When it is hot out, you need something that helps you chill out. It topped 100 degrees in downtown LA today, and it doesn't matter what part of the country you are from, that is hot. We kicked on the A/C and made ourselves a little something sweet. This is an adult strawberry lemonade, and it does the trick.

 photography by: Robert Olin Studios

photography by: Robert Olin Studios

How We Did It...

We started with trying to find the right glass for the shot. We didn't want something too tall, too short, or to wide and boring. Even though the glass we chose was fairly plain, we knew that everything else would dress up the shot. We added some ice and some strawberry syrup to the glass so we would have a stand in to compose and light.

With lighting, we started with a very large light source from the right and slightly front. It gave us a very large high light on the right side side of the glass that resembled window light. But the left was too in shadow, and just a fill white card wasn't enough to bring the life to the shot just yet. So we added in a large soft box directly to the left and slightly rear of the glass. This highlight was much stronger, but by having the light to the rear, put the highlight almost at the edge of the glass. Notice that we purposefully made sure that the highlight didn't stretch to the very end of the glass. We made sure that the edge of the glass kept the detail from the contents of the glass.  Lastly, we wanted to control the contrast of the shot a little bit more, so we added a light to bounce off the ceilings in the studio ( which are white ).  This gave us a very soft and very large overhead light. We dialed in the power on that light, until the contrast ratio was just where we wanted it.

Next came all the fun stuff. We wanted to showcase the ingredients of what goes into the Lemonade. Our stylist had some fresh strawberries upside down in the fridge in a puddle of water. This kept the greens on the berries looking flat, green and fresh. So we placed a few on the surface, and cut one open to really drive home the strawberry appeal. The shot was looking very heavy on the right of the frame, and we needed something to balance that out. So we got a small white bowl and put some of the sliced cucumbers in it. The shot was starting to balance out, but it was till missing something. We wanted more depth! The cucumber bowl was behind the glass a little bit, but it wasn't enough to really give us depth; but another glass of Lemonade would! We made up another glass and put it back on the set about 8 inches.

Things were starting to come together, but it wasn't finished just yet. It looked refreshing it looked tasty, but it didn't look cold. We started out by spritzing the cup, but it didn't do the job, and it also made the contents of the glass less important. So we took a bunch of ice cubes and half-hazardly put them on the surface. At the start, it was too bulky and looked messy. But after about 10 minutes of sitting there under the lights, they started to melt, and the shot started to come together.  At this point we were going to let the cubes continue to melt while we got our hero Lemonade ready and in set.

When the hero Lemonade arrived in set, the cubes were melted to the perfect level,  We had just 1 more change left to make. When we started the shoot, we had the alcohol mixed in with the Lemonade and the entire contents of the glass were red. It wasn't enough to say that it was an adult beverage, we wanted to show it better. So we remade the hero glass and had the stylist add in the alcohol after the Lemonade went it. This way the lighter alcohol would float on top of the heavy syrup. Granted before you actually drink it, its a good idea to mix them, but for photography purposes, it was exactly what we needed to do.

Below you can find a recipe that will get you close to the Lemonade we used for our photo session. 


  • Zest of 1 lemon, in wide strips
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups chopped hulled strawberries
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice (from about 10 large lemons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cucumber, sliced
  • Garnish of choice
  • Splash of Vodka


Make the lemon syrup: Bring the lemon zest, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring, until the sugar dissolves; let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the strawberry syrup: Toss the strawberries and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl and let sit at room temperature until the sugar dissolves, about 45 minutes. Strain the strawberry mixture; reserve the strawberry syrup and berries separately.

Make the lemonade: Combine the lemon juice, lemon syrup, salt and 2 cups cold water in a pitcher. For each drink, put about 1 tablespoon of the strawberry syrup in a tall glass. Fill with ice, then top with the lemonade and some of the reserved strawberries.