Merchants just do not spend enough time or thought on presenting their products in the best possible light. A blurry, poorly lit picture of a bottle plonked on someone’s dining table is just not going to get me to buy. With some thought given to background, lighting and props the final image can impart so much (aspirational/cultural/lifestyle) and give a much needed professional feel to a website whether it is to sell wine or just to write about them.
Obviously I want merchants and webmasters banging on my door to provide the images for them… but here are a few tips for taking photographs of wine and other drinks in and out of bottle:
Tips on How To Photograph Wine Bottles, Wine in Glasses and Cocktails
- Lighting – natural light is always best. Don’t use on-board flash as the reflected burn will dominate and look crap. Shadows and dramatic lighting are good but shouldn’t take the emphasis away from the label. If you are in need of the light ‘strip’ to give the bottle form a Lowel Ego Light is recommended.
- Angle – straight on full bottle shots are dull, dull, dull. Go high, go low, go overhead, straight on is fine, as long as you do try not to include the whole bottle in the shot.
- Reflections – watch for reflections of the camera. I’ve seen images that clearly showed the tripod, the photographer and the rooms light fittings. All very distracting. One way to cut down the reflections is to use a polarizer filter. Spot removal tools in processing are useful too. If you are out in the field – a restaurant or winery tasting room for example you probably don’t have any control over these so you will just have to live with them.
- Props – complementary props, either by colour or by national association (i.e. Something ‘French’ next to a French wine), can lend a unique feel to an image. Corks, corkscrews, various wine glasses and other paraphernalia can all enhance a picture. Keep an eye out for second-hand/junk items such as branded glasses, water jugs and the like. There are Pernod Water jugs, branded Champagne flutes and beer mats in my growing prop box. Although the collection of wine and cocktail glasses is becoming an obsession!
- Background – previous advice was to get in close and fill the frame. But skills and styles change. Now that I have a dedicated, permanent, table to use as a studio (as opposed to using a corner of the dining table), I tend to set the camera and tripod further away. With two small windows in the ‘studio’, natural light is used a majority of the time. I am waiting for the arrival of a small selection of Swanky Prints backgrounds from America. When out in the field I tend to get in close to eliminate surrounding distractions and tend to use an odd angle too (which is easier to accomplish if hand holding a camera rather than the precision of using a tripod).
- Focus – use of a macro lens and low apertures (I use aperture priority exclusively on my SLR for all my wine bottle images and all still life images come to that) allow for selective focus. This should concentrate on the producer or wine name on the label, if your aim is to ‘sell’ the wine, or on the bottle or prop for atmospheric general ‘wine’ shots.
- Highlights – you need to make the image 3-dimensional. Flat and lifeless images do little but using reflectors (pieces of white paper or free-standing slabs of polystyrene) can bounce light back onto the bottle or glass adding lively highlights and reflections. Highlights and/or a few bubbles in a glass of wine adds texture and life. Eliminating reflections of these reflectors in the bottle is a skill!
- Colour and Tone – experiment with reducing colour saturation or even go black and white but remember the customer likes to see exactly what they are buying. For ‘arty’ or illustrative/abstract images correct colour rendition is less important. I tend to under expose by 1 to 2 stops. This increases saturation and gives the effect I like although some selective ligtening (of a glasses contents or a bottle label) is sometimes required.
- Food and Wine – adding food to an image can add atmosphere but has a tendency to take the focus away from the bottle. The world of food photography is a whole subject in itself!
- Think Outside The (Wine) Box – if a more ‘arty’ image is required, rather than a product image you have to approach the image a little differently; think outside the box. Angles, colours, repetition, textures all have a part to play.
Gallery: Examples of Wine Bottle and Cocktail Photographs
If you enjoyed this How To Photograph Wine Bottles, Wine in Glasses and Cocktails post please do leave a comment below. Many of the cocktail photographs are available to purchase from ARBarrowPhotography Etsy Shop.