Still Images In Great Advertising, is a new column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

The big question in our industry is whether “Print is Dead”.   This feature reassures that not only is print not dead but great print is still very much alive.  Today’s feature is an ad from the agency Walton Isaacson for Basil Hayden’s Whiskey.  I interviewed Chris Lake, the photographer who shot the campaign to get the inside story about how he was chosen and the production of the campaign.

Chris was contacted by the art producer from Walton Isaacson to shoot the campaign for Basil Hayden’s (Jim Beam’s high-end small batch whiskey) for his ability to shoot “not the perfect moment” images.  He immediately enlisted Monica Joy Zaffarano to help find the perfect location, casting of over 25 talent, and to keep all the moving parts of a large production running smoothly.  Chris noted, “There is no way to have pulled off this shoot without the talent and coordination of Monica. Shooting an afternoon happy hour and a crowded nighttime bar scene during a regular 10 hour day required some creativity in the production. After a lot of scouting with the AD, we found a bar that would work for both shots. For the nighttime shot, we had to get on the roof to block out huge skylights to make it seem like night. I wanted to create a real atmosphere where the principals and 20+ extras would actually feel like they were out in a bar. Monica found a DJ to set the mood and I hired a film DP to help light the room with HMI’s. I felt that strobes would make it feel too much like a photo shoot and less like a fun night out. With this approach, after they went through wardrobe and hair and makeup, the talent could talk and mingle naturally and hopefully forget they were on a shoot.”

Chris hired a Digital Tech so that he could focus on shooting.  The tech was able to apply an approximation of the yellow treatment and bring the images directly into the layout so the clients could get an immediate sense of how the final ad would look. The agency is a great creative agency that realizes that with a good production budget, you can get better results. This campaign required creativity in the planning so that when on set, Chris was able to shoot for the client’s layout but still maintain his loose style and shoot a lot of variations.  In the end, the agency and client were very happy with the results. Plus, Chris got great tearsheets for his portfolio.

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

Chris Lake is a Chicago based photographer who specializes in capturing authentic storytelling moments.  His client list includes Allstate, Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and many others. You can see more of his work at  When he’s not making pictures he can be found teaching himself the guitar or playing with his 10 month old son.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.

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  1. I really like the loose, natural feel of the photographs however I’m not loving the mirrored poses in the top shot. Would be nice to know why that image in particular was chosen.

    Thanks for posting!

    • Hey there,
      Thanks for writing! I selected these images because they show a lot of production value in trying to work with a lot of talent and keeping them loose. With budgets being slashed in still (budget was not discussed) I felt it was nice seeing ads that didn’t cheapen the process!!

      As far as mirrored images, that would have been the selection made by the art director and they may not have seen the legs as you have quickly done.

  2. The second photograph has a better feel to it, the lights hanging down give it turn of the century feel (1900’s). The addition of the column is a great idea.

    • Thanks Ed- always great comments from you. Greatly appreciated!

  3. This column is another great addition to APhotoEditor. I particularly liked Chris’s explanation for using HMI’s and hiring a DP to take care of the lighting.

    • Yeah, using the HMIs and a DP is very interesting and sounds like a great way to go. I’d love to be able to do a shoot like that sometime.

  4. Not to be a buzzkill but I dont see how these pictures or ad in general is considered good? It reeks of mediocrity in every way… composition, sharpness, feeling/mood, coloring… so average.

    Ironic to be in the “still images in great advertising” section.

    • Everyone has a right to their opinion but you should use your full name so people can have the opportunity to judge your work too.

      • Just a person with eyes and reasonably good taste.

        btw – how snub to ask what makes me an expert.
        Cos please don’t tell me these ads are only meant to be viewed by the chosen few with taste that match yours.

        • Wizard of Oz: [speaking in a booming voice into microphone] I am the great and powerful…
          [then, realizing that it is useless to continue his masquerade, moves away from microphone, speaks in a normal voice]
          Wizard of Oz: … Wizard of Oz.

          Seriously, STOP hiding behind one name and make comments like this! Are you Shahn from South Africa? I know you are not Ben- unless you are really mad and haunting the world with your comments!

          Am I and APE experts, no of course not! We are here to show images that we feel are good. With insight on how and why it was shot.

          Your taste doesn’t match ours- great- good for you! But don’t ruin this for others thinking you are above everyone else.

          I have a very important saying- Unless you can cure cancer (and tell me I won’t be faced with it AGAIN-yes I am a survivor) or AIDS ( I have lost too many friends) then check your ego at the door!!!

          • I don’t read any ego in there… dude has an opinion. Why allow comments if you don’t want them?

            I also value relative anonymity. Comments are like bar talk. I don’t speak with professional contacts like I, or you, talk to associates during downtime. Google, however, remembers everything for all time. I’d prefer my occasional snark on a fleeting blog post not appear whenever someone goes looking up my name.

            Even us second-rate guys have reputations to protect ;)

        • Since you disagree with someone who’s been working in the genre for over 25 years about what makes a good advertising image I wanted to see if you actually had any experience or were just somebody sitting on the sidelines making crass remarks. Cos I don’t trust people who don’t have to take pictures for a living.

  5. I like the vibe of the photos just don’t care much for alcohol adverts and the exaggerated size of the whiskey bottle doesn’t help much. Plus, the copy makes me think that in a few months it will go from “This is my whatever” to “This is my drunk”.

  6. One more for, I love the concept of this new column. Thanks for the post!

  7. Nice post. I would like to see more post about product photography.

    • Rob already has one coming. And I have been reaching out to others with product photography as well as I agree we need to cover all the bases. Thanks so much for writing!

  8. There is very good production value in these shots, and I know it’s far more difficult logistically to pull off shots like these than it appears to a novice, and the technical details are very informative, but one could just switch the bottle to Hennessy Cognac, Drambuie or Belvedere Vodka and you have the ad. There is no ground breaking here.

    By the way, I completely respect Suzanne and will always eagerly read her posts. And A Photo Editor is a fantastic resource for creatives. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you Dave for your kind remarks. Much appreciated!!

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