Pro's Choice; Chris Vincent’s Liquid Realities; Capturing Pours, Spills, And Splashes

Chris Vincent knows how to make a splashy shot for his clients. When it comes to liquids—pours, spills, splashes, and explosions—Chris Vincent ( has done it. That and the more sedate still life studies where all is quiet and calm.

The milk was blasted upward against the soap in a fine stream for this self-promo shot, using a precision pump rented from Cimmelli Inc. This is made up of two splashes—the one behind and the one in front. The bar had a hole drilled in it so that a rod could hold it in place. White Plexiglas served as the background, with a soft light from the front left producing smooth gradations on the liquid surfaces, and a fill card on the right.
All Photos © Chris Vincent, All Rights Reserved

I met Vincent years back when he was sharing a New York City studio with food photographer Aaron Rezny, and I am proud to say that he contributed the cover shot to my book Studio Lighting Solutions (Amphoto).

Most recently, he moved his studio to Stamford, Connecticut, which is closer to his client base. And he continues to impress his clients by delivering the precise effects they need for ads and packaging.

Bausch & Lomb
This shot took a number of days to produce for Bausch & Lomb. The bottle was shot separately. It was secured to a metal rod with glue (from behind). The rod poked through a sheet of white Plexiglas. On a separate set, Chris Vincent used a funnel and valve, and ran the liquid (water) through that to create the pour, making it appear to come from the bottle. On both sets, he used a strip light, with a deep blue gel (halfway between set and light) covering part of that softbox to form a gradated effect. He also had light coming in from the left for that edge light and another (diffused to prevent glaring reflections) filling in the label. This was a pre-digital assignment, with images captured on Ektachrome 64, then scanned for the final composite.

From Analog To Digital
Vincent has been in business since 1988. While working with a photographer who shot special effects, he started to branch out on his own, concentrating on liquid motion studies and evolving his own techniques.

His camera of choice hasn’t changed. That remains a 4x5 Sinar p2 (mounted to a Foba stand) with Schneider and Rodenstock lenses (primarily 90mm and 150mm with digital). Married to that is a Leaf Aptus 75 back (plus Leaf Capture software for Raw conversions), all tethered to a Mac. This hardware combination “gives me the benefit of being able to look through the view camera onto a ground glass and to use the live video feed on the computer screen to compose and focus,” with the aid of a Kapture Group sliding adapter plate (

Applebee’s Beer Mug
For this shot of a beer mug, created for an Applebee’s drinks menu, Chris Vincent had decided to bypass special effects to give the glass a frosted look and instead took the same route we’d normally take—namely, putting a bunch of mugs in the freezer overnight and letting condensation form when individually removed and placed in a warm, humid environment. And in this case, the pour was done entirely manually, since only a small part of it would be shown, with no splashing involved. A bright red-gelled head was aimed into glassware, which served as the backdrop. There’s also a grid spot on the back left aimed into the rear of the beer mug, with a soft light coming in from the front left, plus a fill card on the back right of the mug.

Instead of totally freezing motion, which may give the shot a contrived look, Vincent prefers some degree of blur mixed in with the sharpness, to give it verisimilitude—and that requires controlling the flow of action. Yet there is also some randomness to it, and that, he notes, imbues the image with a more natural look. Achieving these effects may involve from a handful to hundreds of repeated attempts to get just the right look. Making the process even more challenging is the limited space available on labels and packaging, confining spatters to a predefined area.