All glassware photography is a challenge, and product photography for bottles is no exception. Aside from the bottle, for product photography, you will also have the additional challenge of needing to highlight the contents and the label as well.
The single biggest issue is control of the various light sources and the reflections they create in the glass. Some of these you want – most you do not.
There are almost as many tips and tricks for bottle photography as there are professional photographers – but here are the basics.
Clean and prepare you bottle for photographing
Always make sure that your bottle is clean – really clean. Any fingerprints, smudges or even lint on the glass will get picked up by the camera and makes post-processing so much harder, as they will all have to be removed digitally.
A simple check and clean just before shooting will save you a heap of trouble later on.
For a lot of product bottle photography, you will need to use backlighting (see below), to create a soft glow through the contents. If you want to do this, then to allow the light to come through the bottle evenly, part of your preparation should be to remove any back label if this is possible.
There are various ways to do this, but a purpose-made label remover is usually the best as it is easier to work with and control. Soaking the bottle in water, for example, risks damaging the front label, which you definitely don’t want to do!
Bonus tip: Many bottles (especially ones that have contents that should be chilled) can also be treated with a couple of coats of clear matt paint primer; this reduces and softens light reflections on the glass and gives a slightly frosted appearance. It also protects the label if you are planning to run water down the side to create a condensation effect.
Positioning your bottle and camera
Before you start to shoot, raise your bottle up from your table surface by placing it on a small stand – even an upturned glass will do.
The aim here is to reduce the reflection of your shooting surface in the bottle glass, which you would otherwise see all too clearly. You can also place black cloth or card around the base of the stand to further dampen the effect.
The other advantage of a stand is that you can use the camera in a slightly lower position – an ideal spot is with the lens in line with the bottom of the bottle and angled up a little. Not only does this eliminate the chance of catching a reflection of the camera in the glass, but it also enhances the bottle slightly and gives it a ‘hero’ look. This is ideal for a bottle product photography shot.
Bonus tip: Talking of camera position, if you use a lens with a longer focal length, then the camera can be placed further away from the bottle, which also will minimise the chance of the equipment being reflected in the final image!
Lighting for bottle photography
Lighting is important in any photography and with bottles it is crucial. And with any type of glassware photography, it is as important to control the light as it is to have it.
As mentioned already, if you want to enhance the content of the bottle (such as a drink, for example) then a diffused backlight is essential and will bring a terrific glow effect though from behind.
Natural light or studio lighting is fine for side lighting; this is what is used to create the contour-shaped light coming down the side of the bottle. If you want this repeated on both sides for symmetry, then use a reflector opposite the light source. You will need to experiment with the intensity of the light and its distance from the bottle to achieve the amount of reflection you want to use to pick out the bottle contours.
With all this light being used around your product, you will almost always need a front light as well to pick out the label which, alongside the contents, is the star of the show here.
Have this in front and high up (again, to help control those reflections).
Bonus tip: Fix a polarizing filter to the front of your camera. Then use a polarizing gel in front of your front light; rotating the gel to the right position will then remove all the unwanted light reflection the camera is picking up from the front of the bottle!
As always with product photography, the real trick is experimentation. Use combinations of these tips and some trial and error to find what works for you to create the effects that you are looking for.
Professional product photographers know from experience that glassware and bottle photography is a challenge.
If you have some product shots that you need taking (even including bottles) then it’s good to know that Splento has experienced product photography experts all around the world – which means we have one near you. Get the very best photo results for your products and book a professional with Splento.
Product photography is essential for marketing success – so maximise your impact with great glassware and bottle photography.