We definitely enjoy beverage photography. We have shot different types quite a bit. We practice by shooting non-commissioned work but we have also been blessed to get clients in the manufacturing industry who would like their products shot. Over time, we have learnt a number of lessons that we wanted to share with you.
Though we have shot juices, majority of our shoots have leaned towards alcoholic beverages. So a number of our tips may lean towards this sort of beverage.
1. Not every bottle is made equal
In our practice sessions, we have shot many international brands. If you know the basics of shooting bottles, you can be able to shoot the international brands without a lot of issues. Especially if the bottle is round. Most of these brands have been in the market for quite a bit of time so they have larger budgets and have bigger communication & R&D teams. Meaning they have refined their bottles and their labels over a long period of time.
When it comes to local brands, apart from probably EABL and Keroche, very few of them are even 30 years old. They have lower budgets and have not yet gone through the process of refining their look over many years. Shooting some of these local brands may be quite different from shooting the international brands. As a product photographer, your work is to make the product look good, regardless.
What we have learnt from this is sometime you have to drop the rules or to refine them and experiment to get the desired result.
Also remember, some bottles are colorless, others are opaque while some are totally dark, these may require different lighting techniques.
2. How to prep your bottle
Before you even take the bottle on set, you need to prep it. First there’s need to remove the back label so that light can pass through. You can use a razor to remove it then use nail polish remover to deal with any sticky fragments that may be left. Just make sure that you don’t affect the front label. Also, we usually ask for extra labels for the client in case anything goes wrong.
Clean the bottle well and make sure there’s no lint left on the bottle, look for a lint free cloth. If you need to make the beverage look really cold, then you need to spritz the bottle with a glycerine and water mixture. You will need a good spritz bottle, then mix glycerine and water in a ratio of 1:1. Spray the bottle from different distances to get varied drops, this is also affected by the noose of your spritz bottle. Spraying your bottle with water only is not really that effective as the water quickly dries up.
Sometimes, you may also need to “frost” some bottles like really glossy beer bottles. This will reduce light glare on the bottles but also ensure the label is protected from the water and glycerine mixture if you are to use it. The droplets will also hold better. We normally frost the bottle with clear spray paint, just make sure you have multiple product bottles at hand in case anything goes wrong.
3. Know your lighting
There’s no one lighting set up to rule them all. Different bottles will require different set ups. There are round bottles, rectangular bottles all in different curves and sizes. Different beverages may have labels with silver and gold foil that needs to be highlighted, how do you ensure these are well lit?
What is common though, is a lot of the time, when shooting beverage you will need strip boxes. We have had situations though where we have had to use a big soft box to light the bottle well. If you don’t have strip boxes, you can modify the octagons or the ones you have using flags. According to Wikipedia, a flag is;
‘A device used in lighting for motion picture and still photography to block light. It can be used to cast a shadow, provide negative fill, or protect the lens from a flare.’
4. Diffusers matter
When shooting beverages, you can’t ignore diffusion, this to avoid harsh reflections on the bottle especially glass. Some people use reflectors for diffusion. We prefer tracing paper that you can easily buy at stationery shops in town. The distance of the diffuser from the light also matters. The closer the diffuser is to the light, the harder the edge of the reflection. The further away it is the softer the edge of the reflection. You just have to test till you get the right look.
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5. Quality glassware and ice cubes are important
When shooting beverage, at some point, you will definitely have to shoot the liquid in a glass. The aesthetics of the glass can elevate or diminish the impact of your image. So it’s definitely important to invest in good whisky, brandy and even juice glasses.
Artificial ice cubes are definitely the norm when photographing beverages, you don’t want to deal with melting ice cubes when on a shoot. There are quite a number of cheap alternatives out there but some quality ice cubes can be very expensive. Check out the costs of these Trengove ice cubes! When you are starting out, the cheaper ones will take you a long way but over time, when doing commercial work, you may need to invest in better quality ones. So you need to balance or accumulate them progressively.
6. Clarity of the logo
As when you are shooting any product for commercial purposes, the clarity of the brand is important. Whether you are shooting pack shots or stylized images, the product should be well visible with the name standing out.
Sometimes, you have a bigger vision for the outcome of your shoot than your props or budget can allow. Compositing backgrounds can help you place your products in environments that are not immediately available to you or too costly at the moment. Practice your compositing skills and see how far your imagination can take you. Nemanja Sekulic has some pretty awesome tutorials that can teach you a lot on compositing.
Beverage photography is definitely not that straight forward. With practice however, anyone can nail it. It’s all about learning and practicing then eventually adding your own touch and creativity. Let us know if there’s anything we can add to the list!