A food blog dedicated to the Kansas City commercial photography studio - Alistair Tutton Photography


How do you retouch a cup of coffee?

Ahhh, smell that? That’s the smell of coffee brewing and Photoshop layers. This was a shot we did in studio while experimenting with different beverages. Trina Kahl was our food stylist extraordinaire. What might appear to be a cup of espresso is actually a mosh pit of a few images and lots and lots of cloning.

To get the swirls, we shot the coffee as the milk was being poured into the glass. It mixes quickly so you only have a second or two before the coffee and milk merge. I took these shots of the coffee and milk mixing and cloned them over and over. It would have been a lot easier to use the liquify filter to make these swirls look genuine, but because of the design of the glass I had to alter the liquid without altering the shape of the glass. Arrr, photography, she’s a cruel mistress! Oh, and of course the reflection had to be added in after all the swirls were done. I would love to say that I had an exact image in my head, and it was a symphony of retouching, but to be honest, it was a whole lot of trial and error, and what I like to call the “optometrist method”. What is the “optometrist method? You know when you go in to the optometrist’s office and they put that eyesight machine up to your face and ask you, “Better or worse? Better or worse?” That’s what I did with this image. I would manipulate for five or ten minutes, then turn the layer on and off asking, “Better or worse?” Occasionally the image will get worse before it gets better, but that’s for another blog post.

Sometimes an image is retouched without an exact destination. Alistair knew what he did and did not want out of the image, and that was enough for me to create this delicious composite. Excuse me, I think I’m going to go make myself a cup of coffee.


Photographer: Alistair Tutton

Food Stylist: Trina Kahl

Retouching/Assistant/Author: Adam Caselman