After a recent rant concerning the poor quality of many images on wine merchant shopping sites here are some hints and tips covering How To Photograph Wine Bottles:
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 someones 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:
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. [example 1example 2]. If you are 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. [example]
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.
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.
Background – get in close, filling the frame seems to work best for me and removes the worry of distracting backgrounds. Poorly lit walls, shadows, clutter should be avoided. [example 1example 2]
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. [example]
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. [example]
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. [example 1example 2]
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! [example 1example 2]
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. [example]
This image above has had a little text on the neck removed in photoshop while the label itself is abstract enough to remain anonymous. This image was selected to be used as a website banner for a soon to be launched wine blog. Before use it will be rotated and cropped a little to make full use of the dynamic ‘popping out of the screen’ effect.