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Self Assignment: Product Photography

Self Assignment: Product Photography - photographing a liquid productThe 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 it.

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 glass.

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 octagonal arrangement.

Refining my 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 for.

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.

Two 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.

I 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.

By 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



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