Just Coffee Co-Op – Hot Cocoa

My initial sketch of how I thought the scene should look.

I’m always looking for new coffee to try out. While I’ve seen Just Coffee Co-Op many times at the store, and have driven past their building in Madison, I never bought any. A couple weeks ago, I decided to buy some Electric Monkey Espresso, and was pleasantly surprised. It just so happens that I have had an idea for a shot with coffee in my mind for a couple years, but have been too lazy or uninspired to make it happen. Then, I started looking around the website and found something else that caught my eye. The shot I want to do with the coffee will take a bit of set up as it’s a little more complex than just setting stage, but that is another post.

I found their hot cocoa mix, and the photos just didn’t scream warm and cozy, so within a few minutes I sketched out the above photo and got to work. I ordered some coffee (will reveal what I bought later) and the cocoa. I had to hide it from my daughter, and I knew that I needed to get to work right away because I really wanted to try it out, but didn’t want to break the seal quite yet.

I wanted the image to seduce me with the lure of a warm and cozy evening inside. The original image had a red blanket that I knew I wanted to keep the feel of in the shot, so I opted for a scarf. Nothing says cozy evening like a stack of books to read, so I grabbed a few and put on the set. While the argument of marshmallows in cocoa will rage for centuries to come, I am for it, so I gathered those up with a couple blocks of chocolate.

lighting gear and camera set up for a photo of hot cocoa
The setup for Just Cocoa

I would have grabbed my favorite mug, but since I was devastated by its breakage about a year ago, I had to go forage for a new mug. It unfortunately won’t hold the same meaning, but it will do photographically.

I went with a 24″ gridded soft box and warm tone reflector for shadows. The grid is to keep light spill under control, which still giving me nice soft light. Behind the soft box is a tungsten bulb to throw a warm tone over the whole image. I was shooting a slower shutter speed to be able to capture the lights on the tree well. The camera was shooting at 1/8th of sec at f2.8 with an ISO of 200. Shot with my 50 f1.4 lens. I wanted the slow sync to give a more natural look, and of course a pretty wide open aperture to give some more depth to the shot. I could have gone wide open, but I wanted to keep the lens on the sharper side and wide open it can get a bit soft. Plus, giving that little extra depth isn’t a bad thing.

Here is the final shot after a little color/exposure editing and such. While I love playing in photoshop, I really try to keep as much done in camera as possible. Then, I have even more room to play if I need to.

A cup of hot cocoa sits in a warm holiday themed scene with a scarf draped over some books to make everything nice and cozy.

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