Self Assignment: Product Photography
idea for this product photography self
assignment came to me while surfing the
internet. I get a lot of my photographic
inspiration that way.
Anyway, I was looking at
someone else's attempt at photographing a glass
of Whiskey and thought I would try my hand at
My Product Photography Props
In my pantry I had an old half
empty bottle of Jack Daniels that I would never
finish and a gift set of glass's. Since I wanted
the bottle to appear to have some Whiskey left
in it, and there was very little in the bottle
to begin with, I decided to use some Black Velvet
in the glass that we
had left over from my oldest daughters wedding.
The Set for the Product Shot
Since I wanted the Whiskey to
have a golden glow in the final photograph I
choose to use a piece of black felt I had for
the background. I think a lighter background
would not have achieved this effect very well.
I then set up a table about
the size of a TV tray and covered it with a
black cloth I had. Whenever I am at a fabric
store with my wife I always check out the scrap
pieces of material they have on sale. You can
find some great deals on background materials
for product photography this way.
The set up so far made the
glass and bottle appear to be floating in a
black space. So I had to give the table an edge.
To accomplish the look of the edge of a bar I
took a piece of white 3/4" PVC pipe and spray
painted it high gloss black. I then supported
the PVC pipe in front of the table with a light
stand. I have found there are unlimited uses for
PVC pipe in product photography so I keep a
small supply on hand.
Lighting my Product Shot
I wanted the light to be
simple so I choose to use just one light in a 2'
x 3' soft box suspended about 2 foot straight over the set.
The back edge of the soft box was directly above
the bottle which was placed at the back edge of
the table, about 1 foot behind the glass which
was directly under the middle of the soft box.
The First Product Photo
My first shot of this product
set up was a disappointment. After zeroing in on
the right exposure by examining the histogram I
loaded the first shot into my computer and
analyzed what I needed to change.
I had my depth of field the way I
wanted it. The bottle in the back of the image
was slightly dark and out of focus, but you
could still make out what it was. The glass
however was lifeless. Since there was no ice in
the glass the whiskey took on a dull flat light
brown color. Not what I wanted in the product
shot. The lettering on the glass stood out well
but the gold foil looked black and there were
stray reflections from all over the room on the
To get rid of the reflections and
lighten up the gold foil on the glass I placed 6
pieces of 20" x 30" white foam core boards
around the front of the set, kind of in an
Product Photography Shot
The first thing I had to do
was put some life into the glass of Whiskey. I
started by adding real ice cubes but they looked
nothing like ice cubes in the photograph. The
ice looked like floating white blobs and it
melted way too fast. This meant I had to get
some fake acrylic or glass ice cubes and I was
having a hard time finding them locally. While
at a local mall one day my wife found a bag of
glass rocks for decor that looked more like ice
cubes then anything I had seen so I bought them.
I arranged my newly acquired fake
ice in the glass so it would not obstruct the
lettering too much and then refilled the glass
with Whiskey. Then I re-shot the image and
realized the liquid was now way too light in
color and did not have the glow I was looking
To get the glow and
deepen the color I cut out a reflector to place
behind the glass and placed a cooper colored
foil on the reflector. Because the reflector was
leaning back in order to reflect light from the
softbox above it, I had to cut the reflector sides at an
angle, larger at the top so the edges of the
reflector would match the edges of the glass
thus resulting in even color in the liquid.
Since the bottom of the glass was solid glass, I
did not cover the bottom of the white reflector
with the foil.
problems still remained with the product shot. For
one the sides of the glass did not stand out
from the background the way I thought they
should and even though the glass looked like it
had ice in it, it didn't look cold.
To make the glass stand out in
the photograph I placed a white reflector card
on each side of the glass just outside the image
area. This created the highlights you see on
each side of the whiskey glass. Now the glass
pops out at me like I wanted.
To make the glass look cold, I
misted plain water lightly in the highlight
areas of the glass with a cheap spray bottle. To
me this looks like the condensation you would
see on a cold glass.
had it! This is the image I had in mind. I think
my product photography self assignment was a
success. There are probably several things I
could change like make the bottle darker or
bring it closer and more in focus. But I am
happy with the shot.
the way, I am in no way affiliated with Jack
Daniels or Black Velvet. I just happened to have
them around the house.
Ken Henderson 2005