Portrait in the wine cellar


Subject: Photoshoot Tomorrow
“…We will definitely need to take some shots in the family reserve, I think, with some BB&R branded bottles in the background… I know we only have a short window of about half an hour…”

The above excerpt is from a message I received at work regarding a request to photograph three women from Berry Bros. & Rudd for an upcoming feature in The Times.


“The Times’ careers and appointments writer, Jane Hamilton, is featuring Berry Bros. & Rudd in a case study for International Women’s Day, with a Q&A with Emma Fox, Lizzy Rudd, and Barbara Drew. The premise of the feature is the changes in the wine industry that have led to BBR now being a female-led business, and the way this challenges people’s expectations…”

Further details in the brief outlined the desired photo style. With the photoshoot scheduled for the next day, I dedicated the preceding day to research and finding inspiration. My primary sources of inspiration include my Instagram feed and the works of artists I admire, as well as Pinterest. Particularly captivating were the photos from Ralph Lauren photoshoots, Vanity, and the House & Garden Awards 2023.


Early the next morning, I received news that one of the ladies scheduled for the photoshoot couldn’t make it to the office due to train disruptions – a not uncommon occurrence lately, given the ongoing railway strikes. Consequently, the photoshoot was postponed to the following week. However, since I was already at the office, I decided to utilise the day for a test shoot to experiment with lighting setups. With two potential locations in mind, I needed to determine which would better suit the final photograph, given the limited time available for the session next week.

My colleague, Mia, graciously agreed to serve as a model for the test shoot. This allowed me to assess the appropriate lighting and room setup. Opting initially for Profoto flash to illuminate the set, I aimed to capture the room’s natural ambiance, lit by tungsten lights. Therefore, I had to ensure that the light from my lamps didn’t overpower the background, but rather complemented Mia as the focal point.

After establishing the preliminary composition and lighting, I directed Mia to pose in three different positions. This enabled me to assess the potential compositions using Photoshop.


Though the test shoot consumed several hours, it provided invaluable insights. Some initial observations include:

  • The necessity for softer lighting compared to a single lamp with a softbox.
  • The overpowering brightness of the lamp, which overshadowed the background lights, prompting consideration for film lights to allow for better dimming control.
  • Addressing the challenge of positioning each woman effectively due to differences in hierarchy and height, indicating the need for multiple chairs during the upcoming session.
Photography Day

I began the day by sharing the edited test shots with my marketing colleagues to gather their opinions on which room they preferred. The cellar was the unanimous choice. With that settled, I had two tasks ahead of me for the day: capturing missing shots for our monthly „On the Pour” video and taking a photo for Times magazine.

The photo session was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., allowing me the morning to focus on recording. Around noon, I turned my attention to setting up the lighting in the cellar. Drawing from insights gained from the test shots, I knew I needed to ensure a softer, more gentle light. Opting for a straightforward composition, I arranged the scene to showcase the wine bottles in the background with symmetrical vertical and horizontal lines. To position the subjects effectively, I utilised two chairs of varying heights and positioned a third person between them.

Softening the light from the Apurture 300d was achieved using a white tablecloth. This additional layer diffused the light, creating a softer touch on the subjects and a smoother transition between light and shadow. Additionally, I had to address the issue of spilling light onto the background, which I managed by using a black board. To counterbalance shadows, I introduced an additional tablecloth. Satisfied with the lighting on the subjects, I introduced additional light using a standard reflector diffuser topped with black foam to focus the attention on the main subject.


With the lighting set, I awaited the arrival of the subjects for the session. The photoshoot proceeded seamlessly in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, allowing each person to feel comfortable and natural in front of the camera.

These are the final results:


Thank you for reading; I hope you found this post both interesting and informative.