Today, I tried lighting a wine bottle from the top. I placed my 430EX in a small softbox at a height of about 8 feet, pointing directly down on the table (covered with a black sheet). I placed reflectors to the sides of the bottle to provide a bit of side light, without a lot of reflections.
Unfortunately, the reflectors gave more - and more obvious - reflections than I wanted. Also, the bottle label seemed a bit dark. I made the minor changes of moving the reflectors back until they were even wit the bottle, and I placed a sheet of white paper in front of the bottle to reflect a bit of light back onto the label. I also dropped the exposure by a stop to cut down reflections and dust specks.
Final Set Up
The result (with a bit of Photoshop touch up - mostly to remove dust on the bottle, repair nicks on the label, and to darken the gray-looking tabletop), looks pretty good. The reflections of the reflectors serve more to define the edges of the bottle than anything else.
- Bottles are extremely difficult to photograph
- Top lighting is a good approach
- Controlling side reflections is difficult and exacting
- Make sure to use clean, dust-free bottles, with clean labels
- If shooting against a dark background, avoid overexposing the image - that brings out every defect in the bottle and label