CASE STUDY: 20 Days of Cocktail Photography for OHLQ’s Website

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Photographers Sarah Hone and TJ Vissing completed 20 days of photography for Ohio Liquor (OHLQ), creating over 248 unique final images of beautiful cocktails. The photos are currently on the new OHLQ website. The ability to produce and execute creative photography at scale was what drew OHLQ and their agency partners of HART and SSD Collective to OMS Photo. 

OHLQ is a unique private-public partnership in the state of Ohio. As a step in its evolution, OHLQ partnered with HART and SSD Collective to create numerous marketing materials and create a stunning website to promote liquors, cocktails, and more to the citizens of Ohio.  HART is a premier marketing agency based in Columbus, OH, that works on all things advertising. SSD Collective is a boutique marketing partner close to the OHLQ organization that led the creative vision. The primary goal of the photography was to enhance the website experience. Sending a clear message to consumers, OHLQ is a modern and polished organization for liquor sales and distribution.

The project continues to evolve, and the first 248 images are only the beginning. We are thrilled to be a part of the journey while supporting economic development in our home state!

Beginning the Production

In December of 2020, HART reached out to OMS with a simple question, “How many photos of cocktails can you make in a week?”. 

The OHLQ, HART, and SSD Collective collaboration knew they needed many high-quality photos for various campaigns but needed to get moving on the work right away. They reached out to OMS and other photography companies in the state to assess. We were happy to figure out the best plan of action and impress HART & SSD with our portfolio. Ultimately they selected us to make their ideas a reality.

Through further detailed calls with our producer Nancy Armstrong, the design teams settled on the following details. The first photoshoot would span 10-days in a rental studio in Columbus called Ohio HD. The goal of the first photo shoot was to create enough cocktail images to launch the website. We designed the following two photoshoots to be 5-days long and fill in their remaining website and seasonal campaign needs. OMS assembled two photography teams to work in tandem to execute the creative art direction at scale to meet the requirements. OMS, our selected drink stylists, and agency partners would team up to collect numerous props, glassware, and surfaces for various cocktails. Then the teams would all assemble and begin photographing in February of 2021. We performed the following 5-day shoots over the next months.

The carefully selected photography teams were the crucial component to make it all work. The first team consisted of photographer TJ Vissing, beverage stylist Jen Straus, and photo assistant/Digi-tech Matt Milburn. The second team consisted of photographer Sarah Hone, beverage stylist Ricky Moores, and photo assistant/Digi-tech Marci Rhodes. Both teams would share the fantastic mixologist Kyle Strategier and prop stylist Sarah Young. The teams would divide, conquer, and improvise to complete the long list of cocktails each day.

The team leading the art direction was Sarah Spring and Roger Pinnick of SSD collective. At the same time, HART helped with the overall production and defining clear goals for each image. Sarah and Roger were terrific collaborators at every step of the process. We loved their aesthetic opinions and long leash to get the work done.

“This relationship is the ‘win.’ Clearly, we are a commercial business. We’re doing this to make money. We enjoy photography, and we like it when we create cool photos. But it’s the relationships you build that allow it all to flourish and where photography blooms its brightest.”


Moments of Inspiration

The moments that stood out during the pre-production process were the collection of props, glassware, and surfaces. The OMS team and our stylists would select and purchase items, photograph them, and send the list along to the team at HART to catalog each item into a detailed production document. Sarah Hone was instrumental in this process of finding surfaces and props, then sending photos of each item to be cataloged. When looking at the images, it’s rare to see a surface or glassware item repeated. To keep the long lists organized required a dedicated approach from everyone.  From there, we figured out how to bring it all to Columbus for the week-long shoots using tightly packed sprinter vans. As the project evolved into different photoshoots, everything regarding the production became streamlined and more fluid to execute.

We wanted to give a special mention to the surface vendors of Clare & Joe Barboza of Poppy Bee Surfaces! They were terrific in their customer service and the wide variety of lightweight backgrounds. Their selection and quality delighted the clients and set up our photographers for some stunning imagery.   

Overall each shoot operated smoothly, but the teams did have a few moments of fun and inspiration. For each drink, the mixologist Kyle would demonstrate the proper ways to make each cocktail to the stylists and photographers. The stylists would, in turn, use this as a starting point to create a visual spin on each recipe. The photographers would use this opportunity to finalize prop and surface selections. When making a few OHLQ original cocktails, the teams believed specific recipes could use more vibrant colors and styles. Having a mixologist and the decision-makers of OHLQ there let Kyle experiment and update recipes before our eyes. OMS was happy to witness and be included in the process.

BTS Video Created by Marci Rhodes

Once the photoshoots were complete, the team delivered all the photos to our photo retouching department to edit and deliver cropped files as specified for the layouts. 

After the 10-day photo shoot and the first 5-day photoshoots, OHLQ launched its new website. If you visit the OHLQ website today, you will see all the photography created by our team. As of today, we have delivered 248 final images. 

The clients are thrilled, and OMS is booking new photoshoots for OHLQ throughout the year. Sarah Hone and TJ Vissing feel privileged to be an integral part of OHLQ’s creative vision and are thankful for the relationships formed with SSD Collective and HART.

For further information, please contact us today or DM us on Instagram or Facebook.