Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wine Bottles - The Subject from Hell

I used to write a wine column for a local paper, and I took photos of the wines I reviewed. I learned very quickly that wine bottles are just about the most difficult thing to photograph well because they reflect everything in the studio. Unless you want a nice reflection of an umbrella very clearly visible on the wine bottle, you're not going to be able to use an umbrella when setting up your lighting.

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.

First Try

Wine Bottle Lighting - First Take

Wine Bottle in Studio - First Take

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
Wine Bottle Lighting - Final

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.

Wine Bottle in Studio - Final

Lessons Learned
  1. Bottles are extremely difficult to photograph
  2. Top lighting is a good approach
  3. Controlling side reflections is difficult and exacting
  4. Make sure to use clean, dust-free bottles, with clean labels
  5. If shooting against a dark background, avoid overexposing the image - that brings out every defect in the bottle and label
I'm sure that you'll be seeing a lot more wine bottles in this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment