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Behind the Shot – Flying Beans


Wherever you are in the world, just like me you’re probably on lockdown right now. Being stuck at home can feel stifling. You haven’t got the tools that you are used to having at your disposal to do the job you have. And even if you can afford to buy more, you have little chance of getting what you need as so many places are now shut down.

Before the official word was given by the government I had a feeling that we’d be told to stay at home for a while. So I packed a few things from my studio into the car to take home, figuring I’d have time to get more before it happened. Unfortunately I was wrong and I was stuck with what I had.

Feeling a little uninspired I set a question on my Instagram stories. What did people want me to shoot? One suggestion was an exploding can of beans. It sounded ambitious knowing that I didn’t have the equipment that I first thought of using to achieve it. But that didn’t put me off.

It’s great to have gadgets that help you achieve results quickly and consistently. But having constraints forces you to look for new and creative ways to get the results you want. You may try and fail many times but that failure is a useful lesson.



Despite the shortage of Baked Beans in the supermarkets I did have a couple of cans in my cupboard. I had a hardboard sheet already painted in a colour that would work with the colours on the can which I could use as a background. I had a couple of studio lights and light modifiers but not the amount of lights or type of modifiers that I would have automatically gone for. I had a stand and a baby plate I could put the can on but no piece of acrylic to give a clean reflection of the product.

Now how on earth was I going to achieve exploding beans? A simple way would be to drop something into the can. But to be honest, I really didn’t want to waste the beans just in case. I believed that stock would be getting back into the shops soon once people had calmed down on their panic buying but that didn’t mean I wanted to squander what I had. What were the alternatives? Luckily I have some random stuff in my house and I produced a piece of florists foam and wire. The idea being that I would place a bean on one end of a piece of wire with the other end stuck into the foam.



I knew the picture would have to be done in 2 parts. The first would be to get a clean image of the can. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have the amount of lights of the types of modifiers that I would have initially gone for. I would have put a strip softbox on either side of the can, a light on the background to give a ball of light behind the can and a light to illuminate the front of the can.

What I did have was 2 lights, a 3×2 softbox, a diffuser ball and a reflector. Using the softbox, I placed it to one side of the can as I would have if I was using a strip box. As this was wider than the stripbox, I used that to wrap the light coming from it around the front of the can. But what could I do for the other side? I could take a picture as was, move the light to the opposite side and take another image and then combine them in Photoshop. I settled on using a large mirror on the opposite side to reflect the light into that side of the product. To illuminate the front of the can and the background I settled on using the diffusing ball to give an overall illuminations.The first part was done.

I then sat down to thread beans onto pieces of wire being held by a piece of florists foam. Using the same lighting setup I photographed this ‘sculpture’ from various angles to give myself variation for when I got to the computer.

The bulk of my time was then masking out various beans so that they looked as if they were floating above the can, resulting in the image above.



I learnt a lot from doing this image. I would love to take another go at it using different techniques, showing the sauce of the beans splashing too. If I used the wire again I would be more mindful of where I placed each bean, not letting the wire cross the beans as that was where I spent most of my time in photoshop. But the best lesson was that you can create with whatever you have on hand. It’s not about what you haven’t got, it about what you do have.

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