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.