How To Light And Photograph A Beer Bottle Advertisement

Last year Fstoppers threw its very first live photography workshop in the Bahamas and world class food and drink photographer Rob Grimm was one of the instructors. I was able to sit in on a bit of Rob's class and I learned a ton about photographing drinks. We just got our new order of FlashDiscs in and I decided to try a shot of my own using the new modifiers.

The key to photographing any reflective product is to remember that you aren't necessarily lighting the product; sometimes you are lighting up objects around the product that will reflect off the product back into the camera. For this shot I used 5 lights. The light firing directly behind the bottle was used to light up the inside of the bottle and the beer itself and the gridded key light was obviously used to light up the label on the bottle. The 3 additional lights with FlashDiscs were used to create reflections around the entire outside of the bottle. Any modifier that would have softend the lights could have been used but we have found that FlashDiscs are some of the easiest modifiers to use in this situation because they can be used with our without a stand. In this specific situation a standard softbox on a stand would not have been able to get close enough to the beer bottle because our glass table was too wide. You could easily reproduce this shot using standard softboxes with a smaller table (so that you could get them right next to the product) or flashes firing into reflectors or white paper/foam core. 

3 top tips for shooting beer bottles

1. Put a light directly behind the beer to give the product an appealing glow.

2. Before you get the bottle wet spray the label with clear gloss. It will keep the label in perfect condition throughout the shoot. 

3. To create realistic looking condensation, mix water with glycerin and then use a spray bottle to apply it to the product. The water will bead up and stay put. 

Remember you don't have to get it right in the camera like I did in this video (most product photographers don't). If you don't have 5 lights you could shoot multiple shots and then combine them in Photoshop. Feel free to work on just 1 highlight at a time. The more detail oriented you are, the more professional your finished image will be. If I had more time I would have perfected the droplets of water on the top of the bottle and I probably would have lit the label in a more interesting way but for a quick shoot, I'm very pleased with the finished product. 

Obviously the FlashDisc was never created to completely replace the standard "softbox" but if you could use a quick modifier that can soften a speedlight and fit in your pocket, you might want to give it a try. The Fstoppers FlashDisc is currently available in the US from Amazon and we hope to have it available world wide soon. I'm pleased to announce that Rob Grimm will be instructing at our Bahamas workshop again next year. Sign up for our newsletter on FstoppersWorkshops.com to be updated when the classes go on sale. 

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25 Comments

Great tips!

Good stuff man! I love killer small flash photography.

Ariel Martini's picture

the label is really underlit. and i'm still wondering why pay $50 on something you can make yourself from scrap material

Mike Kelley's picture

Art is hard, criticism is easy

Nice tutorial! I was wondering though, what focal length are you using for this shot? Do you have any specific lens recommendations for this kind of table top photography?

Patrick Hall's picture

I think we shot this at about 160mm on the 70-200 lens. Luckily with post processing, the lens choice isn't as important with product shots so it is more a personal preference. I wouldn't shoot it wide angle and Macro isn't needed for a full shot of the beer in this case.

Keith Walters's picture

I want a beer now. Great tutorial!

Ash sharifi's picture

Simple and amazing (after saw BTS)

Christian Srevle's picture

Fine, thanx!

Craig Allen's picture

Great tutorial! Well executed and explained, and all for less than ten minutes of viewer investment. Nicely done!

really solid how to - really good work. thanks for sharing

Mike Constable's picture

Good tutorial. But where do you get the black glass/plexi. To me I think $50 for the FlashDiscs is a little high.

Patrick Hall's picture

We got the black glass from Ikea. They have a bunch of different table surfaces so we bought a few: metal, white glass, light blue glass, frosted black glass, etc.

As for the price of the FD, we are a tiny operation and it costs more than you could imagine patenting, designing, prototyping, mass producing, shipping, storing, etc. The only modifier I know that is cheaper is maybe an umbrella or single reflector. Most of those who have bought one have told us is it he most useful modifier in their camera bag.

Mike Constable's picture

Patrick, thanks a lot for your reply i have an Ikea about 20mins from me next time there I will have to look for the black glass.

And I understand the cost for everything but maybe it is just me but I felt if the price (not just the FD but products from other companies too Apple, speedlites, Profoto, Broncolor...etc) of products were a little lower you would cover a larger market and endup selling more items. Just my thought.

Patrick Hall's picture

No problem Mike. And of course, if everything was cheaper than everything would sell more. We just have to sell them at that price to even make it remotely worth producing.

Mark Richardson's picture

I found a sheet of black plexi at a local plastics shop. I've heard that sign shops can get it for you as well. My piece was scrap and only cost me $10, might be cheaper than the ikea alternative.

Patrick Hall's picture

It is pretty crazy how cheap stuff is at Ikea. Here is a similar table top we used for $30. The advantage is it shouldn't scuff up or break as fast as the plexi and it can actually be used as a table. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80221465/

Sean Fenzl's picture

It's worth mentioning that a plexi reflection will generally be more crisp than off glass. On plexi, since it's only reflecting off the top surface, you won't get any chance of double reflections or diminished 'quality' of the reflections. Of course, that's a choice you can make.

That being said... man is it ever tough to keep scratches off plexi! I buy it by the 4x8 sheet and cut it into useable pieces, keeping the paper on until I'm ready to work on a new assignment. Nothing like the feeling of peeling the backing paper off new plexi. mmmm.

Christian Berens's picture

nice and thorough walk through! Thanks!

Todd Gerhard's picture

Thanks for posting this video. I've been recently shooting a lot of beer images. It will help out on future shoots. Here is a link to my beertography.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.708828715821671.1073741839.120...

Would definitely love to see more informational videos like this on product shots! Really well done, thank you!

The logo of the bottle should be much lighter than on the finished image.

Also a tip. If you switch out the glycerin with liquid glucose, mix it 50/50 with water and stir it together, coat your glass/bottle with a gloss vanish and your drops will get rock solid. With glycerin they have a tendency to evaporate leaving only the sticky sugar left, leaving some weird and ugly looking droplets..

Juan Carlo Guzman's picture

Man awesome tutorial Thank you so much for sharing this tips It help a lot ...Thank you !!!

Lee G's picture

Great tutorial.

nice pre-photography tutorial !! when camera flashing remembered focus is much more some glossy bear bottle as a result have to looses her camera hole or flashing , for this cases you may help in photo editing software.if you are expert in photo editing tool cloning or healing you may relieve in post production. and you can get great photo