First attempt at product shot.

Started Jan 19, 2012 | Discussions thread
DecibelPhoto Contributing Member • Posts: 791
Here's how it's done...

You've chosen a very difficult subject here, this isn't a simple shot. I'll attempt to describe how this is done were shot being created for an advertisement for the manufacturer in a similar setting (i.e. with a black background). Keep in mind there are different ways to go about this, but what I'm describing is fairly standard. Also, this may be extremely difficult with the equipment you mentioned.

This shot definitely be composited from several different shots, so you would have to shoot locked down on a sturdy tripod.

First off, you're going to need to "rim" the bottle with a highlight to set it off from the background. Because you're lighting glass, you need to light what the glass "sees." This means placing white cards or softboxes just to each side of the bottle and above the bottle, and have them touching each other to create a solid upside-down U of light around and behind your bottle. The thickness of these white cards or boxes will determine the thickness of your highlights on the bottle. Often more than one rim will be created, but that gets very complicated.

Check out this link for Stan Musilek's work.

There is a gin bottle if you scroll to the right a little that shows an example of this highlight. He is one of the best at this stuff. Mark Laita is another great guy at this type of stuff, he does all the POM juice ads you see (a very oddly shaped bottle with a perfect white highlight all around it), as well as everything for Patron.

The second part of the shot is for the label. Now you can't light the label with the same light set-up as the rest of the bottle, because any light in front of the bottle will reflect in the glass as a hot spot. This is why multiple shots have to be combined. Lighting the label is fairly simple, just do whatever looks good, ignoring the rest of the bottle since you won't be using that part of the image anyways. I would suggest a fairly soft light from the side or above. Use a hard light if you want the texture of the label to show. If there is reflective text on the label that will have to be taken into consideration as well (more white cards).

Finally you will need another shot to bring in the color of the liquid and bottle. For this you could use back light, either by shooting a hard light through the bottle from behind (being careful to flag off any flare), or you could place a white card or softbox behind the bottle and light that. The soft light is probably better, because a hard light will probably create more hot spots in the bottle.

The bottle you shot also seems to have raised lettering on the glass, which should be taken into consideration and be legible in the final image.

I'm sure all of this might not help very much, but it is sometimes useful to know how these things are done on a professional level. It's done by combining several shots that are lit perfectly for each aspect of the product. In advertising, the photographer might take 10 different shots to composite one final image. As you can see it's already quite complicated, and I haven't even addressed shooting the glass next to the bottle.

If you really want to get into still life I would suggest getting comfortable with combining multiple shots in post production. It's actually not nearly as hard as it sounds.

Finally, here's an alcohol bottle shot I did once when I was in photo school. No rim light, because it's not shot on black, but it is a composite of 4 or 5 images.

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