot, she used a Canon 100 macro lens but primarily works with a 24-105mm L series lens. “Nine times out of ten, I use a zoom rather than using a prime, because then I don’t have to keep changing lenses. I’ve got that flexibility when moving in close.”  

She shot video to card, but while capturing stills, she shot tethered, then previewed each take in Capture One with Bennett and the clients. 

 In addition to shooting all the ingredients, “I also had to shoot the perfect bottle cap and perfect pour.” She also shot focus plates of all the labeling and bottles, to provide plenty of material for the retoucher. She would start
by shooting the beverage, then look to see where the fall-off in focus was. “Then I shoot three or four focus plates until I have it all in line, so [the full image] is in focus from front to back.”   

Post Production

Though Hagger does her own color correction on much of her work for The Guardian and other editorial clients, she relies on the skills of a retoucher for more complex commercial jobs. Darkroom Digital in London, her regular retoucher, did the post on the Rekorderlig campaign and also made the GIFs. To make the kaleidoscopes and cinemagraphs, she turned to animators at the Monday­­_Club, who had animated her original kaleidoscope video.  

Rekorerlig began sharing the campaign this spring on its Instagram feed, and continues to introduce more of Hagger’s motion pieces through the seasons.  

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